Alone Time: An Urban Foodie on Dining Solo (AUDIO)

Oct 24, 20184 Issue, Experience

Photo by Olena Sergienko/Unsplash

By Sarah Duignan


As someone with small-town roots, the way time moves in a major urban city like Toronto is at a jarring, break-neck pace. Time is condensed and crammed on subways, shoved into to-go salads and sandwich boxes—and, most of all, time is spent mostly by yourself.

I spoke with Torontonian foodie and service-industry friend Dino Tinapay on the art of dining solo for an episode of my podcast, AnthroDish, and explored the ways that Torontonians have shifted our understanding of what it means to eat alone. Sociologist Erving Goffman once suggested that eating alone is “to expose oneself as possibly not being able to muster up companionship”—but is that really true in the digital age? Or are we shifting into a new appreciation of solitary time through dining experiences?

Time to oneself is increasingly crowded with the dim light of a smartphone screen, and perhaps it is in restaurant spaces where this shift is most prominent. Dino and I explore in our discussion what spaces and times of day make for the best solitary dining time, and what times remain a bit more uncomfortable without some form of social prop (be it beer, book or phone). What I love most about this discussion is how Dino spends his alone time connecting back to food, slowing down time in between the rush of meetings, social events, work and family.

Sarah Duignan is a PhD candidate studying the anthropology of health at McMaster University. Growing up in Peterborough, Ontario has strongly influenced her connection to the natural world and to food and landscapes. She graduated with a BSc in 2013 from Trent University and then moved to the prairies for a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Manitoba (2015). She currently works with Indigenous communities, collaborating on health research that situates wellbeing in connection with water quality and access for her doctoral research. She is also the creator and host of AnthroDish, a podcast about food, culture and identity. She currently lives in Toronto with her rad partner and her cheeky little toddler.

Sarah Duignan