Everyone likes to dine out. Reservations, not being able to hear above the din, your water glass being filled no less than 53 times, the awkward banter with your server, a toddler giving you stink eye, stifling the urge to gargle your wine to mitigate the atmosphere of gravitas. The sinking feeling upon seeing the bill, the hushed and tense escape out the back.
Okay, I am projecting. A bit. It is never not a treat to dine out. (even when your mother-in-law keeps returning the tea because it is not lukewarm the way she likes it) Remember, as a child, that feeling of welling excitement at the prospect of an evening out for dinner? Mom not being able to yell at you about your myriad etiquette atrocities. (my worst was clutching my fork and knife like one grips a steering wheel and then going off to live in Wimborne Minster for a year) She will give it, nevertheless, the old college try. (The intense whisper freighted with venom and future punishments.) You will put a napkin, sorry, en francais, a serviette on your lap like a toff. Occasionally the staff will place it there, in a shocking encroachment of personal space. I suppose one gets used to it.
Going out for a meal was like a reprieve from the drudgery of family life. A glossy and vivid world where food that fell to the floor was not vacuumed up by a malodorous dog, or remain there for days, in the case of vegetables. In a restaurant, it would magically disappear by the sleight of hand of gleaming support staff.
Some restaurant owners are cognizant of diners’ wish to have an experience beyond the prosaic delivery of food from kitchen to the table. A need has arisen to make dining a more experiencial experience, rather than culinary. Yes, you read that correctly: an experiencial experience. If there was ever a phrase that should be taken out back and shot, it is that one.
In my short (in geologic terms) stay on this planet, I have heard of diners being suspended, table and all, hundreds of feet in the air, by a crane. No doubt you have heard of the sensory deprivation restaurant. One eats in the dark, relying on the other lesser senses (I’m talking to you, next-to-useless sense of smell) to pinch hit for the sidelined visual sense. I would be very excited to try such a restaurant. My first order of business would be to toss aside the ol’ eatin’ irons. It is dark, after all, so no Commie witch-hunt level finger-pointing at my atrocious forkplay. As well, I like to have food enter my mouth from time to time. My hands, when they are not busy being transmitters of disease, make excellent utensils. No one is impressed by fork tine wounds on cheeks.
The cloak of darkness deprives an individual of one of the most rewarding experiences of dining, however. That is, the enjoyment of seeing other diners and inventing narratives for all of them. The food, I think, would come second.
I, for one, would like food I order be thrown at diners at an adjacent table. Not for any personal vendetta, by for the anarchic silliness of it. I, in turn, would hope that a duck l’orange would bounce off my forehead and onto my lap. Tick that box. Done and dusted.
I am heartened that dining out is still considered a treat and an occasion, in a way that a night at the movies is not. I sincerely hope that the restaurant business will continue to flourish before the entire operation becomes self-service, like the grocery industry. Where would university graduates find jobs?