As I typed the title of this post, it brought back a memory – random thought – of past formal dinners, seated next to strangers, making chit chat. “So, this is such a lovely event, . . . la, la, la, la . . . yes, it has been a beautiful autumn . . . oh, you have a dog too – what kind? . . . yes, I work outside my home – I’m a dietitian.
LONG PAUSE. Diner seated next to me glances cautiously at her plate, stiffens up a bit, and after a longer pause, timidly apologizes for her food choices. “I don’t usually eat like this.” (Head drops in shame.)
Oh, please! I have to go through my usual apologies for my buzz-killing presence. “I think food should be enjoyed, and I certainly enjoy mine,” I offer. She looks unconvinced.
When I sat down to write this post, my line of thought was on last night though. Peter called early in the day to say that he would not be home, so I called a good friend to see if we might be able to go out for a quick bite after work. No luck. Alright, I thought, this is a chance to order food from the vegetarian restaurant I love.
Carrying my little plastic bag inside at 7:15, I reached in the dark for the light switch. I heard the rattle of Stella’s collar in the family room, and then the slow tap-tap-tap of her paws across the wood floor as she moved toward me.
Here is a confession – I do not really like to eat dinner alone. It feels funny. I usually eat with Peter. Candles, home-cooked food, a small glass of good wine, pleasant conversation. Not a plastic bag – albeit with yummy food! – and an empty house with an old deaf dog who is back on the couch – and back asleep – after saying hello. Thank goodness I could at least forego the plastic utensils they offered at the restaurant.
As I set the table for one, I felt a little better. Real silverware makes such a difference! I grabbed a match and lit the candle. I felt a little cozier. I put my meal on a real plate – “No, I will not eat directly out of the take-out container,” I told myself. I opened a bottle of wine and poured a small amount into actual stemware. Now the scene actually looked inviting.
Sitting down to enjoy the meal, I realized I had reaffirmed the value of ambiance. It does affect the experience of eating – a lot. I must admit that it was difficult to sit and just eat though. I couldn’t resist a bit of multi-tasking, with the newspaper spread out next to me. Ah well, at least I wasn’t in front of the TV or computer.