September 27, 2001
WHY WE DINE
Given the events of September eleventh, going on the air with something as trifling as a restaurant review seems to bepardon the punsin the utmost bad taste. Seeing the horror and tragedy first hand, then living with its depressing aftershocks has psychologically battered all of us to the point where normalcy and enjoyment still seem remote. In the midst of guilting myself for my trivial pursuits, and trying to find some inspiration for another commentary, I received an e-mail from John Mariani one of Americas foremost food writers and the restaurant critic for esquire magazine. In it-- he eloquently expressed his conflict-- on the night of the bombings no lesson whether to dine out that night at one of New Yorks finest restaurants. What motivated him to do so was remembering the story of Winston Churchill who, after hearing the entire city of Coventry had been destroyed by German bombs, said with deadly seriousnesswell, lets have lunch. Everything always looks better after lunch. Such sentiments should carry weight with all of us, not only because sitting down to a meal requires the harried mind to re-focus attention on a most essential human ritual, but also because it helps us return to a normal need that invariably involves the strength and comfort we draw from our fellow man. Mariani also quoted a passage from the diary of Anne Frank in which the family, isolated and terrified for months, fantasize over what wonderful, pastries, stews, fine wines and good restaurants they will return to once they rejoin the outside world.
Once we survive the inevitable rigors and horrors of life, all of us must return to the table
.. And whether it is simply for sustenance, or fellowship, or allowing ourselves to fall in love under the spell of candlelight or a brilliant sunset, it is there that we regain the fortitude to continue living our lives to the fullest. So, like John Mariani, I will continue extolling and criticizing our food culture, sometimes whimsically and sometimes with vitriol
because only by indulging in lifes passions will we defeat the forces that seek to destroy all that we hold dear.
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