Carl Wernicke: Food for thought, thoughts on food

Apr 11, 2019

Credit IHMC

As a reader, one of my greatest delights is finding an article that deftly summarizes something I had been thinking. Better, if it takes your own idea to places you had not yet been to, yet immediately recognize.  Now, I am not speaking about politics. It is an unfortunate trend today that right, left or whatever we tend to gravitate to news sources that reflect our own thinking.

When everything you hear or read tells you are right, it’s hard not to agree.  So that’s a horse of a different color.  The value of taking a broad view comes in discovering that, by and large, we think along the same lines, no matter how hard we try to distinguish ourselves as unique. You can disdain this as groupthink, or you can recognize it as a part of our shared humanity. That’s a primary value of education, or travel — discovering our shared sensibilities. 

This was prompted by a recent article by columnist Frank Bruni in the New York Times. The subject was your favorite restaurant…if you are over 50. To summarize, he said it is the one where you feel most comfortable. He got into the specifics, some of which I had already thought, and others to which I thought, of course!  For some time now I have fumed over how many local restaurants have gone overboard trying to make themselves seem crowded. That is, noisy. There are too many sharp edges, hard materials, and reflective ceilings. You are lucky if you can hear yourself, much less someone across the table. Yes, this is in large part because as we age, hearing declines.

We recently went to a local restaurant that has artfully decorated with acoustics in mind and achieved a balance between the chatter that says people are having a good time, and the ability to hear your table-mates. We were happy to find it. Then I discovered that a similarly aged friend of mine had posted Bruni’s article on Facebook. Another friend, who with his wife seems to live in bars and restaurants, posted that they don’t even try to keep up with new openings anymore, preferring to stick with the restaurants they know and like.  It was like boarding an airplane and discovering all your friends already onboard.

Now, this is a problem for restaurant owners. They have to cater to everyone. Younger people like the thrill of discovering new places; new is exciting. Bruni noted that older people tend to avoid the craft cocktail lists because at this point of their lives they know what they want. But not so long ago, they were the ones trying the new cocktails.  Bruni — who was at one time the Times’s food critic — wrote that he now finds himself repeatedly going to the same places, even ordering the same item.  Been there, done that. What good writing does best is reveal our lives, peel back the layers that separate us and show us what is there. Seeing it, if we recognize it, the writer has given us a valuable insight.