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November 4, 2008

Restaurant theory

Filed under: Restaurants — Mr. Henry @ 7:35 am


Charles Darwin often said that “no one could be a good observer unless he was an active theorizer.”

Accordingly, Mr. Henry has been theorizing. Why do so many New Yorkers spend so much money going out to eat?

Americans as a whole do not save. We know there is entirely too much waste in our budgets, but should so much of our budget go to our waists?

The Obama nation, if it comes to pass today, is going to have to cinch it in, brothers and sisters, because the reckoning is near, the reckoning of monthly accounts, that is.

As raincoaster so aptly points out, habitués of restaurants very often don’t have the wherewithal to support such a lifestyle. Night after night, careening towards insolvency, impelled by some hidden Darwinian urge, they push through the portals of fancy eateries.

Are these self-destructive people somehow advancing an agenda, raising their status, or perpetuating the species in ways we cannot see?

Even to observe this calamitous feeding behavior requires a larger dispensable income than Mr. Henry’s own, and requires, as well, an elastic schedule. If you walk the noble hound Pepper no later than 7:00 a.m. every morning, how can you have lingered until midnight in a downtown restaurant? Each night before bed he must also allow enough time to wrestle Mrs. Henry away from the endless presidential election TV extravaganza or whatever news machine that will now takes its place.


Mr. Henry’s theory is that people are searching for knowledge, the same reason Eve ate the apple when in truth she wasn’t particularly hungry. It is curiosity, a desire for hipness, and a struggle for dominance over the pack.

The best restaurants inform the imagination while seducing the palate, a marriage of skilled work and artistic flair. Most restaurants, however, offer only a casual fling – a flirty sauce, sweet and sour, less interesting than ketchup, or else an utterly inappropriate one-night stand like sushi with tabasco.

If you really want to taste the pleasures of life, if you really want to get to know someone new, get together and cook.


  1. We know there is entirely too much waste in our budgets, but should so much of our budget go to our waists?

    Is Mr. Henry channeling Carrie Bradshaw? I love it! And really interesting post – I think it’s true that the actual food is often way down on the list of reasons why we go to a restaurant. Subconciously, at least.

    Fortunately for my pocketbook, dining out with a two-year old is usually more trouble than it’s worth. Plus, I think the little guy is still a few years away from the kind of manners and restraint I’d expect of him in a nicer restaurant, so even when we do go out, we’re not breaking the bank.

    Comment by kit pollard — November 5, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  2. Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Henry have a lot in common, kit. This much is clear.

    Two year olds can go to restaurants, but they must go early, finish quickly, and leave a big tip. Also, they LOVE to play with those little packets of sugar.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — November 5, 2008 @ 9:06 pm

  3. Speaking from my own small corner of experience, Mr. Henry, you are sadly correct.

    This is one reason why living in downtown areas is dangerous (at least for me) – if I’m too tired or not in the mood to exert myself, well, there’s a new restaurant that just opened up a few blocks away, why not try it?

    I have since moved from that area and discovered that, at least for what I was paying, I can make it at home with much better atmosphere and less ambient noise.

    That way, I can enjoy more than ‘a casual fling’, at a much better price.

    I don’t even mind doing the dishes, after a really good meal.

    Comment by jelly — November 6, 2008 @ 6:15 am

  4. I was diagnosed with celiac disease this year, and one of the best things that’s come out of it (other than feeling so much better after cutting gluten out of my diet) it’s pushing me to cook more. I can’t eat out as easily, so if I want to eat well, I have to learn to do it for myself.

    I think within the next couple of weeks, I’m going to have my first dinner party – I’m really excited for it (I’m 24, and this is the first time I’ve been living in a space where I could comfortably have people over for dinner).

    Comment by Abbey — November 7, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

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