Boris Mann’s Personal Blog

Dec 2023

The earth is too small to eat alone

The original title The earth is too small for private dinner parties is an epilogue to a cookbook by The Frugal Gourmet.

I couldn’t find it online anywhere so I reproduced it in my FoodWiki as well as below.

The cookbook it’s from is available via Internet Archive.

Yes to eating and cooking together. “Private dinner parties” is strange phrasing — because I love gathering with small groups in private!

Read another way, it might be commentary that private dinner parties are too rich or fancy for what the earth can sustain. Also true, but not quite the point.

I am going to attempt more group cooking and eating in 2024.

I am always concerned when I see a person in the supermarket with a basket filed with private food. You know what I mean by private food, of course. Little packages of instant and prepared foods that indicate that this person intends to eat alone again tonight. We see a lot of this among the older members of our culture, and we always mumble something about being pleased with their sense of independence. It may not be independence. It may be simple loneliness.

The three ancient cultures that we have looked at in this volume did not, and do not, understand private eating. For one thing it was economically impossible to eat by yourself in the early days. The fuel for the kichen was too expensive, and the idea of living by yourself was unheard of. In America we claim that we value privacy and independence, and have therefore put a whole lifestyle on the market based on the ability to get along without anyone else. That is what private foods mean. We have sought a time of independence for everyone in our culture… and I am convinced that the result has not been pride in privacy, but rather an insight into the fact that privatude, in the end, offers only one thing—and that is loneliness.

Great food is not to be eaten by oneself. Eating privately is simply learning to sustain yourself, but dining is always done with other people. Please reconsider the plight of the people you know who live by themselves. Invite them in for a Roman dinner party, or for a Chinese or Greek dinner party. You and your children will be richer for it and your children will understand that the table is the proper place for sharing. And your guest? He or she, at the end of the evening, will give you a hug and say, “When can I come back?” That is what the ancient table was for… and what the table should be for in our time.

I bid you peace.