The joy of dining alone

by Kitty Drake in March 2020
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“How do you begin a fresh exploration of the United States in 2020?”, asks Fifty Grande’s editor, Chris M. Walsh. One way is to devote 10 full colour pages of your biannual US-travel magazine to the fabulously bad art to be found on America’s highways. Key landmarks include three enormous black crows that stare down drivers in upstate New York, and ‘Carhenge’ — literally cars in the shape of Stonehenge, off Highway 87 in Nebraska.

Travel magazines rarely have a sense of humour, so Fifty Grande feels like a gift. The theme for this debut issue is Hometown and one of my favourite pieces is a romp through Toronto’s food scene, beginning with the author’s first date (“he looked like a howitzer, crossed with a calla lily”): “I cannot tell you what we talked about, where we sat, or even his name; all I can talk about is the Hot Bread… Two thick pieces of toast from a crusty batard topped with sauteed onions, mushrooms and sundried tomatoes.” For anyone who, like me, remembers most key life events in terms of what you were eating while you were living them, this story — by John Ortved — is a delight.

Probably the most delicious piece in the issue is an ode to eating alone. The idea of going to a restaurant may now seem like a relic from another age, but reading about the joys of ordering a vanilla affogato for one is still very fun. And if you’re dining alone these days then reading this story will make your lonely quarantined supper taste more noble. The highlight: many glorious images of solo diners, eating as one should eat: with undivided attention.

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