Fun_People Archive
30 Oct
Restaurants before the Revolution

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 100 11:16:52 -0800
To: Fun_People
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Subject: Restaurants before the Revolution

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-
From: Kevin Johnsrude <>
From: Tom Jurenka <>

"A restaurant is a place where you go to eat. You usually arrive early in
the afternoon or in the middle of the evening, and you are taken to a table
of your own in a room, usually on the ground floor of a big city building,
that has been leased by a cook and has been made to look like a dining
room.  There are plush chairs and benches, and often mirrors. Someone whose
job it is to act as a professional go-between, and who is often dressed in
a parody of what people wear when they go to a fancy event, brings you a
card that list the things the cook is ready to cook, and how much it will
cost to get him to cook them for you. You study this card - usually a a
one-page list with decorations, or a leather pseudo-book - and say what
you'll have, and the go-between goes into another room, a kitchen, which
you can't see or hear or probably even smell. After a wait, he brings you
the food you asked for. Very often, you start with soup and then have
grilled or roasted meat, and then a sweet, almost always something made
with sugar, pudding, or cake, rather than a plain piece of fruit. You are
expected to have tea or coffee afterward, and then a bill is brought to
your table. Prices are never mentioned out loud, and you pay whatever the
card said you would. Although your table may be right next to another table,
you're not expected to talk to the people at that table unless you know
them already. The place isn't a whorehouse or anything like that, but often
you take someone there because you would like to have sex with that person
afterward, and sometimes you do, although if you get to do it after lunch
or dinner, you go and do it somewhere else.

"Two new books, Rebecca L. Spang's 'The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris
and the Modern Gastronomic Culture' (Harvard University Press) and Amy B
Trubek's 'Haute Cuisine: How the French Invented the Culinary Profession'
(Pennsylvania), make the point the essentially all the details of this
setup, which now seems as normal as eating itself, can can be found in more
or less the same form from Sydney to San Franciso, were, from soup to
sex--waiters, menus, tables, mirrors, closed kitchen, seduction and
silences, even the little table in the corner, 'tout compris'-- thought up
in Paris during a twenty-five year period right before the French

 -- Adam Gopnik in 'The New Yorker' book review section, Sept 4 2000.

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