As Valentine's Day approaches, there's a lot of pressure on a lot of people to be eating with someone. But on NPR's Weekend Edition today, I spoke with host Rachel Martin about the benefits and pitfalls of dining alone, with some help and wisdom from Deepak Chopra. (Listen to the segment above.)
One of the best things about eating alone is that restaurants assume solo diners are really there for the food, so if you strike up conversation with the staff, you're more likely to get special treatment. One of the downsides, as Rachel points out, is that some people feel self conscious about eating alone.
Deepak Chopra, however, draws a distinction between eating alone and "eating in solitude." He says the former suggests loneliness, while the latter refers to spending quality time with oneself.
But too often, we rush through solo meals, failing to capitalize on an opportunity to put all the focus on the food.
So how best to enjoy the meal when you're eating in solitude? Chopra says you must slow down, take a breath, eliminate distractions, and make sure you're aware of every sensation the food provokes. That means being aware not only of the food's taste, but also how it looks, how it smells, how it feels in your mouth and your stomach.
I tried this approach at my local pizzeria recently, with excellent results. Have you ever noticed that when pizza is hot, the cheese and sauce flow together into tiny tributaries of goodness? I guess I had noticed it before, but I was never really aware of it. I put so much focus on the experience of this pizza that even hours later, I could still summon it in my sense memory.
Listen to the segment and try this approach, then let me know how it went. And if you're so inclined, check out more of my recent appearances on public radio here.
Photo: Flickr CC / lifescript