Do You Set the Table When Eating Solo?

Cooking for One

Do you set a place for yourself at the table when you're at home and dining alone? Do you put out a napkin and the full array of cutlery and maybe even light a candle? Perhaps you prop open a book for company or listen to the radio? Truth is, most of us are more likely to find ourselves in front of the TV or computer, with our plate balanced on our laps and our eyes glued to the screen.

It's challenging to dine alone and it's even more challenging to set a proper place at the table when there is no one there to share your meal. This doesn't have to do with effort or time, for it takes very little of both to do this. Even so, many solo diners 'just don't bother.' Why is that?

Perhaps sitting alone at the table only serves to punctuate our aloneness, as we stare at the empty chairs around us. Perhaps civility and manners only make sense when we're sharing space with others. Or maybe we just find our own company a little boring and we're uncomfortable without our distractions.

Much depends on how often we eat alone, too. If it's a rare thing, then a nice quiet meal eaten at the table might feel refreshing. But if it's every night, or nearly every night, then it's very easy to abandon the table for the comfort and company of the couch and TV.

How do I deal with this? First, I don't make it a hard and fast rule to only sit at the table for a solo dinner. I allow myself a dinner with the telly every now and then and think there's nothing wrong with that. But I do enjoy eating at the table, too, and appreciate the ritual and discipline that it offers. In order to encourage myself to do this, I usually fuss a little and set a pleasing table. Things like a little vase with flowers or a candle or a favorite napkin add to the appeal of sitting down to a solo meal.

I'm also not adverse to bring a favorite book to the table for company. I know that the food gurus discourage this but the truth be told if you often dine solo, then eating every meal mindfully and without distraction can be an impossibly high bar. A good book is a nice middle ground and feels somewhat more civilized than watching Game of Thrones on my laptop.

How do you encourage yourself to eat at the table when you're dining alone?

Related: Survey: How Often Do you Eat by Candlelight?

(Image: Dana Velden)

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Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.