Why I Eat Alone—Jack’s Perspective

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

This week, the Opinion section reintroduces Point/Counterpoint, a classic Herald column format. Desk editors Tarel (PC ’24) and Jack (BK ’25) argue about whether to eat meals alone, and why. Read Tarel’s piece first here

With a heavy heart—I confess—I cannot stand the Berkeley Dining Hall. It is never an easy thing to renounce one’s home. I live so close by, I can smell the kitchen from my bedroom. I walk out of my entryway and the dining hall is on my immediate left. Yet with every meal I walk right by it, my head hanging, my ridiculous Power Beats Pros in my ears—workout buds for a workoutless life—and I bust my ass to Trumbull. 

I’ll admit it, I spent my first year harboring an unfounded disdain for Trumbull, but my prejudices weren’t my fault. Shitting on Trumbull is the Yale zeitgeist. But God damn it, if Trumbull doesn’t have the best dining hall this campus has to offer, I’ll eat my shoe. It’s got peace, and that’s a rare thing here. It’s quiet. In a hall where most of the diners are eating alone, conversations are few and far between. The sun shines in through the yellow-tinted windows and it reminds me of the baby sun from Teletubbies. And it is happy. In the kitchen, there is nary a line, and the food is… the food is exactly the same as any other dining hall! (And I’ll die on that hill.)

My beloved co-editor, Tarel Dennie, has made worthwhile points. Eating alone gives you back precious time. Time to work; time to call home; time to turn off the brain and scroll. I eat alone and I do each of these things. But at the center of it all, there is a more spiritual source for my tendency toward solitary consumption. Yes, it is good to find time to do the things you don’t have time to do, but eating alone is a beneficial practice in and of itself. It is a meditation—a praxis of reflection and being. Senses are heightened, and so is perception. Uncorrupted by the waves of small talk, each taste bud reaches its platonic potential. They experience the intricacies of teriyaki-saturated broccoli and oil-drowned Gardein. Your ears go quiet the way they do in movies when the aloof detective fires his .22 dangerously close to the ear of his partner and each creak of the floorboards shrieks. There is nothing inherently positive about these experiences. In most circumstances, they are unpleasant. But eating alone in the Trumbull College dining hall, the line between pleasure and pain blurs, and you find passion in the sensual no-man’s-land of solitude. 

The experience isn’t for everyone. Not everyone is ready for it. But when your eyes begin to open—and they inevitably will—to the spiritual inadequacy of group meals, go to Trumbull. It will take you in, and with open, sunny arms, it will shepherd you through the rapture of loneliness. And then you will know what I’m talking about.

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