[FOUNTAIN]Eating alone is hazardous to your healthIt’s awkward to eat alone. There are times when you might feel more comfortable eating alone or dining quietly by yourself. However, it is a little lonely to go into a restaurant by yourself and order a meal. You might feel a bit self-conscious if people look at you.
From the restaurant’s point of view, a patron eating alone is not welcome. It is inefficient if one person occupies a four-seat table. Korean restaurants have to provide the same set of side dishes for two people as it would for a single patron. Some courses are meant to be served for more than two people.
Cooking for one person is not easy either. No matter how small the portion is, you will have to use the same recipe and go through the same process of cleaning, cutting and cooking.
If you look around, you will surprisingly find many people eating alone, such as retirees, the unemployed, senior citizens living alone, children of working or single parents, housewives and fathers living alone in Korea while their wives are with the children studying abroad.
At work, some people feel nervous when they don’t have a lunch appointment. The staff might feel obliged to go with the boss if the boss is absent a dining partner.
As society ages, more and more people are eating alone because an increasing number of people are living outside the boundary of the social network. The Japanese call eating alone “lonely dining.”
According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, nearly 30 percent of Japanese citizens dine alone three times a day. Therefore, restaurants have developed a system for single diners. For example, restaurants have bars so that diners can comfortably eat alone. When the bars are full, the seating host will ask diners to share a table. At some barbecue places, diners who are strangers share a grill at the same table, and the customers are not uncomfortable with the arrangement.
After all, “lonely dining” is not good for your health. Japanese nutritionists have confirmed that when you eat alone, you produce less saliva, which helps digestion. Also, more acid is produced by the stomach.
Since menu choices are limited for lone diners, it is more likely they are unable to maintain balanced nutrition. Therefore, “lonely dining” is considered a social problem in Japan.
As Korea is also a rapidly aging society, we might soon experience the same problem. For a more pleasant and healthier meal, let’s make friends to dine with while we are all still young.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is head of the family affairs team at the JoongAng Ilbo.