Dinner Companions: A Response

A recent New York Times article asked authors what books they consider their best dining companions, so we asked ourselves the same question.

I vividly remember, at age 17, brunching at the neighborhood Denny's with Kramer vs. Kramer. The food wasn't stellar, and I can't remember what was on the plate, but I do remember experiencing the intimacy of the couple's anguish in the glossy movie tie-in paperback.

I rarely dine alone at restaurants because, for me, the joy of restaurant dining is in the company I keep; otherwise, it's just food. I have been known, however, to occupy a table at my old bagel shop for hours with Spanish homework (because I could get help from the women who worked there), a cup of coffee slowly making me jittery. Most of the time, though, a bagel and coffee were merely sustenance during a long afternoon of studying.

Now, when I do eat and read, I do not sit down to a meal; instead, I'll stand at the kitchen counter. Usually, if the book is that good, eating becomes the path of least resistance. (See "food equals sustenance" reference above.) The menu depends on how long I feel like can I leave the book on the kitchen counter — which translates to how long I can keep the book out of my hands. Is it quicker to pour cereal versus make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Which is easier to eat while holding the book, and should I choose something that doesn't require both hands or an instrument?

Some books are good enough to skip a meal if necessary. Had David not fed me, I would not have eaten during the summer of 2007 when I read the last Harry Potter novel.

Then there are the books Carole and I read together. Those I find impossible to put down during dinner not only because they're good but because I want to catch up with Carole, who always seems to get ahead of me, especially at the beginning of a book.

Lunch is an easy meal to read through, if only because most lunch food I carry for solo dining is finger food. I always carry a napkin — I don't need Cheetos prints on the pages to remind me what I was eating during the good part. I will remember, even if I don't mean to. Odd how that happens with Cheetos.

I guess I'm more excited about books than I am about any food. Except for the cooking of a few people (Carole and David are in that select group), food is just the fuel that allows me to read.

Now, food while talking about books — that's a different blog altogether....!

Wow! Some of these authors read some heavy stuff while eating. I find that if I'm reading something really intense, I'll forget to eat. Which, for those who know me, is saying something. I'm ALL about food! Which makes me wonder if these authors really read these books while dining alone or they just like the way it makes them sounds to SAY that's what they read while dining alone.

The only time I generally eat alone at a restaurant is when I travel for business and cannot talk family or friends into going with me. I don't generally mind being a party of one, particularly if I have a book. I do find, however, that servers tend to be especially attentive when you dine alone, which can make you re-read the same paragraph over and over. Coincidentally, I'm attending my conference this week, so I've actually given this some thought.

Because I like to people watch myself, I wonder what my table for one, propped-open book, and glass of wine says about me. "Isn't that sad? She's obviously lonely--reading a trashy romance all alone, drowning her sorrows in vino." Or "I bet this is the first time in years that she's had an entire meal without having to mop up spilled milk! She should be reading something better than that!" Or "She probably just worked herself half to death at the conference across the street--good for her not caring if people judge her for reading bodice rippers in public!"

Actually, I generally reserve bodice rippers for the beach, but you get the idea. I'll probably take Drood with me this week. I'm exciting to read it--it should cover me for plane and restaurant meeting. The trouble with dining with thick, hardback books, though, is keeping the book open while manipulating silverware. Something to keep in mind when ordering.

If the book is REALLY engrossing, though, that's what room service is all about. Then you can have food, book, and slippers! Heaven!

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