|Kamehachi, March 16, 2020.|
Eating is a big deal. You don’t need me to tell you that. We give special names for the times throughout the day when we stop whatever we’re doing to eat: Breakfast! Lunch! Dinner! A big part of every faith centers around eating, all those feasts and fasts. Some folks can’t nibble a breadstick without gravely informing God.
You could argue that making a fuss about eating is what makes us human. Animals generally gobble nourishment where and when they find it. “Only people actively, regularly, and continuously work on the portioning out of their food,” Margaret Visser writes on the first page of “The Rituals of Dinner.”
To hint at how exaggerated our regard for eating is, consider the other end of the alimentary tract, briefly: going to the bathroom. No ritual, little lingering, no reviews. We don’t even like to think about it, never mind talk about it. That attitude could work for eating too — humans could consume enough food to get through the day in 60 seconds flat. Think of the time we’d save.
But we don’t, generally. Eating in restaurants is an even bigger deal. Dining out can be one of the most significant parts of our lives.
I can’t recall much from 1975. In fact, I remember only one moment: My sister and I, on our first visit to Chicago, in a leather booth, holding back laughter as a waiter in a tuxedo presents us a bowl of greens set in ice.
“Here at zee Blackhawk, we spin zee sah-lad not wahnce, not tweyes, but sree tahmes!” What began as a practical necessity for travelers — the stagecoach stops for the night, the innkeeper carves off some mutton and draws a mug of ale — now has assumed magnified importance, ingrained in our lives.
Chicago, and Illinois, opening restaurants Friday for indoor dining should be a milestone in our civic recovery from COVID-19. V-E Day, Victory in Eating.
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