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.
*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.