Flying solo

15 Comments

I can’t remember a time – since I split my parents’ joint as a teenager and even somewhat before then – that I haven’t been comfortable eating in public by myself.

Right from the first years of my life as independent adult, a lot of my solo dining was a matter of circumstances – shift work, shared housing in which cooking routines were haphazard or  non-existent and so on.

Not to mention an almost complete absence of cooking skills.

It was very early in the piece that I headed out into the world – specifically, at first, to the US with a head full of Jack Kerouac and the Grateful Dead, and a thumb in the wind.

Hitchhiking across the US meant solo dining wasn’t just fun but also a necessity and a neat way of engaging with people.

Then followed a couple of years in London, a few more in various parts of New Zealand and eventually – in the mid-’80s – Melbourne.

During none of this could I have been described as a foodie in any way.

In fact, I remember on the long trek home from London – via Greece and India – staying on Crete for four weeks and getting terminally bored with daily fare of chips and omelettes, because at that point I would have no truck with fancy-pants food like fetta cheese, olive oil or olives.

Somehow, a level of foodiness clicked into gear upon arrival in Melbourne and has been present and growing ever since, along with a complete ease at a table for one.

Again, much of that was to do with circumstances – more shift work and living on my own for the first time in my life.

As well, my first apartment was in Fitzroy and just a few seconds’ walk from the then embryonic Brunswick St strip. It grew as I lived there.

Fitzroy was followed by the then wilderness of Brunswick (how things have changed in that regard!), St Kilda and the CBD.

Through it all, one of the greatest pleasures was always a meal, a stool, a book or a newspaper.

And glorious solitude.

Meanwhile, on many journeys to New Orleans and South Louisiana, often I was faced with a simple choice – eat at that swish restaurant by myself or not at all.

Thus I slipped into the habit of occasionally visiting a fine-dining restaurant while over there in  a way I would never bother with in Melbourne.

From various accounts I’ve read, I know I’m not alone in finding travel a great liberator in that regard.

I think it can be argued that if there has ever been any stigma attached to solo eaters, it has as much to do with the inner self-confidence and brio of individual diners as with any tut-tutting by society at large.

Or that’s the case at least, I reckon, for the past three decades or so.

Nevertheless, I think there are a number of factors that have made it even more practicable, easy, convenient and deliciously enjoyable to sup on one’s own.

Here’s some of them – I’d love to know if there’s more I haven’t twigged to.

*Pho and associated food.

*Indian thalis.

*The sort of workaday attitude that goes with both of the above, where eating out is just part of daily routines for families and individuals alike.

*The Italian cafe vibe.

*Sushi bars in Japanese restaurants.

*The influx of Asian students to Melbourne and the western suburbs, and the attendant growth in food shops to feed them.

Solo dining has, naturally, become part of Consider The Sauce – my partner, Bennie, is not always at hand, nor are the various other pals I sometimes get on the fang with.

This means that some posts are more succinct than others – such as yesterday’s effort on Cafe Konjo.

I can live with that.

In fact, I can see a benefit – not all posts need to be detail-packed essays; there’s room, too, for sketches and impressions.

I’ve sometimes wondered if the ease of mind surrounding solo dining is more easily attained by men than women.

A number of female food bloggers I’ve talked with have told me they’ve never had any issues with it.

But they have all told me they still draw the line at flying solo in bar situations.

A couple have also suggested that food blogging is little more than a way of making solo dining even more legitimate.

It’s always said with a laugh, but there’s a twinkle of truth in that.

15 thoughts on “Flying solo

  1. I agree that solo dining has become more acceptable but from my experience females are more comfortable with it. Being single actually gives you the freedom to not need to have anyone to dine with and suit your own whims!! I will often go to a resturant solo – with a book or to people watch. You can play ‘tourist’ and pretend you are anywhere in the world. Have only recently stumbled on consider the sauce so I will be following in your ‘solo’ footsteps !!

  2. No favourite place really – work in Smith St Fitzroy so lots of options there. Happy to find places closer to home (Sunshine) that fit the bill. Do you know that the Braybrook Hotel has just ropened it’s Bistro. Scored a free ‘solo’ meal last week having wandered in on the opening night. New manager Shannon very friendly and meal was excellent. Have $12 lunches also – may be worth a consider the sauce review!

    • Thanks for the tip! Pubs have been neglected by us a bit, but had a corker at the Mona Castle last week. And despite many in the west making way for apartments and so on, I sense there’s still lots of much-loved locals around. Smith St is good for solo!

  3. Kenny you are the arbiter of gentrification! Fitzroy, Brunswick, St Kilda… and now the west – you’re at the coalface of cool!

    I think I still struggle with eating alone a bit. You’re right that the Indian thalis and the pho (as sort of the Asian ‘fast food’ – but nicer) is easier to eat alone than sitting in a more fine dining environment. It’s probably a self confidence thing, as you say!

  4. Love the post Kenny.

    The only disadvantage eating alone is you can only try one dish. If I go to a good Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant there will definitely be five things I want to try. If only I had four friends with me!

  5. I agree about thalis! In China, they often have thali-like trays in workplace cafeterias. Breakfast is a highlight – you can choose steamed buns, dumplings with vinegar, pickles, vegetable dishes, cold noodles, peanuts, boiled eggs … brilliant, if you’re into Chinese breakfasts!

  6. I’ve been eating alone between 3 and 8 times a week for the last 2 months (lunches and dinners) as I try to explore a new city. I’ve been eating everything from roadside grilled chicken and sticky rice to upmarket French cuisine.

    I either listen to podcasts or latch on to any English speaker in range to help expand the time otherwise I find myself asking for the bill as I’m getting to my last few bites and out the door moments after finishing.

  7. A few days back, a friend and I were discussing a certain Footscray establishment. He had got takeaway; I offered that Bennie and I had always found the service to be rude to the point of offensive.

    “I wasn’t going to sit there by myself,” my pal said.

    My immediate thought: “Why not?” :)

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