If you’ve ever worked in food service, you’ve probably run into at least one maddeningly picky customer. Eccentric, annoying, and never happy with the specific offerings on the menu, these folks often absorb a robust dosage of sotto voce staff griping.

An essay on Culinate called “Table for One” puts the fussy diner into a new perspective. Focusing on a customer known to staffers as the No Garlic Lady (eventually fondly dubbed NGL), Erin Ergenbright reflects on a unique sense of culinary communion that can come from dining alone and truly appreciating the food one consumes. Over the course of this beautifully written essay, NGL’s rituals morph from irritating to intriguing to inspiring.

The story comes from an anthology called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone. If “Table for One” is indicative of its quality, it’s worth a thorough look.

I’m not the only fan, either. Slashfood blogger Marisa McClellan says that “Table for One” “reads quickly and leaves behind a feeling of quiet appreciation for food and the time it takes to eat it.” Now that’s an appetizer.

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