Wednesday, January 7, 2004
alone can be a satisfying experience
A story released today by the
Knight Ridder News Service reports that unmarried
people are the fastest growing group in America. Right now, 27 percent of
the population lives alone. That's more than married couples with children.
Yet, despite the growing numbers, singles still get shuffled to the most
undesirable tables at restaurants. They're forced to get creative when it
comes to grocery shopping. And try finding recipes for one.
Most people will live alone at some point in their lives -- and everyone has
to eat. Armed with a strategy, dining alone can be just as satisfying as
eating with company -- and you won't have to worry about anyone eating the
last piece of cake you've stashed away.
We talked to singles about the way they eat. All are empty-nesters.
When she's in town, Mary
Holmes does a lot of cooking for herself
at her South Minneapolis home. Holmes, 50, used to order room service while
on business trips for St. Paul's Musictech College, but she no longer feels
shy about asking for a reservation. "I encourage people to dine alone," she
"I travel year-round, except summer, so I'm pretty comfortable dining out
alone. It's difficult sometimes if you're at a P.F. Chang's or a place
that's very loud and boisterous and more of a trendy place. The dynamic is
not real conducive to single people.
"Rather than support the chain restaurants, I try to support mom-and-pop
restaurants, if they're interesting and not greasy holes-in-the-wall. I like
places where the decor is nice, the food is great and the place is
welcoming. . . . I ask the locals, 'Where's a good Thai restaurant or
Italian restaurant?' I really prefer eating in the main dining room. I like
the whole dining experience.
"I usually ask for a table by a window or a booth where you can look outside
or watch people rather than being in the middle of the room. I was just in
L.A., and I went to the Palm. I had to
eat in the bar. It's not comfortable and not relaxing. Another spot I went
to had a lot of big pillars. I was kind of stuck behind one. That time I
said, 'Would you mind if I sat elsewhere?' At some places that are well
known, you have to share a table. I always bring some kind of reading
material. It's fun to people-watch, too. It just depends on the place.
A St. Paul kindergarten teacher, Kathy
Sullivan hardly ever dines out alone. Sullivan, 50, prefers takeout or doing
her own cooking. But the divorced mother of two has had to make some
adjustments since her children have moved out.
"When I dine out alone, it's for fast food, like going through the
drive-through at Taco Bell.
"I'll do some takeout, if I don't have anything in the house. Or I'll get
something at the deli, like those rotisserie chickens for something hot
that's like a home-cooked meal. At [one local] deli, you can put together
your meat, potatoes and vegetables. Or I try the salad bar."
"How much I cook at home varies every week depending on how busy I am. I
don't like repeating dishes I had for lunch. If I'm eating late, I want
comfort food like tomato soup and grilled cheese or a bowl of cereal while I
watch the news."
"Other nights, I might crave pasta or tortellini and garlic bread. If I'm
craving a burger and I don't want to run out in the cold, I make them with
my George Foreman Grill. Sometimes, I make pizza; other times, I put grilled
chicken strips and cheese and whatever vegetables I have on a Boboli crust
and bake it."
"Shopping has been an adjustment from when I cooked for my kids. I've been
scaling back from servings for six to servings for two, and I usually have
leftovers. Some of the fresher things you just have to buy small. Instead of
a package of four tomatoes, I buy them individually. You hate to buy a whole
big thing of herbs, but I look for the smallest bunch. . . . Bread is
another thing I find I have to keep in the refrigerator. If I leave it out,
it gets moldy."