Friday, October 11, 2013

No Smoking in a restaurant? So yesterday.

There’s a new talk of the town, dining-out-wise.

Or it would be the talk of the town if this trend could actually dare speak its name. Which it can’t – at leas, in certain dining rooms. I give you the No Talking restaurant.

No more Q and A with the waiter. As in “what’s that fly doing in my soup?” As in “looks like the backstroke.)

That’s the message being sent to customers at a New York City restaurant that prohibits any talking during an occasionally put-on $40 prix fixe, four-course meal.

Nicholas Nauman, head chef at Eat in Brooklyn’s trendy Greenpoint neighborhood, said he was inspired to pitch the tight-lipped consumption sessions after spending time in India, where Buddhist monks take their breakfast without exchanging words.  (Source: AP via

Well, I didn’t have to go to India to realize that some folks don’t talk during meals.

In the way-back, I even had direct experience with this myself.

When I was in high school, we had an annual three-day retreat during which some fiery priest who specialized in scaring the crap out of high school girls would spend three days haranguing us about our immortal souls – “in the next 60 second, one girl sitting in this auditorium could die” tick, tick, tick. They always told corny and terrible jokes, occasionally giving away a bit of personal detail to provide some false sense of regular-guy-ness. (“I have an older sister and a younger sister, so you could say I was ‘the rose amid the thorns.” Thank you, Father Rose for that new slapper.) And sometimes – gag me with a holy card – they tried to play it cool. As in the priest who told us that “having a baby was like crapping a watermelon.” a) How would you know? b) Thanks for sharing, pal!

Anyway, one of the rules and regulations during retreat time was no talking at all during the day, other than for confession or spiritual counsel (as if! this one-on-one-option was only selected by would-be nuns or girls pious enough to join Sodality ). There were, of course, ways to get around the no-speak zone, mostly by putting your coat on and heading out to “the grotto” (statue of the blessed version surrounded by rocks) – in a wooded area out of eye-shot of school or convent - to say the rosary or meditate. Since all your friends did the same thing, you were able to get a bit of talk time in before some meddlesome nun swung by with her clicker to break things up. I’m sure that one reason the retreat was held during January was to make sure that those who were hell-bent on a trip to the grotto for a chat were punished by the zero-degree weather.

But lunches, where the nuns were sister-saint-johnny-on-the-spots, were taken completely in silence.

And, of course, we knew that people ate in silence without having to go to India because we were all familiar with contemplative orders, like Carmelites and Trappistines, were there was a perpetual fatwa on the spoken word.

But we all knew that part of the fun of eating is doing it with someone else. And part of the fun of eating is talking with that someone else, if only to bitch about what’s on the menu.

‘‘It’s just an opportunity to enjoy food in a way you might not have otherwise,’’ said the chef, noting that the sounds of forks on dishes and cooks in the kitchen provide some background noise to the experience. ‘‘There’s such a strong energy in the room.’’

Yeah, well, maybe that ‘strong energy’ is diners choking back their words. Although the type of folks who would be drawn to this sort of experience probably would find it energizing.

At a recent evening at Eat, restaurant-goers didn’t seem to mind the silent treatment as they noshed on salads and sipped their soups.

One polite customer walked out the door to sneeze in order to avoid breaking the silence. Another could barely hold back a strong case of the giggles. And one couple found ways to communicate with facial expressions, instead of words.

I’m quite sure that I would be one of the giggle-suppressers, although my giggle-suppression would no doubt quickly turn into a RFLMAO, that would result in permanent expulsion from Eat.

‘‘It’s kind of like a meditation,’’ Eat owner Jordon Colon said. ‘‘The silence speaks for itself.’’

Actually, if the silence could really speak, and if it were being 100% honest with itself, it would likely be shouting:

Give us a P! Give us an R! Give us an E!…..What have you got? PRETENSION.

Oh, what will those foodies think of next

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