A Table For One

Even as the taste of turkey and pumpkin pie still lingers, we launch into the biggest food season of the year with Christmas just around the corner. So in keeping with all things Food, I thought it would be a good time to tell you about my good friend Anne’s fabulous website about all things food related in and around The Port City. Appropriately named, Portcityfoodie is a go-to resource for information on restaurants, interviews with local chefs, food events, recipes and so much more. Be sure to check it out!

Recently, Port City Foodie published the following post that I wrote for them about “adventures in dining solo” which I call “A Table For One.”

Hey, all you “Seinfeld” fans, remember the episode where Elaine pretends that a janitor’s closet is her apartment just to get Chinese food delivered? If you don’t know the story, Elaine is craving the “Supreme Flounder” from China Panda. After placing her order she learns that they cannot deliver to her apartment building because her side of the street is not in their delivery zone. However, the building across the street from her’s is in the zone.

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My friend Joy outside restaurant in China Town, NYC

To beat China Panda at their own game, Elaine finds a janitorial closet in that building, duck tapes the apartment number “1Q” on the closet door, and waits inside for her food. Upon learning of her charade, Jerry asks incredulously, “You’re pretending to live in a janitor’s closet just to get this flounder?” To which Elaine replies, “It’s better than eating it alone in the restaurant like some loser!”

Ouch! Hopefully none of us single people would go to such extremes to avoid eating alone in a restaurant, or would consider ourselves losers if we did. But Elaine knows, and most single folks would agree, that there is a certain stigma attached to dining out alone. Lunch alone isn’t a problem. Nor is sitting alone in a booth with your laptop at a free wi-fi cafe. But when it comes to dinner, especially at a full service restaurant, we hesitate, reluctant to enter an environment that seems to advertise our oneness in a sea of couples.

Ok, so you say dining out with another person or a group is just more fun. Yes, I prefer it too. But the question I ask myself is this, do I let my singleness keep me from exploring all of the delicious dining experiences to be had in our area?

Not long ago I took my dog out for an early evening walk on The Loop at Wrightsville Beach. I passed by Poe’s Tavern at 212 Causeway Drive and decided to stop for dinner, as I had always thought it looked like a charming place from the outside. (I am also a sucker for anything with an Edgar Allen Poe theme.) img_0193
Because I had Chuckles with me I was relegated to the outside patio. As the hostess escorted me to a table that could easily have seated 8 people I thought, “I know I’m single, why must you emphasize it?”

While sitting there staring down my expanse of empty table, waiting for my fish tacos to arrive, it occurred to me that I should write about my experience. Maybe it would resonate with readers. I soon realized that I could turn my solo dining into a kind of field research project over the next several months and share my stories; the good, the bad, and the funny, with all of you Cape Fear Foodies. I’m hoping that I might inspire many of you to do the same and I hope you will in turn share your stories with me.

Dear readers, do you have a good story about dining alone that you would care to share?

 

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Chasing Love Groundhog Day Style

There is something unnerving about recognizing an aspect of yourself portrayed in a movie character. But it can be very enlightening too. I know because this happened to me recently while watching “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

In the film, Murray plays Phil, a love lorn weatherman who is reliving the same day, February 2nd, over and over while in Punxsutawney reporting on their annual Groundhog Day festival. Rita, played by McDowell, is Phil’s t.v. producer, working with him on location, and the object of his affection. With the repetition of days, Phil experiences the passage of time and he falls desperately in love with Rita. She however, lives in the “real time” of a 24 hour February 2nd. Phil realizes that he has only that one day in which to win her affection.photo-1449495169669-7b118f960251

With repeated chances to get it right, Phil becomes more adept at courting Rita and he has some success. Unfortunately, his success spurs his enthusiasm resulting in an over-eagerness that is a turn off to Rita. His actions create the exact opposite of his intentions. It is not until he stops trying so hard to win Rita, and focuses instead on becoming a better person, that he achieves the desired result. She falls for him.

Before the end of the movie, I had my “Aha” moment. I saw a reflection of my own behavior in Phil’s zealous determination. Since being single for more years than I’d care to admit, I have had ample time and an ample number of relationships to know exactly who I’m looking for and what I want. Recently I met That Someone. Like Phil, I rushed in full tilt never asking if my enthusiasm might be sabotaging my success.

If you are a resourceful person like me, it may seem counter-intuitive to not go after what you want with everything you’ve got. But in one of those ironic truisms of life, that is precisely what is called for.

In the 1992 preface to his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor, Viktor Frankl, shares what is his repeated admonishment to his students:

“Don’t aim at success-the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

It has been my experience that the same principle applies to love, as so clearly demonstrated in the movie. The more you want it, the more you chase after it, the more it eludes you, as poor Phil discovered. When he dedicated himself to the greater good of being a better human being, the love he sought ensued as a by-product. Of course, Groundhog Day has a happy ending, it is a movie after all!photo-1451444635319-e5e247fbb88d

As for me, the object of my affection left saying he couldn’t state exactly why he knew it wouldn’t work out, just that it wouldn’t. I did not get multiple chances to get it right. And I am left to wonder if my behavior drove him away, at least in part. Relationships are complicated, I know nothing is that simple. But as to Frankl’s advice to let go and not care about it, focus on it, and yes obsess about it- well, I’m sorry to say I haven’t figured out how to do any of that.

Dear Reader, have you ever chased something only to have it elude you?