And speaking of eating alone, I’ve been reading Will Self’s new novel Walking To Hollywood. As a solitary pedestrian and psychogeographer, Self (and the narrator of the book, also named Will Self) inevitably does a lot of eating alone, whether in bed and breakfasts, pubs, greasy spoons, or as the sole customer in sad Indian restaurants lit by fluorescent tubes.
Actually I do believe some of the most excruciating moments of my life have been in English bed and breakfasts, being forced to share a breakfast table with complete strangers. Breakfast is part of the process by which I become fully human: having to share space with others (and - god forbid - talk to them) before I’m human, can make me turn positively feral.
Here’s Self’s terrific description of a meal in the Board Inn, somewhere in Yorkshire, a place with raffia table mats, and a menu that features “Rioja,” the quotation marks suggesting that it may not be Rioja at all. He goes for the lamb balti.
“The girl … took my order, then a while later she came back again with a little kahari on a plate, a stack of tiny rotis beside it and a small mound of white rice. I decanted the meaty sludge and began eating with the labored precision that is the very hallmark of solitude … I chased rice grain with tine around the stadium of my plate.”
Pretty good that, and I also liked, or rather shuddered at, his description of a pharmacy assistant with a “feijoada complexion ... in the fatty mass of which swam morsels of acne.” I can’t say that I eat feijoada every day, but the next time I do it will be extremely difficult to keep that image out of my mind. Thanks a bunch, Will.