An Excerpt from The Solo Traveler

There's only one thing lonelier than sleeping alone, and that's...eating alone." So philosophizes a regular patron at the restaurant featured in Mostly Martha, a wry movie about a love-starved chef.

Yes, indeed, some people will endure anything -- even a life-time of bad sex -- just to avoid eating solo.

On the other hand, M. F. K. Fischer, the late, great food and travel writer, gloried in the solo dining experience. In Long Ago in France, she writes about a return trip to a city," ...went off, feeling infantile to keep a date I had made with myself. There was nothing really furtive about it, and I could have easily said the truth, that I wanted to dine alone in Dijon...!"

Some deal with dining alone as a peaceful, sensual treat -- a chance to concentrate on the joy of food and reflect on their day. Others would rather run into the restaurant kitchen, stir steaming pots of tripe, serve it to 10-percent tippers, and then scrape it off 100 plates -- anything, rather than eat by themselves. 

I'll be honest. I don't love eating solo. Sometimes I don't even like it much. But even worse, I don't like the idea of not experiencing everything wonderful when I travel, and that includes fine dining, casual grazing, nightlife, and any pleasures that I would enjoy if I were with someone. 

I remember one Thanksgiving in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. I was on assignment and missing my family. But I reluctantly hauled myself out of my beamed little room into a beamed little dining room, and ordered a chicken drumstick, silently wishing myself a Happy Thanksgiving. The waiter was solicitous, but I was shocked and thrilled when he brought the chicken with a tiny paper American flag he had drawn -- stuck in its thigh. He somehow knew. We smiled. That difficult meal alone remains a golden memory of that holiday, and of my travels.

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