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Le Nemours cafe in Paris
I know, I know. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. How could I possibly write about something that doesn’t involve the celebration of coupledom? Well, if you’ve been stopping by The Simply Luxurious Life long enough you know that building your own simply luxurious life involves living consciously. And when we choose to live consciously, we are able to discern the difference between doing something because we want to and doing something because society nudges us to do so.
Whether you are single or not this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to talk to you today about the luxury of dining alone. Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite things to do is engage in conversation with one or more people while gathered around a table enjoying food and drink. In fact, that is exactly what I was doing this weekend, and I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable evening.
However, similar to going to a movie you’ve been eagerly waiting to watch and wanting to just spend time lost in thought and curiosity, stopping into your favorite restaurant alone can be a wonderful experience as well, and I implore you to give it a try once and a while.
Every so often I will review a restaurant here on the blog. Once while in Portland and once in New York City, I took the opportunity while visiting two of my favorite cities to stop in for a meal by myself and was in both instances inspired to share my experience with you. These are just a few of the instances when I hear my stomach rumbling and decide to stop into a restaurant I am curious about.
I’ve been thinking about this particular topic for some time now, and it was over the past weekend while listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition in which a story was broadcast regarding this very topic (click here to have a look or listen) that I realized that while it may seem ironic in timing, it actually may be very timely to discuss this exact topic.
So why do it? Even if there are plenty of friends, colleagues or family you can invite, why choose to stop into a restaurant and dine alone or cook a delectable meal for yourself at home? Well, let me explain.
1. A Lovely Pairing.
Solitude is quite different from being alone. And when you find time after a busy day, or during the middle of it, or even in the morning before your schedule takes control, to collect your thoughts, catch your breath and and enjoy a delicious meal, it can be a very therapeutic and balancing activity.
2. Free Therapy.
During the work week or on Friday after a busy five days leaving me feeling exhausted, there are times when spending time in the kitchen cooking a meal from one of my favorite cookbooks (preferably simple and not too time consuming) is the most calming and stress-reducing activity. I am forced to focus on what I’m doing, allowing me to let go for the time being my day at work and put all of my energies into the meal that I am looking forward to enjoying. Perhaps I will pour a glass of wine while I dice and stir, and play a record on my record player as well. Knowing the preparation that went into the meal makes it so very enjoyable when I sit down to savor what I’ve created. And while there are some days I do wish to vent about my day to someone who will listen or listen to someone else talk about a different world from what I’ve experienced, sitting without chatter can be nice as well.
3. Appreciate and Learn More About the Food.
If you stop into a restaurant you are curious about or frequent a particular restaurant that you love, when you are seated by yourself, you demand a different attention from the wait staff. First of all, you’ve chosen this particular restaurant for a reason, that in itself reveals to the staff there is something about their food or service that you enjoy. Secondly, what I enjoy the most while dining alone is the conversation I can have with the staff. While they won’t pry, if I ask questions or engage in conversation, they are very accommodating. Too often when I’m dining with someone, I am focused (and deservedly so) on my company and forget to ask the waiter about the ingredients that caused me to fall in love with a particular dish.
4. Time to Relax and Read.
In the morning if you have time for a leisurely breakfast or an early dinner before an evening with plans, having a meal by yourself allows you to slow down and catch up on the opinion pieces you’ve been eager to read or lose track of time with a favorite book or magazine you been meaning to finish. Having stopped in for breakfast during the middle of the week at one of my favorite places in Portland – Mother’s Bistro – I love having a seat by the window watching people scurry to work while I wait for their sinful oatmeal to arrive all the while reading the Oregonian’s Food Day.
Deepak Chopra shares that dining by ourselves can offer a wonderful opportunity to show gratitude. While it can be easy to scarf food down without tasting it when we eat alone, he recommends we always eat mindfully, and especially while dining in solitude to give thanks for the abundance that infiltrates our entire lives and especially the food we are about to eat. Keeping in mind how fortunate we are to have choices when it comes to the food we eat puts into perspective the societal judgment of dining alone as utterly irrelevant and unworthy of our mind’s thoughts and worries.
Striking a balance of social time and time to ourselves is crucial to a rejuvenated well-being. Even if it is 30 minutes out of your day, if there is a restaurant you are curious to try and you can’t find anyone to go with you for whatever reason, don’t let that stop you. As I remember back to my time in Paris this summer I am reminded of how the chairs and tables are arranged at most cafes and bistros – all of the chairs face the same direction, none facing each other. On any given morning, afternoon or evening I would see people dining by themselves. This amazed and inspired me as I realized – whether alone or together, the best company we can bring to any table is our best selves. Bon appétit!
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