I could eat every meal by myself and be happy as a clam – as long as it’s a good meal. In the morning when my roommates are asleep, working out or already in class I enjoy my coffee and egg and cheese sandwich at the kitchen table or on the sun porch, solo. I catch up on the news, watch the viral videos everyone has been talking about, plan my dinner (and usually my lunch), or sometimes I just do nothing, in silence. During May and June, when my mom is still making up for snow days in her Kindergarten classroom, and I’m alone on Cape Cod, I live well and I eat well. I experiment with new recipes, create my own personal pizzas, grill portobello mushrooms and turkey burgers, all with a serving size of one. Cooking (and eating) is time I enjoy spending in the company of me, myself and I, but certainly not all the time.
Food has the power to bring people together. Aside from taste and smell, that may very well be one of my favorite things about it.
On Sunday nights in CT, my entire family comes together for Sunday Dinner. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, their husbands and wives and children (lots of small children), everyone, shares dinner around a big dining room table, or wherever they can find a seat. Held at a different house each week, sometimes its a few large pizzas, other times it’s a home cooked meal. Whoever can come, comes. Most weeks, it’s a full house. There’s always something to talk about, something to celebrate or big news to share and there’s always plenty of food.
Back at school in Philadelphia, a similar tradition happens on Tuesdays and Thursdays. From 10:45 to 12:30 the university recognizes something called Free Period, a time when no classes are held and students are encouraged to meet with professors, work on group projects, and catch up on school work. But for most, Free Period is a time to eat lunch and catch up with friends, for me in particular, with my sisters in Alpha Gamma Delta. At a big long table in the Campion Student Center 40 of my closest friends happily squish side-by-side , sharing seats and french fries. Some stay at the table for 2 hours, others for 20 minutes, some just stop by to say hello. It’s not the food in particular that draws us all to the table (trust me, I don’t think I’m speaking for myself when I say I can live without SJU’s infamous Hawk Wrap twice a week) but it’s the necessity of lunch time. We all need lunch before 12:30 classes begin again, so why not eat your mediocre wrap while surrounded by great company?
In keeping with the theme of meals shared by many, I recently crossed another restaurant off my Manayunk Bucket List, Hikaru. One step closer to eating my way down Main Street. While enjoying a glass of wine and sitting around a sizzling hibachi table, I caught up with my Alpha Gamma Delta ‘family’, my Little, Little Little and Little Little Little (for those unfamiliar with Greek Life families, save yourself the headache. It’s just a group of ‘sisters’). We try to get together a few times each semester for something we call ‘Family Dinner’. Sometimes there’s just three of us that can make it, and sometimes we make a reservation for 12. Regardless of how many of us can make it or where we decide to go, whether it’s a restaurant on campus, on Main Street or in the city, it’s something we do to catch up with each other, check in, and simply enjoy each other’s company, all while sharing a plate of nachos or catching a piece of shrimp from the Hibachi chef.
I have my friends to thank for much of my progress on the Manayunk Bucket List. With my friend Kate, I weaved through crowds of people waiting in lines behind food trucks during last weekend’s 4th annual Manayunk StrEAT Festival. Together we checked out menus from Mama’s Meatballs, Mac Mart Cart, Vernalicious and Oink and Moo BBQ. We walked up and down, up and down Main Street struggling to make a decision. As our stomachs grumbled louder and louder, it was a time to make a decision. Not interested (and now too hungry) to wait in any line, and considering our love for margaritas we decided on Taqueria Feliz, a new restaurant on Main Street with an awesome authentic-mexican menu (and a phenomenal Feliz Margarita!). Sitting by large window we watched the crowds of people pass by, carrying babies and walking dogs, munching on tater tots or cupcakes. We sat inside looking out onto Main Street, Margaritas in hand, devouring chips and salsa, enjoying each other’s company.
(Side note: I later ventured back out onto Main Street with my boyfriend to wait in endless lines and eat pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and loaded mac and cheese from various food trucks.)
So while I certainly enjoy spending a little quality time with myself while eating breakfast or whipping something up for dinner, I’m also very thankful to have such wonderful friends, a family who likes to eat just as much as I do, and a boyfriend who (although sometimes reluctantly) agrees to try new restaurants just for the sake of the Manayunk Bucket List. Not every meal should be eaten alone, not every meal should be crowded and hectic. It’s a healthy balance that keeps us sane, independence and codependence, being okay with being alone, and having great friends to join you when the meal is just too big for one.