My friend Stan is a connoisseur of fine dining establishments. (He is also a connoisseur of fine wine and scotch but that is the stuff of another post.) As much as we enjoy eating, my husband and I are not hip to the newest and coolest restaurants. We rely on Stan (who lives 300 miles away) to up our cool quotient on the restaurant front.
In our own backyards we frequent our four or five favs. They are comfortable. The proprietors recognize us. We can hear ourselves talk. Our taste buds anticipate our two or three favorite dishes. In short, we have become Culinary Curmudgeons, as Frank Bruni refers to himself.
In a New York Times article entitled, What’s the Best Restaurant if you are over 50? Bruni contends, “It’s not just sex and sleep that change once you get over the age of 50, it’s supper! What becomes more important is hearing and really being able to talk with your table mates rather than trying virgin cuisines.”
Ina Garten,the Barefoot Contessa, says she and her husband go to the same restaurant over and over again until they can’t do it anymore. In their 70s Ina and Jeffrey are “unapologetic creatures of habit”. We frequent places that, as Frank Bruni says, “have a bearable din and comfortable chairs” (eschewing those with stools having no lumbar support and those requiring a smart phone flashlight to read the menu).
This meal metamorphosis has resulted in dining at home with friends. Embarrassingly enough once you get beyond a table of five, it’s hard to hear or even engage with party participants in noisy restaurants. I’m excited because my talented wood working friend, John, created and gave me a 60” round table topper to expand the capacity of my 46” dining room table.
I can now comfortably seat a party of eight.
Food is not the ultimate objective of these gatherings. It’s the fellowship with people I care about. We are infused with history. These relationships are now more nourishing than the fancy foods of yesteryear.
My friend Ann was bereft following the abrupt closure of a favorite restaurant. Baja Kitchen was an order at the counter kind of place where the upholstery was held together in places by duck tape. But the food was good and the staff called her by name. “Where will I have lunch on Mondays now?” she wailed.
What is it about these places? Maybe it’s the comfort they provide amid the discomfort of aging. I no longer have the patience to wait 60 minutes, or even 45 for that matter, for a table or navigate a complicated cocktail menu. I know what libations I like to celebrate or blunt the end of a day. According to the article- the word “restaurant” means to “restore one’s spirit”. I don’t care about perfectly prepared palette pleasers as much as I care to restore my spirit with the comfort of my beloved companions.