I never truly knew who he was. I saw him every Saturday morning at precisely 11 o’clock at a restaurant I worked at as a hostess after I graduated high school. He was a short, thin elderly gentleman dressed in creased tweed slacks and a crisp button down shirt with a local Waco newspaper tucked under his right arm. Wrinkles around his eyes and cheeks folded gently into each other as he greeted me. His wide, toothsome smile was stained from a lifetime of daily indulgences: coffee, red wine and pipe tobacco. We walked through the restaurant to his favorite table, table number 26. The small, circular bistro table was the second to last in a row of identical tables in the atrium. The atrium was long and narrow. Small windowpanes stretched from the floor to the curved ceiling, which poured sunshine into the otherwise dark restaurant. I sat with him for just a few minutes before having to dash away as the lunch crowd began to pick up.
He sat at table number 26 for nearly two hours. He ordered two glasses of red wine, one he drank with his appetizer and the other with his entrée. He ordered lightly battered and fried sweet onion rings, spritzing them with lemon before each bite. Filet mignon crowned with a pat of bleu cheese butter was always his entrée of choice. He let it sit undisturbed for just a few minutes, allowing the butter to melt and drip down the sides of the seared meat before plunging his knife into the steak, revealing its blushing medium rare center. As he enjoyed his meal, he would alternate between people watching and reading his newspaper, spectacles balancing dangerously close to the end of his nose. He sat with his right leg draped over his left. His foot bounced in the air every few seconds, drawing attention to his tiny, shiny doll-like shoes. Coffee arrived with a small silver cup of cold cream and a plate of milk chocolate cake sitting on top of a pool of dark chocolate ganache scattered with berries. Usually by this time, the lunch crowd dwindled enough for me to be able to sit with him again as he enjoyed his dessert. He called it his “treat of the week.” He reminded me of a giddy schoolboy as he ate bite after bite of chocolate cake, gently swiping each forkful across the plate, soaking up as much chocolate ganache as possible.
For many months, I was curious as to why he never invited anyone to come and eat with him at his favorite restaurant at table number 26. He certainly wasn’t a recluse or without friends or family to spend time with. He was a widower, but his children and grandchildren lived in town. After a few months passed, the answer became clear.
Most people are embarrassed of eating alone or try to avoid it completely. He dined alone intentionally, and savored every second. What I learned from him never came from conversation. Silently and unknowingly, he taught me a great lesson: how to eat alone and enjoy the company.
Grapefruit with Yogurt & Black Pepper:
Serves 1, deliberately
Note: Whenever I find myself eating alone, I tend to pay as close attention to the preparation and presentation of the dish as much as if I would be hosting a dinner. Yogurt served with seasonal fruit serves as my everyday breakfast, along with a glass of juice and mug (or occasionally a bowl) of chicory coffee laced with sweetened milk. I’m aware that this is hardly a recipe, but it’s how I start off nearly every solitary morning. When I’m alone, I gravitate to simple, balanced recipes that I can whip up in a matter of moments!
At the moment, grapefruit and blood oranges are in season, but during the spring I swap out the citrus for strawberries and blackberries. In the summer, peaches and the fall, figs.
(The black pepper is completely optional! I enjoy adding a peppery bite to fresh citrus, but feel free to leave it out.)
1 large grapefruit, peelings removed, cut into thin sections
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon local honey
Freshly ground black pepper, optional
Arrange the grapefruit wedges onto a plate.
Mix together yogurt and honey and spoon the sweetened yogurt next to the grapefruit. Lightly dust the grapefruit with black pepper, if using. Enjoy!
26 replies on “HOW TO EAT ALONE”
What a lovely story….
I’m so happy you enjoyed the story!
What a wonderful post, love this story.
Thank you, dear!
I love that story. I actually like eating alone sometimes. It feels special, like I’m doing something just for me.
Exactly! I think I enjoyed eating alone for a while, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized it. I grew up with people around me constantly, so I used to wake up really early and make myself breakfast while everyone else was still asleep. I loved it! But as an adult, I had to rediscover that feeling of treating myself. Of unwinding and focusing on me. (It took even longer to understand it was completely unselfish!)
It is an art to eat by yourself! That grapefruit and yogurt combo is a favorite of mine too.
I’m in complete agreement!
What a lovely blog post.
I’m quite afraid of eating alone in a public place. It makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward, like I’m being judged. But it’s something I think I should try to be better at.
I love the colours of the grapefruit, so beautiful against the white of the yogurt.
Thank you! Blushing Louisiana grapefruit is too beautiful to not capture!
When I was a hostess, my manager told me to never ask if someone was needing a table for 1, so that I didn’t embarrass them. Instead, I intentionally lowered my voice and asked them if they were dining by themselves. The reaction was still the same; they looked around in case anyone heard. Most people dining alone seem uncomfortable, I think that’s why this sweet stranger caught my attention. After learning how to eat alone, I set up “appointments” at my favorite restaurants and camped out at a table for hours, which I’m sure the servers loathed!
my husband is often gone, due to his work in the service and i many of times have eaten alone, and at first to be honest I HATED it. I felt like everyone was watching me, judging me over time I have realized, people in general just go about their days…no one really cares lol!! I have come to enjoy the quite, and relish in the art of people watching. Sick right??? I was so worried about people watching me, and now I am watching them…? haha. In all honesty, I usually stop to praise the woman struggling to make her children mind, or stop to take a moment to invite the elderly lady sitting by herself to dine with me. You never know what people are going through, and I try to use my alone time to make the very best in other people’s worlds, just as my husband is doing so, many miles away.
You are right! I don’t think anyone else really notices except the lone diner! I love your outlook on reaching out to others that are eating alone as well. That is so kind. You never know what people are going through and a kind smile and a word from a stranger may make their day. My husband taught me how to reach out to the people around me when I’m in public. I still deal with being a little guarded when I’m alone, but I’m much more aware of those around me. I love that you and your husband are flowing in the same vein even if you are, like you said, miles away!
ah, what a beautiful piece of writing. I love my own company, so I like eating alone. WHen I worked – outside the home, I mean, in a “proper” corporate job – I used to carry a book to lunch so I could eat alone, people wouldn’t sit with me if they saw I was reading, meybe they found it rude to interrupt. But I hardly ever read, I spent my lunch hour people watching, something I have loved doing for more years then I care to remember. I usually noticed that those who were eating alone always rushed through their meals, as if ashamed of their lonesome condition…
I have yet to master people watching as I’m eating alone in public! I always seem to catch someone’s eye and lose my cool. So kudos to you! But when I worked in a restaurant, and it was my job to keep an eye on things, it was much easier! I love your observation. It’s completely on point!
What a sweet anecdote. He sounds like a lovely gentleman.
Love this post! I think it’s so important to learn to eat alone and like it. Most people find it necessary to “pretend to be on your phone,” like you are saying, “Yes, I have friends, they are just not here.” Well, it’s okay that your friends aren’t here. To enjoy the solitude is to enjoy your own company.
This Fantastic recipe is really mouth-watering… & I love the way you have presented it so wonderfully… I can enjoy it on my coming birthday celebration….Thanks for sharing & your kind attention to detail!!!
This is my favorite kind of food blog- a recipe woven in to a story. You have great story telling skills; I’m so glad I found your blog!
Oh I’m so happy you found the site, and thank you for the kind words!
Your writing is beautiful. I loved this story.
I am going to try cracked pepper with my grapefruit, yogurt and honey tomorrow!
Thank you so much for the kind words! I hope you love the combination as much as I do!
Love the story of the man eating alone. I love to eat alone, I savor every bite and agreed, morning yogurt with fresh fruit is the perfect way to start the morning!
[…] grapefruit, black pepper, and yogurt breakfast sounds […]
Grapefruit and yogurt used to be my dinner for months