What to say here…I have no idea. I don’t particularly want to be anonymous, but then again, I think I’ll write a more honest and therefore entertaining blog if I don’t give too much away. So everything you really need to know will emerge as I tap more nonsense into this Mac. Some basic details: I work in the media, I’m single, I’m female and I live in London. Beyond that, let’s just see how we all get along and maybe, just maybe I’ll let you into a few more details that might let the proverbial cat out the bag…not that there’s a whole lot to give away. I’m not famous or anything. Don’t get the wrong idea. Or do, if you want to. Up to you.
There are far too many food blogs already. So honestly, I’ve not really got a compelling reason for starting this one. In fact, this may be my only post. I don’t suppose it’s even going to be particularly original hence the disconnect between the title and the URL. (theartofeatingalone.wordpress.com was already taken). But my friend Brett, food lover, lawyer, wannabe restaurateur and yes, blogger pointed out that there might be a self-serving benefit to writing a food blog. So this may be a little cynical – yes, but valueless – I hope not.
So that answers the initial question I’ve set. Next i suppose I better set up what might make my blog useful if not entertaining. And that I suppose comes from my own perspective on the consumption of food itself.
Fundamentally we all accept that sometimes the world throws you a load of crap and you just have to get on with it. In general I’ve been a very lucky person. Born with good health to a happy family, well educated and brought up to enjoy food as more than just fuel. As a long time food lover, keen cook and seeker out of company I’ve always enjoyed sharing the eating experience. In childhood it was the excitement of an Indian restaurant in the next town, the novelty of eating out nearly every night on holiday and the comfort of my dad’s fish soup on a Sunday. At University I suppose I learnt to cook from necessity. An aluminium wok went from halls to shared house producing everything from soup to fried breakfasts. Then with a little money in my purse I hit my 20’s and the exploding ‘new-British’ food scene – Gary Rhodes, MPW, J-CN and all the ‘chefs = rock stars’ of the 1990s who fed me and my as yet un-mortgaged and childless friends as we gorged our way across London on the crest of an economic boom.
In my 30’s I traveled far and wide. From LA to NYC, Singapore the Far East, sometimes for work mostly for pleasure but always seeking out the interesting gastro-experience. From brunch at Pastis to dirty Martinis on a roadside in Bali I had a lot of fun. As the food grew up so did my tastes and I left behind the glitz and glamour seeking out authenticity and craft. My job allowed my own cooking skills to develop too, but wherever I was in my gastronomic evolution, one truth remains:
Through these years I had many of my best food moments in the company of the love of my life. I met him when I was 26 and enjoyed sharing every kind of sensory overload it is possible to have for nearly 15 years.
I had decided he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen the first time he walked up the stairs into my office. We may have met through work but I think I fell in love with him over red meat and whisky sours, maybe 4 hours after he’d first said hello and my heart had skipped a beat. And as if it wasn’t enough that he was handsome, brilliant and seemed to like me he knew how to order me a drink without asking and best of all, he shared my love of good food.
To say we loved our life is an understatement. I wanted to live it to the full and have him in my heart for ever. But that life was to be compressed into all too brief a moment… a seeming heartbeat of bliss, a mere taste of joy, a moment of pleasure. Because too soon came the crap. Big bucket loads of ordure that I was sure could have waited, politely out of sight, for at least another 30 years. But it was not to be.
My favourite eating accomplice left. And he did so in the most definitive way imaginable.
Don’t get me wrong. He really didn’t want to. He certainly didn’t plan it and for a long time after he stepped into that next room, I thought the food in my mouth had to turned to ashes never to be enjoyed again. I was truly surprised to discover that grief has the power to destroy even the most basic of human needs. Waking, smiling, dressing, talking…nothing was important. There were days when not only did I not want to eat, I would quite happily have stopped breathing too.
But through the loss and mourning came a little hope; the world turned up its chroma and the filament of human spirit that is hard to douse illuminated my soul. Slowly I realised that one of the many joys we had shared would have to be experienced alone. Not always I must say – that sounds like I was a hermit – but sometimes even when I’d rather stare into the abyss of an M&S Chicken Kiev, I’d force myself to go out and eat. To contemplate the alternative, was just too sad.
Time continued to do what I was told it would do: It passed, it healed and I’m although I can’t be sure exactly when it was, I remembered I had always found a certain amount of joy in eating alone. There’s a wonderful lack of distraction which comes from being alone. A freedom from judgement that can be quite seductive. It’s rather like going to the cinema solo; it allows a kind of focus and self-satisfaction that no matter how welcome the company, is always diluted by a fellow eater.
Of course, nothing can surpass the sublime joy to be found in passing a fork and beseeching your mate to ‘taste, taste!’: it is the gourmet’s kiss, the primordial desire to pass almost from mouth to mouth, to nourish those you love. ..But saying bugger it and ordering the foie gras followed by the kidneys and cocking a snook to menu balance and the judgement of a fellow diner, does almost, just almost make up for the lack of that kiss.
And so this blog will share my own experiences, hints on restaurants that a solo-friendly (or at least not deliberately alienating) and my recipes for eating at home on your jack jones. And along the way I’m sure I’ll share my irritations and niggles about the travails of the single life of a gourmet intent on mastering The Art of Eating Alone.