Sunday, March 13, 2005

dining solo

Part of the joy of touring for me is eating out solo. Rather than care if the meal is up to scratch for the society I keep (and, let me tell you, it is high), worry about lack or lose myself in an abundance of conversation, I find it is possible to relax and immerse myself in the experience, both of observing other diners and tasting. Once I have opened my book (which I rarely read) my fellow mangeurs stop thinking I have been stood up and leave me free to take my pleasure. Also, with an open page and my eyes wandering ceiling-ward, I clearly have lofty enough thoughts to distract me from the book.

In an attempt to ban pizzas from my life and eat a healthier diet, I found a Moroccan restaurant in Grenoble bursting at the seams. There I could have a vegetarian cous-cous and thus not mix protein and carbohydrate. With a good sting of harissa on my tongue and a warming soup lapping up the airy grains, I remembered the same on rooftop cafes in Djemma el Fna, and preceding spontaneous dancing in the Sahara, and worked the room with my eyes:

A table of two friends - one couple of whom I can see: He, balding and warty, doesn't stop tale-telling. He seems to be amusing the other two but his wife - dressed in leopard print, boss eyed and over hennaed - is so embarrassed by him she is actually drinking the melted ice-cream in her glass before reaching for too many baklavas.

The couple who have just had a baby: This is their first meal out because she has finally got her figure back. They have no need to talk but they sure know how to coo. Their gaze wanders from the baby floating in the cot to the merguez floating in the soup and back again; they take pictures with their mobile phones and are happy in their baby glow.

The couple who have forgotten how to talk (Oh, haven't we all prayed we never become that couple!): He is at peace with just being there in silence but her disappointment at years of him not communicating puckers her lips and draws her eyes in towards the bridge of her nose. Her fingers drum the table, whilst his rest calmly on his napkin. Occasionally they both look over to Baby Couple and remember a tender fragment of their history.
A woman on her own with a book but not reading: Too underdressed to be on a business trip, so probably some kind of artsy person because she is really going for the food, and What! Wine too?

The happy family: Moroccan parents and children in Saturday best ladling their soup onto their grain from the communal bowl, laughing and talking and making us believe all over again. In love, and in the power of cous-cous.


Blogger Sarita said...

This is one of my favorite hobbies - indulging in my fantasies about others. I love making up stories and watching as the players act-out my scenarios before my eyes. Sometimes things go as planned and sometimes they don't...

I loved your descriptions, I felt like I was there with you.

5:42 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

alors see you there at the belle etoile in grenoble next time, but we'd have to have separate tables!

5:52 PM  
Blogger Morphess said... daily dose of story telling coutesy of Ruth. Like Sarita I was there too..

When we go out I store up things to say and I think he does too as we still rabbit on after 15 years, could be that we don't go out much though!

8:57 PM  

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