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Head to head: eating with company or alone?

Published 10 April 2018

In each edition, we ask two industry figures to face off on a subject exercising the food world. This time we ask two women whether it is better eating with company or alone

“To eat together can mean building bridges, even stopping wars …”Margot Henderson, Rochelle Canteen

To sit and gather with friends and family around the table, to eat and drink together, to nourish and nurture from the inside and out is one of life’s true sensorial moments. Whether it’s a small or large event, an evening feast or an intimate lunch, it is the sitting down together that can build bridges, stop wars even.

The more we know of people’s cultures the richer people we are. The French for instance, have been sharing the beauty of their food with us for a long time now and we have learnt that to sit at a crisp table cloth (although not that many can afford the cleaning bills these days) is one of the great arts of past and present!

When a table is full to brimming with food and wine, and the people are squeezed in shoulder to shoulder, the excitement can be giddy beyond belief. Platters of food to share and pass around add to the interaction and joy of the coming together. “Eat more chickpeas…” I keep saying, “and maybe we would have more are for sharing; cassoulet, lasagne, dumplings, paella, Georgian food, the list goes on.

So, why are there wars with all these incredible cuisines all over the world, with women pouring love on to the table for all to share, to get stuck into? I say don’t eat alone,eat together and stop wars!

It’s the same with families, the more they eat together at the kitchen table, the closer and the stronger the bond will be. The happiest groups of people in the world know to sit down and share their worlds with each other. Bonvivre!

Anyonethat knows me, knows that I love a party and I’m a natural feeder, so to share with your friends is always a happy moment. The chaos, the mess, the table that starts almost slightly stiff then moves and relaxes, as a little wine and food start to warm the cockles of the heart, stomach and mind.

The atmosphere in a restaurant is heightened by happy eaters, interacting, chatting, coming together enjoying each other’s company and enjoying the food.

“Eating alone means peace and quiet. Most of us don’t get that in a normal day…” Melanie Arnold, Rochelle Canteen

It is such a huge treat to eat alone, of course we all love to sit at a groaning table in the middle of family and friends, but there’s a special feeling to the whole process of eating by oneself. If I’m at home on my own I don’t eat, but choosing a restaurant, completely your own choice, not compromising at all, I love that.

When I go out on my own I wander around until I find somewhere that entices me in, whether it’s the menu or the style of the place. I like those more old-school restaurants for dining alone, preferably with lovely white napkins, but it doesn’t have to be posh. Additionally I like old fashioned family places, somewhere like Ciao Bella.

I always take a book or a newspaper, but a lot of the pleasure is in watching, watching the world go by if I’ve scored a window table, watching other guests(now what’s their story?), watching the waiters or watching the chefs if it’s a counter place, all their skill and practice!

You get a lot of special attention if you eat on your own, I think restaurants like a solo diner, it means you’re serious about going to their place. It always makes me feel a bit like Mrs Robinson. It’s not really primarily about the food though, it’s sort of more about immersing oneself in another world, with time to think and relax, no need for conversation, just peace and quiet for oneself. Most of us don’t get much of that in a normal day. The world we work in means that we always go to restaurants with other people, so it’s such a change to experience them quietly and slowly. And even in the busiest place there’s always room for one.

This article was first published in Issue 14 of CODE Quarterly.

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