Loners Unite!

nighthawksEenmal is a pop-up restaurant in Amsterdam that caters to single diners. They describe themselves as  “the first one-person restaurant in the world and an attractive place for temporary disconnection.” As the editors at Symposion write, this raises a variety of interesting issues:

Is eating with others, as Julian Baggini ponders, a social experience that is existentially quite distinct from mere feeding? Do we miss anything ethically or existentially significant when we dine alone? It also raises questions about the ethos of our day and the place of dining in it. Does dining alone reflect a dystopic trend toward a society of disconnected loners nurtured by the individualist ethos of our market society? Would the EENMAAL concept be seen as glamorizing this trend? On the other hand, we should not ignore that solo dining might be our ‘delicious’ way to intimacy with ourselves in our hyper-connected world obsessed with sociality and extroversion.

I think the answer to most,  but not all, of these questions is yes. Eating with others is a distinctive, existentially significant social experience that we miss when dining alone. But the fact that we sometimes dine alone (by necessity or choice) does not suggest a “dystopic trend toward a society of disconnected loners”. Our mobility and individualism are also existentially significant experiences that should not be denigrated, especially in our “hyper-connected world”. The more we are with others, the more valuable those moments of solitude become. What better way to celebrate those moments than with a meal.

Sociality isn’t a zero-sum game. It is not compromised but is strengthened by the occasional solitary meal, a respite from the constant demands of being always “on”.

It is to be hoped, however, that Eenmal serves wine by the glass.

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