This scene of dual-nourishment is best celebrated in Guy Davenport’s essay “On Reading” (The Hunter Gracchus, 1996). His sense of contentment, a sort of intellectual/physical equipoise, is this reader’s ideal:
“. . . and all fellow readers who have ever taken a book along to a humble restaurant will understand my saying that life has few enjoyments as stoical and pure as reading Spinoza’s Ethics, evening after evening, in a strange city – St. Louis, before I made friends there. The restaurant was Greek, cozy, comfortable, and for the neighborhood. The food was cheap, tasty, and filling.
“Over white beans with chopped onions, veal cutlet with a savory dressing, and eventually a fruit cobbler and coffee, I read the De Ethica in its Everyman edition, Draftech pen at the ready to underline passages I might want to refind easily later. Soul and mind were being fed together. I have not eaten alone in a restaurant in many years, but I see others doing it and envy them.”
I can imagine Davenport’s fellow-diners suspiciously eyeing the strange man and his little book. Of course, too many restaurants today are outfitted with televisions mounted on the walls, making the more civilized pleasures – reading, conversation – impossible.