For those of my readers who don’t live in France and my handy-dandy sitemeter report says that only 35% of you do (I even have or had one loyalist from Kazakhstan), so it shows how people have nothing better to do with their time than read weird blogs.
Anyway, as I was leaving the restaurant we we’re eating at, on the day that this was written, my cherished poly-glot, poly-math friend made a reservation for next week and they wrote down his name, March X, Y o’clock; except instead of his name they wrote down mine..
My reaction on hearing and later seeing this notation was to be extremely flattered, especially when the chef asked me how the meal was and said he was appreciative of the clientele my blog steered his way. Wow. BTW: the place was packed, whereas our first two times, few tables were occupied.
My free associative mind immediately pulled up the 25 year old French cultural mag The InRockuptibles as a reference point. No mind that it’s a play on the title of the American TV series “The Untouchables,” about Eliot Ness et al, to me it implies incorruptible.
And I thought back on the meal. I was greeted very, very warmly by Madam, we were treated very, very well and despite a confused order for dessert – it was delivered in very, very record time – “no problem.” Then the chef says all these nice things in French and English. Corrupted? For sure.
And I thought back on the last week.
Monday, plans crashed for a meal at a place that had been open Mondays but changed directions without telling me – me? And we bailed out at a great place (usually full) a few subway stops away and I went in hat in hand, excuses rehearsed, full-tug on the forelock – “no problem M. Talbott, good to see you.” Comp’d three dishes as well.
Another day I was accountably late for lunch and it was again – “no problem.”
Yet another day, I’m sure the place was pretty fully booked when I got around to calling – “no problem.”
So here we are dealing with (just in one week):
- Special attention
- Special (free) dishes
- Special treatment of one’s friends
- Special favors
- Special recognition.
Now, Francois Simon, who goes (like I do) more or less incognito the first time he visits a place (I hate storing all those Gael Greenesque wigs and hats on my coat rack and cannot remember my elder dead-brother’s name when it’s time to reserve) says if one is known one gets the best 5 or 6 langoustines and the ordinary citizens get the mushy frozen ones but I’m not so certain.
I think when a kitchen is clicking as a top kitchen should, these guys (and they’re usually guys) are cranking out the stuff and no one says – “oh, give that nice quail to M. Talbott and the unsmelly bar to his wife.”
I’ll cite a restaurant I’m not talking about above, because he comps no one and treats no one differently – even the jerks ordering weird dietary things – Daniel Rose’s Spring. You can watch the guys and one gal (Marie) here work; cutting stuff up, prepping, cooking, platting, serving – it’s a high-class assembly line. No one, not the Minister of the Treasury, famous actress, wannabee cyberwiz or reporter drudge gets the best 5 or 6 langoustines, I assure you. There’s no time, no stupid gestures; this is work, hard work.
Therefore, am I not holding two opposing concepts at the same time (it’s called cognitive dissonance among the chattering classes) – that we are corruptible and that we are not.
Well, sort of.
The first time, I try to be incognito, blend in, not talk to the chef or front person, ask questions, etc. Then I speed home to write the place up.
If I don’t like it, I get negative comments, not like some of my pals who get really hateful hate-mail but often testy stuff along the lines of “this is my favorite place in the ‘nabe, how could you?, you ordered the wrong things, you went the wrong day, the wrong time, etc, etc.”
If I like it, though, I go back with friends and Colette and family and the fawning and such-like impresses them (and me) but doesn’t cause me to revise the original review (unless a place crashes, or sends its prices into the stratosphere or deceives customers) in which case I do issue an update.
So, “Am I corruptible, venal, bought easily, delivered on subsequent visits?” Certainly, but you and I can always go back to Review #1.
David Brooks, that wise sociologist in conservative’s clothing, quoted Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, of Princeton, who “found that we make judgments about a person’s trustworthiness, competence, aggressiveness, and likability within the first tenth of a second.” And I think most of us figure out restos this quickly as well.