Love Your Restaurants
Many of the stories about Republican primary candidates have familiar settings: a coffee shop, restaurant, or café where people in the town do a lot of connecting, a lot of enjoying. The candidates, working for votes in "retail politics" states, where people like to meet their presidential candidates in person, go where the people are, and where they are happy. I feel a deep appreciation for these "third places" that are such important gathering spots for keeping our communities, and even our democracy, vital.
Whether smoky and dark or lit with sun, the people who run your favorite restaurant or bar work more than the rest of us, and the work is grueling. I'm concerned about how hard this work is for everyone in the business, from our elite chefs to the moms-and-pops who never get a day or night away from the business. Reading chef memoirs like Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones and Butter and Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chefraised my level of concern about the nearly inhumane physical demands placed on those who keep our essential third places going for our pleasure.
This weekend, lots of restaurants offer special Valentine's Day meals and treats. If you don't have a local hangout you want to support, check Savoring Kentucky's Local Food Calendar for some good options.
Recently, in How the View from the Critic's Perch Has Changed, former New York Times restaurant critic Eric Asimov said, "In New York, at least, the most crucial moments of life, love, business and even introspection can take place in restaurants." That's true elsewhere, too, and includes the fast food meccas that serve as morning gathering spots for many in Kentucky's smallest towns. We need these food-and-drink-based gathering places to keep our spirits up, to stay in touch with each other, to take full pleasure in our blessed lives.
I appreciate Asimov's tender regard for the restaurant world he knows so intimately. As I enjoy their efforts to sweeten Valentine's Day, I offer a heartfelt "thank you" to the human beings responsible for the thousands of hours of pleasure restaurants and coffee shops have given me.