Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Table for one is no joy

The saying that sharing is caring has always been very real and close in most cultures. In most communities that have upheld their traditions it is very uncommon for one to eat alone and not offer to share. Even from art to popular culture, the image of the lone diner especially if it is a female has always been a subject of fascination for onlookers.

“It’s hard for me not to create a story around a single diner, as eating alone in a restaurant is an uncomfortable intersection between the public and the private,” said waitress Tebogo Setlhulane. She admitted to serving a single diner as something that always made her feel like a voyeur.

“And also I feel guilty if I wonder why he or she is alone. After all, why is anyone alone, finally?” asked a puzzled Tebogo.

Communal eating is a culture that has been held dear by people for generations. Even to date when there is a visitor in many homes, they are discouraged to leave when the host is just about to start cooking or just about to dish. The really rooted African even crafts the offer in such a way that the visitor is sweet talked into staying longer so they increase the number of diners, emphasises being put on how terrible it would be to travel on an empty stomach. To date many have fond memories of those Sunday lunches when they had to share a piece of chicken with an unannounced visitor.

The agony! And mind you in retrospect chicken was a very rare occurrence in most plates, a cherished favourite. It was in the Sunday lunch plate only and without fail. Kids would start celebrating Sunday the night before as if it was a weekly Christmas Eve. The routine would be to bath first thing in the morning and wait patiently for lunch time. There would often be threats like “whoever gets their clothes dirty is not having chicken later”, from parents, that was the one day of the week when children would be in their best behaviour. The worst feeling for them back in those days would be the arrival of a guest because the inevitable would soon happen, they would eat half of what they would have eaten had the visitor not turned up. But that thought of suffering as a result of having generous parents would only be in the immature mind of a greedy child.

Amazingly mindsets tend to evolve with time. Most of the things that used to matter as a child like the relevance of eating for the sake of busting hunger do not matter anymore. One of the hardest challenges most adults ever attest to having endured has to be eating alone for days on end maybe as a result of living alone. Sometimes because of work commitments people end up leaving their loved ones behind and going to live alone for some time. Their personal experiences on that are rarely the most pleasant. Just the thought of leaving work to go back to an empty house is enough to make one lose appetite. By the time they get home the television seems more appealing than the kitchen and obviously the call of nature is such that they get hungry and something must go into their stomach.

“I find it feels so much better to open a packet of crisps and eat it alone than to cook and have it dawn on me when I take one plate, one knife and one fork out of my cupboards that I am alone,” said bachelor Botshelo Motsumi.

Nowhere in Botswana will one find a social gathering where there is no food. When people come back from weddings and parties, the question on the quality of the food that was served always forms a big part in rating the event; some may claim that the food was not good but plates seldom go back untouched. Even in instances where the food was not much to write home about, appetites may shoot through the roof and it may simply get eaten because of the joy in sharing.


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