Want a Great Meal? Try One of These Three Combinations for “Perfection.”

Even though I don’t like to cook, and I’m no foodie, I nevertheless enjoy the food writing of M.F.K. Fisher. Several of her classic books are collected in The Art of Eating, which includes the essay “From A to Z: The Perfect Dinner,” from An Alphabet for Gourmets.

In it, Fisher outlines three combinations of people that can reach “gastronomical perfection”—but note, for clarity (and humorous effect), I’ve put them in the form of a numbered list, which is not her style.

Fisher writes that the perfect dinner can be attained with…

1. “one person dining alone, usually upon a couch or a hill side;

2. two persons, of no matter what sex or age, dining in a good restaurant;

3. six person of no matter what sex or age, dining in a good home…a good combination would be one married couple, for warm composure; one less firmly established, to add a note of interrogation to the talk; and two strangers of either sex, upon whom the better acquainted could sharpen their questioning wits.”

I love the fact that M.F.K. Fisher sings the praises of eating alone on a couch. Am I the only one who loves that kind of meal? I like eating alone on a hill side, too, but that’s a bit harder to pull off.

What’s your favorite combination for “gastronomical perfection”?

  • Tabita Green

    Breakfast before sunrise, alone, at the kitchen table with candles lit – and preferably with a good book (unless I’m practicing mindful eating).

    • Kay

      ooh. That’s good too!

  • MJ

    A pint of my favorite low-fat frozen dessert and small bags of crunchy snacks, reading a long-awaited book, by myself, on my couch, in a silent house. Coffee and toast/waffle post-long run while catching up on my favorite blogs. Wed night ostrich and oven baked fries w/ my husband.

  • S. C. Tang

    It used to be a crisp apple, a good book, a nice place to read. Now, I’ve upgraded to a plate of triangle sandwiches, a good book, a nice place to read.

  • اشكركي عزيزتي كثيرا ولكن اقرئي القران لكي تعرفي السعادة

  • At first I was excited that this post validates the many meals I’ve consumed on my couch. Then I remembered all my gastroenterologist appointments…and I’m pretty sure “perfection” is not the word the dr. would use to describe what’s going on 🙂

  • My perfect meal is coffee and thai, by the beach, in the middle of the night.


  • Grandma Honey

    I think I’d like to try her 3rd suggestion. A very interesting combination of people.

  • debora rorvig

    I love eating outside on summer nights, either with friends or just my husband. It can be on a beach with a campfire or in a cafe’s patio. You just need warm breezes, good food, starlight, and good company.

    • Kay

      I love this too!

  • peninith

    During the week, I’m usually solo at the table with a good book. Sunday night with other single lady friends and neighbors–usually anywhere from 2 to 6 at the table. I like to choose a main dish and others check in to see what will harmonize. This can vary from an excellent pizza from the neighborhood Italian restaurant to something more elaborate (last week it was a whole Red Snapper Vera Cruz) I’ve been inspired to try out. In the summer after the film Julie and Julia came out, I went on a culinary tear that lasted for months. We have a ‘family’ occasion, exchanging the latest news of most interest to us and after dinner I relax and continue chatting while my pals clean up. It’s been going on for years. I remember some fine, more formal dinner parties from long ago, and I like those too, but have little occasion to do such any longer.

  • Anne

    In pursuit of “being Anne,” I’ve realized that I love to cook but don’t particularly enjoy eating. So my perfect meal would be either one I’ve made for guests (in which case, what I enjoy is the company), or a bowl of cold red grapes consumed while i read.

  • gs

    I want to add “tea and toast on a tray” when you are down with the flu or some other illness. Although being ill is not fun, it is kind of nice to eat in bed and be taken care of.

  • And here I’d always been embarrassed by my love of eating all by myself on the couch, with a glass of wine and a good book! (The hill side sounds awful; bugs will be involved and no doubt the sun would get in my eyes.) Thanks for a lovely little reminder is that a source of happiness is always to be celebrated, as long as no one gets hurt and I don’t spill my wine.

    • gretchenrubin

      I eat apples in bed while reading. Nothing better!

  • Kay

    What an intriguing topic. I’d never really thought about this at all, although I have several favorite ways to enjoy a meal. One of them is indeed alone on the couch with a good glass of wine and something fun on the television. I also enjoy a family (just the nuclear family preferably) on the back patio in the evening (we don’t have bugs or humidity to deal with here in AZ). And I also enjoy two women (me being one of them) at a cute chick sort of restaurant. I think I’ll do that for lunch today!

  • Edra

    I love picnics that are eaten entirely with hands. A perfect combination is shrimp steamed with Old Bay, white grapes, and bleu cheese spread scooped up on hunks of crusty french bread. Indoors or out, anytime of year. Of course, one cannot read during such a meal–unless you have a dining companion to feed you between paragraphs read aloud. 😉 Very romantic.

  • Monica

    Studies show that people who eat alone are more likely to eat less, and the more people at the dinner table the more likely we are to overeat. I forgot where I read this from, but the trick is when eating with more then 2 people, to pace ourselves with the slowest eater. 🙂

  • DLinBham

    Two at a good restaurant is lovely, but so is two who created an easy yet delicious meal in the kitchen together. Hubby and I recently (after putting daughter to bed) enjoyed grilled tuna (which he made) with maque choux (which I made) and a bottle of wine.

  • DLinBham

    Edra reminds me of one of my favorite meals ever, although it did require a minimum of silverware: a potluck sunset picnic with close friends on the beach in a warm Gulf Coast fall, consisting of cold boiled shrimp, pasta salad, fruit, pitas and hummus, brie and bread — and chilled sparkling wine.

  • Amit Sharma

    Well, I would like to either eat alone on a couch or by the hill. Glad we share the same kind of interests. hehe.

    And the second thought, ”
    two persons, of no matter what sex or age, dining in a good restaurant; ” also appeals me. Got someone on my mind now. 😀

    Great study, and really an interesting read, Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Brigitta

    I anticipate solitary meals the most when I have a new magazine to enjoy at the table. I feel like magazines are meant for breakfast, lunch or dinner reading by their convenient design!

  • Alicia

    Kinfolk magazine (A guide for small gatherings) writes about this exact topic in their quarterly journal. The magazine is divided into three sections: Entertaining for ONE, Entertaining for TWO, or Entertaining for a FEW. The magazine is full of beautiful photographs and words written by artists from all over the world. Lovely really. I can highly recommend. More info here: http://www.kinfolkmag.com/

  • hehink

    Bethel, Alaska has a restaurant with a big window that overlooks the airport runway, and the tundra off to the west. My kids & I used to love eating there – usually burgers & fries, sometimes onion rings – while watching planes land and take off. It was especially cool when we’d see my husband or one of our friends flying the plane.

    We’ve also enjoyed dining with friends in summer on the patio of the restaurant in the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage, watching float planes land and take off at Lake Hood. Pleasant even if you’re not part of an aviation family!

  • Nancy

    No, not on a hillside. I’m with Mr. Knightly in “Emma” (without the servants): “My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have the table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity of gentlemen and ladies, with their servants and furniture, I think is best observed by meals within doors.”
    Perfect meal for me is dinner at home with my husband at the table! It’s a rare restaurant meal that can top that.

  • Mary

    As a single woman, I would so love it if people took the dinner-for-six idea to heart, and included us singles! Really, I’m good at a dinner party!

  • Millicent

    I love cooking with others, the meal we are going to eat together.