I recently confided in a colleague that I was utterly unable to decide where to eat while travelling alone. The miles I had trudged, unable to commit to one perfectly adequate place to eat over another, convinced me that I was deeply mad, and wholly alone in suffering from this condition. To my surprise, being an entirely normal person, she said that she did the same, which I found both delighting and concerning for the human race. I was not alone, but if there are too many of us being possessed by inexplicable reluctance to plunge into a restaurant, when very hungry, then there is little hope for humankind’s continued existence.
And yet, tonight, I may have seen the first rays of light. Peckish after a lengthy journey to Valencia, I found myself, against every instinct in my body, walking into a lovely-looking bar serving tapas. It was small and intimate and full of couples and small groups. Terror gripped me. I wanted with all my fibre to flee for the hotel room and a big bag of Doritos.
And at that point something else gripped me. The hand of the manager of the bar, who was on the phone taking a reservation as I stood next to him being awkward. He continued, firmly, to keep a hold of me, and then seated me at the bar. I ordered something quite at random. It turned out to be a rather surprising dish of black pudding spring rolls served with a beetroot dressing in a kind of cream sauce. I’m no foodie but it was fabulous. And, after paying, admittedly rather swiftly, I strolled home feeling very pleased with myself.
The moral of the story? Fight the instinct to flee. Order anything. Take a book or fiddle with your phone if you’d prefer. Eating out, alone, is hard, but the rewards are better, possibly, than too many Doritos.