“For centuries, art has been the way through which we understand the world by forgetting our own. Whether it’s strolling the hallways of the Uffizi Gallery on holiday, educating oneself on the discovery of the chiaroscuro, getting lost in an Eggleston exhibit, witnessing some of Shakespeare’s greatest prose or singing along to Hamilton, each of these experiences represent something similar. For a moment, however brief, we’ve delved into a universe in which we are spectators and not actors.”
The same can be said for dining. Customers discover new techniques and ways seeing the world, this time through food. On a special occasion, a Friday night or as a treat “just because”, many people- including myself- choose fine dining as their escape from reality. First, there is the preparation at home. Wearing the same old clothing and jewellery doesn’t suit neither the occasion nor our personality which is why we must find the perfect ensemble for our evening out. The moment we enter the restaurant, we’ve embarked upon a journey of discovery of the self through one’s palate. Some notice the exquisite interior decorations, others the colour of the tablecloths. As diners, we discover new combinations of flavours through an amuse-bouche or a tasting menu, indulge in wine pairing and prepare ourselves for an unforgettable memory that will be treasured for years to come. We learn new words we’d only heard of before in a food article, we finally see what a Jerusalem artichoke looks like, learn the difference between a white and black truffle and witness a perfectly executed beurre blanc. We allow ourselves to be persuaded to order dessert. After all, everyone wants to end on a sweet note, do they not? Here, appetite is not an issue; it isn’t about eating but rather experiencing food.
I’ve always loved the art of dining for it leaves me inspired and amazed to see the amazing things that can be prepared with such humble ingredients. I can spend 2, 3 or even 4 hours on a cloud, forgetting the world, my responsibilities and sometimes even the time. What will come of these moments with the coronavirus? How are we to feel that we’ve stepped away from the real world as we are given hand sanitizer upon entrance? This is not to say that these measures are wrong, but can we really feel the escape? The near future may not look as bleak for dining as it does for the theatre. Still, something doesn’t feel right as my waiter brings me my food with a nervous walk wearing a mask and gloves. He and I are constantly reminded that we are still very much living through a pandemic and that we can no longer escape in the same way we once did. For now, I am content with enjoying the anticipation of one day entering a restaurant where both diners and waiters feel it is safe and enjoyable to escape the reality in which we are all living.
Cover picture - https://la.eater.com/maps/los-angeles-michelin-restaurants-stars-2019-map