Food for Thought?

Eating lunch alone for a week taught me more about life than the rest of my degree combined, says Riley Kaminer.

Riley Kaminer

Me vs. my dissertationIllustration by Niko Kristic Background image by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

Hello, my name’s Riley, and I suffer from crippling extraversion.

Extraverts like me get a lot of good press. People think we’re fun. They invite us to parties because they know we’ll happily talk the ear off anyone within a 5-mile radius. They tag us in memes on Facebook pages.

I know, it sounds like I’m bragging. But being an extravert is a curse. Spending more than ten minutes alone in my room makes me feel like my life is coming to a slow, painful end. Eating by myself is worse than being exiled on a deserted island because at least on a deserted island I wouldn’t be tempted to exercise my gift of the gab.

I had a big problem. And that problem was called my 15,000-word dissertation that was due in one month and still… how should I put this… in its early stages. Earlier this month I realised something had to change.

I decided my weak spot was lunchtime. Somehow ‘quick’ lunch breaks tend to turn into half-day affairs, so for the sake of my degree, and in the pursuit of hard-hitting investigative journalism, I made a pact to spend one week eating alone, rating all the places I would go based on the following, very scientific criteria: quality of food (value for money), hide-ability (from distracting friends, faculty members, people who judge you for lunching alone), stress level, and people watching potential.

All that was missing from day one was strawberries and cream!Riley Kaminer

Day 1, Sunday: Jesus Green

I’ve lived right on Jesus Green all year and been properly out on the grass… once? (Wait, does C-Sunday count?) Food was basically free, although time consuming because I had to cook. Hid from everyone but my flatmates. No stress: sun plus a lovely light breeze. Ideal people watching – I basically felt like I was at Wimbeldon the entire time.

Day 2, Monday: My faculty

I decided to start off the work week on a productive note by eating some food directly in my faculty. I stepped out for a bit to grab some take away and ate in the serenity of our common room. No one was around though: solitude is surprisingly STRESSFUL!

More comfortable than it looksRiley Kaminer

Day 3, Tuesday: Grass next to the Raised Faculty Building

I was studying in MML faculty and got a little bit peckish so I went rogue and decided to carpe the diem, as they say, by buying a sandwich from the Buttery and sitting against a large sculpture in the grass. Ideal hide-ability, sitting amongst a few tonnes of metal and all. Not too shabby for some covert people watching as well.

Day 4, Wednesday: Seeley’s JCR

On day four I got cocky. This had been easy! I should have been eating lunch alone years ago! But I was under a strict deadline for a supervision and unable to leave Seeley. So I trudged up the stairs to the JCR and was faced with this dismal selection.

Terrible food options. I bought some ‘Bang Bang Spicy Thai’ crisps because I thought that maybe the aural stimulation of the ‘Bang Bang’ CRUNCH might remind me of the conversations I’m not having with any of my friends this week. Great for hiding, as this is a no man’s land. But stressful by design since people come to Seeley to be peer pressured to work. Perfect for people watching since it’s literally a panopticon. What more could you want for peak productivity?

Day 5, Thursday: My college

After my Day 4 low, I needed a sure-fire success. I needed to go to a place where I knew what to expect. So I went to my college.

Well, it’s college food. What can you expect? Had to avoid a group of acquaintances though, so not ideal. All in the name of productivity!

Day 6, Friday: Another college

So big! So much to see! So many choices!Riley Kaminer

After a close run in with those potential distractors at my college, I decided to lunch in a foreign land. One that was close to my faculty. Selwyn became the clear choice.

What an incredible array of food choices! Chill vibes and good people watching since it’s such a big hall. But bad hide-ability, since apparently half my coursemates eat here for lunch.

Day 7, Saturday: The UL Tea Room

This view was basically self flagellationRiley Kaminer

In a final push for productivity, I went all the way: the mythical UL tea room. Great food but expensive. Definitely catering more to the Serious Academics doing Serious Things. Air of anxiety, but just what I needed to get to the 15,000-word finish line.

End result?

This has been my most productive week this term. This year. Maybe in my entire life. Even considering the fact that I’m writing this article as another way to procrastinate.

But having lunch in solitude took a toll. I may have eked a few hours more out of my week, but at the cost of the best part of university: my friends.

I guess now at least I know where to go when I need some ‘me-time.’ As if that will ever happen…