Dining out

I ate out last night. At a restaurant.

That didn’t used to be an announcement worth shouting from the rooftops, but after more than three months of hyper-vigilance, a meal at a restaurant feels like the biggest deal that has happened in my world in months.

My world, I admit, has been very, very small lately.

I spent the day with my daughter in Kingston, and we decided to make the most of Ulster County’s phase two status. We made early reservations to avoid possible crowds. We got a table outside, under a canopy. And then we sat, amazed.

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Someone else prepared the food. Someone stopped by and asked if we needed anything. Someone else cleaned up the dishes.

I had come to take the experience of dining out for granted.  I see it in a whole new way now.

Fast food is a perversion of a wonderful idea. Fast food flings food at you as you wait in line. But that’s not the experience of dining out.

Dining out is a chance to live like the other half (or, more accurately in today’s world, the other one percent). Most Americans don’t have butlers any more. We don’t have staff. But dining out is the great equalizer.

If you can afford to go to a restaurant, you can be transported, just for a moment, to Downton Abbey. The wait staff, those hardworking, endlessly patient professionals, are there to make sure your experience is a good one. The kitchen staff’s job is to create meals so delicious that you will be willing to come back and spend what may a day’s pay, to enjoy it again.

The shutdown has taught me to value quality. No more so-so meals out simply because we don’t know what else to do.

Great meals, good service, will be a gift I give myself once in a while. And I’ll savor the experience.

Last night’s meal? Incredible.