In the past nine months, I've eaten out by myself exactly four times. I say this with full recognition of how absurd it sounds that I've kept track and can tell you not only the exact circumstances of each occurrence, but also exactly what I ordered and exactly the way I clutched my iPhone with my left hand, as if to say to the world of dining duos around me, "I have friends who will be contacting me at any moment."
Because obviously I don't dine alone out of necessity.
Obviously, I'm just one of those self-possessed people who feel completely and utterly at peace sitting at a bar with their thoughts and a big bowl of al dente pasta.
In my head I'm that person. The girl who can occupy a table in a busy cafe for hours, idling over a cheese plate and glass of wine long after she's finished her dinner without consciously thinking about how the other people in the cafe perceive her. The girl who draws attention not because she's alone, but because she's filling the space with a quiet, contented presence. Or perhaps because she's ordering more food than seems permissible for a single person, and good for her - why shouldn't she get the grilled octopus and the minted artichokes with burrata and the bucatini and the olive oil cakes?
I want to like eating out alone. I want to revel in the opportunity to cast my dining mates aside without so much as a periphery glance. Because it all seems so romantic in theory - the idea of treating myself for no other reason aside from that I deserve it.
And am, well, hungry.
So I go out into the universe with that image - of the glitz and glamour of spoiling myself with the lavishness of a solo restaurant meal. Yet, when I'm there, in the moment, presented with a menu and a glass of LA's finest and the vast stretch of time it will take to select a dish, order, wait for it to arrive, eat it, contemplate dessert, and pay the bill, it all feels rather insurmountable. Like the workout that I try to rush through at the gym while distracting myself with Lady Gaga, the latest issue of US Weekly, and the morning news headlines on CNN.
I'm not content to just sit and marinate in the moment. I don't want to be alone with my own thoughts and a meal that I can't audibly "ooh" and "aah" over without raising the eyebrows of those dining around me. I want to share the bottle of wine, I want to gush over how good the grilled brown rice is and how it's possible that it's that good because it's just rice, and I want to laugh with a chorus and forget that we're there to eat because we're having so much fun talking about nothing and everything all at once.
For the moment.
And outside the moment, I find a way to make my own variation of it in the safety of my home. Without the cured salmon, smattering of radish and indulgent smear of creme fraiche, and without the judgement - perceived or otherwise.
And then I find a way to share it with someone. With you. In the hopes that maybe we can "ooh" and "aah" over it together.
Egg, Avocado and Caper Toast
A cured salmon-less riff on the toast at Sycamore Kitchen
1/4 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt (Fage is preferred)
Squeeze of lemon juice + 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 slice of good quality bread, toasted (I used a 1/2 inch thick slice of sourdough from the bread vendor at my farmers market)
2 teaspoons capers
Salt, pepper to taste
Place egg in pot. Cover with cold water, so there's at least an inch of water above the egg. Bring water to a slow boil, then turn off heat, cover, and let stand for nine minutes. Immediately remove egg and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Let chill for a good 10 minutes, then peel and gingerly cut into 1/4 inch slices.
In a small bowl, combine the avocado, Greek yogurt, splash of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash together until somewhat smooth in consistency, and yogurt and avocado are thoroughly combined.
Smear avocado yogurt spread over the toast. Cover with the slices of hard boiled egg, then top with the capers, lemon zest, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Eat immediately, whilst "oohing" and "aahing." Audibly.