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Six solo eating reflections


Hi. It feels like a long time has passed since the last time I was here.

I’ve been quasi-actively trying to remove filler words like “I think” and “honestly” and “it feels like,” but I had to specify that it only feels like it. I write on the first Sunday of every month. This time is no different.

It may feel this way because many things have happened (some of which I can’t tell you about yet).

Without fail, during the time period from publishing the last article (Sunday, October 2) to sitting down to write the new one (Saturday, November 5), in my quiet moments—walks and meditations and workouts and those first few seconds when I’ve just woken up from a nap—I debate not writing anymore.

Everything has been said, right? Nothing’s original. I’ve said everything there is to say in the 197,805 words I’ve uttered publicly in a forever format. (Yes, even if I delete something, the Wayback Machine exists so the thing doesn’t really die.)

Without fail, when I do sit down to write a new article every month, there’s this intimacy in the air between my laptop, my brain, and my fingers.

I have things to say. I have things to share. This is a blessing I don’t take for granted, even though I’m still ignorant of how it all works and I’m obsessed with knowing how things work.

I pause to go give a kiss to the love of my life who’s in another room. He asks how’s it going and if I wrote.

– Yes, a few words.
– How many words?
– I don’t know about that, but I did just look into how many words I’ve written in total. On The Inner Dolphin, I mean. Can you guess?

He guesses 600k. I find this lovely.

When I tell him the actual number, he points out that’s like 5 medium-length books. “Actually, no, more like 3 books.”

Ahhhhhh! As the corn kid says, I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing.

6 reflections from my solo lunch

I thought I’d tell you about a random day in my life. I don’t pretend to have deep thoughts on things all the time so I’ll just talk about my Monday lunch.

The hostess welcomes me and asks if I have a reservation. I don’t.

“How many people?” Just me.

“Your name, please.” She gets it right the first time which is uncommon. I don’t mind it when people get my name wrong, though. I lowkey love doing this bit where I point to my necklace, a dolphin, and say “like that, but with an -a at the end” and everyone laughs.

My name means dolphin (in Albanian). I used to think everyone knew that despite where they were from. I was wrong.

Reflection #1: Don’t treat solo eaters as lesser than

I had been to this restaurant before, but was always directed to the second floor and a table there. This time, I was sat at a table on the first floor near the kitchen entrance.

I’m not going to include pictures, but let’s just say the second floor is super beautiful and my spot wasn’t. It seemed like they’d been renovating, things were all over the place, and the view was overall not that enjoyable.

The only difference I could find between this time and others? Being alone.

This may have nothing to do with why I was sat at a subpar place.

However, that’s the impression I got, that it mattered and it affected your dining experience negatively.

Reflection #2: Asking is free

Oh, miso soup, a traditional Japanese soup, was on the menu, how exciting. Seeing a physical menu also brought me joy. Fuck QR codes.

I’d always wanted to try miso soup. This desire mostly originated from the time 90% of my YouTube consumption consisted of healthy vegan food bloggers, 60% of which had miso soup often.

My excitement waned when I noticed that the “miso soup” menu item wasn’t accompanied by the tiny leaf aka it wasn’t vegetarian.

But why?!

At restaurants, I really dislike asking for modifications or even clarifications (which is kinda messed up, I see that). But I thought it made sense to ask about this one. Surely, 60% of those vegan YouTubers weren’t lying.

– A question. How come the miso soup isn’t vegetarian?
– Oh. It’s because it has tofu in it.
me, a visibly confused vegetarian who eats tofu often: ???
– Tofu is a type of cheese…
me, a visibly confused vegetarian who eats cheese often: ???
– Let me double-check with the chef.
– Okay, thank you.

As it turns out, this was a new menu they were rolling out which is why the waiter wasn’t sure and the miso soup was a new item that was indeed vegetarian.

Ask and it shall be given whooo?!

Reflection #3/Agreement #3 from The Four Agreements: Don’t make assumptions

Sure, this directly contradicts reflection #1/me assuming restaurant staff favored groups of 2+ people.

I’m allowed to change my mind and even have contradicting views.

“I paint landscapes, I paint nudes . . . I contain multitudes”

– Bob Dylan, I Contain Multitudes

The tofu in the miso soup was severely lacking in flavor. Other Asian dishes besides sushi aren’t this restaurant’s main offering, so I figured that the chef wasn’t familiar with the dish or how to highlight tofu’s main strength, extreme versatility.

I make better tofu,” I thought to myself. I was wrong. Google humbled me and I found out that’s how you cook the tofu in miso soup. You don’t.

Reflection #4: Public service implies different things in different countries

I’m currently reading The Kindness of Strangers: How a Selfish Ape Invented a New Moral Code by Michael E. McCullough.

A short book description: “How did humans, a species of self-centered apes, come to care about others? Since Darwin, scientists have tried to answer this question using evolutionary theory. In The Kindness of Strangers, psychologist Michael E. McCullough shows why they have failed and offers a new explanation instead.”

Related: I Interviewed 80 People to Find Out if Pure Altruism Exists

I read this book as I was having lunch. Usually, I try not to do anything else as I’m eating, but I’m a sucker for a funny YouTube video (or a good book when I’m eating alone at a restaurant).

I nodded and laughed out loud at this part discussing nepotism:

In the meritocratic West, we regard nepotism as one of the major roots of public corruption, which of course it is. However, throughout most of the world, the ability to find good jobs and fat government contracts for your children, parents, spouses, cousins, nieces, and nephews is really the point of going into public service in the first place.

Chicago super-mayor Richard J. Daley was once asked to explain why he directed a city insurance contract to a firm that employed his son John (and in doing so, excluded every other company that would have wanted to bid on the contract). The only defense Daley could muster against his critics was a rhetorical one: “If I can’t help my sons, then they can kiss my ass. I make apologies to no one.… If a man can’t put his arms around his sons, then what kind of world are we living in?”

Reflection #5: Learning is the ultimate Divine Comedy

After lunch, I had an espresso (as any other Albanian would). When the waiter brought the bill, I realized he had forgotten to include it. I didn’t tell him, but I made sure to account for it in the tip.

Something worth mentioning is that most people in Albania use cash, me included. I handed the waiter the bill holder and told him how much to keep, but when he brought it back, I was again surprised to see he had only kept a portion.

Unfortunately, again, I made an assumption. I assumed there was some kind of secret agreement between the barista and him– espressos and similar warm beverages wouldn’t be included in the bill, but they’d split the earnings.

Again, I was proved wrong. If that were the case, he would’ve been paying extra attention to how much I tipped to make sure it included the espresso’s price. That didn’t happen. Obviously, I still left him the tip.

I wanted to include this story here to point to the often-overlooked comedic aspect of reflecting and learning. It’s usually such an incredibly messy journey. However, when you hear about it from me or other writers/creators, you only get the polished version. We’ve arrived at a certain conclusion, learned our lessons, and we’re here to tell you why you should do X too. You’re welcome! Hindsight, yo. It’s a blessing and a fucking curse.

Don’t get distracted by someone else’s glamorous arrival at a metaphorical destination. The mess is how you get there. Don’t underestimate it.

Reflection #6: “Nature is my favorite architect”

Finally, one last point from the book I’m reading, The Kindness of Strangers, which inspired this article’s featured image.

Related: You can always find a list of the books I’ve read and what I’m currently reading at

(Admittedly, I didn’t read this passage on Monday. I read it as I was getting my nails done on Thursday. That process takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours and I usually get to read a lot which I love. I’m just realizing I also had quite a few of these “random” reflections as I was getting my nails done– related to Albanian hate, the book my nail tech was writing about her grandma, and even my nail design which is a tribute to this legendary “signora, i limoniiii” video. Let me know if you’d like more of these stream-of-consciousness articles. Back to the book.)

Scientists’ tendency to remove the complexities of reality from their models is so typical that engineers have a joke about it.

A farmer comes to a theoretical physicist for advice on how to boost his cows’ milk production.

After working on the problem for a few weeks, the physicist calls the farmer to tell him that she has found an answer. She asks the farmer, “Can you come over to the university next Wednesday to hear me present my discovery at a departmental seminar?”

He’d be honored.

The next Wednesday, the farmer shows up to find a packed seminar room, with his physicist friend at the chalkboard. As the farmer takes his seat and the crowd settles down, the physicist turns to the board to draw a bold, jaunty circle.

“First,” she pronounces, “we assume a spherical cow.”


2 thoughts on “Six solo eating reflections”

  1. Why do you force yourself to write when you don’t have anything to say? This was a messy article. You were all over the place. Jumping through thoughts and ideas without elaborate one from start to finish. I seriously didn’t get anything from this article. Just delirious words. Trust me, that’s not how you write a book. Do not compare this messy articles with writing a descent book.
    If you think you’re able to write a book, do it. Assuming that the fact that you have written shitty articles like this one, would be the same as writing 3 books, is a big insult to the real writers.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share!

      I don’t expect that all of my articles will resonate. Some will inevitably suck. You thought this one did. I could gently nudge you toward the beginning of the article where I specified this was a #aDayInTheLife post, light on the profound reflections. I could ask why you kept reading if you know these types of pieces aren’t your cup of tea. Yet, I don’t think that’s the point.

      I don’t force myself to write, but I can see how my musings on how I debate not writing anymore every time I sit down to write these articles gave that impression.

      It’s the curse of creativity, we obsess over how everything has been said or done already and 100x better, over how there’s no point in us writing anymore or drawing or singing. We fear people will hate our work, ridicule us or worse, ignore us completely.

      Why do we do this to ourselves?! Well, because as I said in the article “without fail, when I do sit down to write a new article every month, there’s this intimacy in the air between my laptop, my brain, and my fingers. I have things to say. This is a blessing I don’t take for granted, even though I’m still ignorant of how it all works and I’m OBSESSED with knowing how things work.”

      On the other hand, Joanna, it’s such a delicate muscle. We have to be gentle with it, but firm.

      For me, this looks like showing up on The Inner Dolphin every month.
      In 2018, I published a new article every single day. In 2020, I switched to a weekly schedule. I approach the whole thing with humbleness and curiosity, never with expectations or force.

      “I’ll write when I feel like it” doesn’t work for me, but showing up here month after a month does and it feels right.

      You had a problem with me pointing out that the 197805 words I’ve shared on here equal 3 books. You found this “a big insult to the real writers.”

      Wow, do I hate this gatekeeping narrative of “real” anything! It’s so 1880s, Joanna, and we shouldn’t amplify it. If you paint, you’re a painter. I don’t care what tools you use or what an acclaimed critic or your high school frenemy think of your drawings. If you write, you’re a writer. That’s it.

      People liking and sharing my work doesn’t make me a writer. People telling me an article of mine changed their life don’t make me a writer. Writing a book doesn’t make me a writer.

      We’re so obsessed with milestones that we overlook the one thing that matters, the process. As the saying goes: “Do you want to write, or do you want to be a writer?”

      This implication that people miraculously become a real anything when they achieve a goal, whether that’s you finding my article worthy or me writing a decent book or money or fame, is harmful.

      There’s only one thing that makes me a real writer, sitting my ass down and writing. Even when I don’t “feel” like doing it, even when the end product isn’t life-changing or even likable.

      I have one obligation to my readers and it’s not that you’ll like or find value in everything I say. My commitment can be roughly summed up in one sentence from the book Writing Without Bullshit: “Treat the reader’s time as more valuable than your own.”

      If this reply is a testament to one thing, it’s that I do and always will.

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