I have been reading more frequently now, mostly memoirs. Going back to reading somehow activated a part of my brain with distracting thoughts, including delusions of writing my own memoir someday, being fully aware that it will be severely uninteresting.
One of my favorite parts from the book was when Adam met up with food critic Ruth Reichl to talk about the ways of fine dining.
The Sixth Commandment: Be Intelligently Critical
The waiter exits and Ruth tastes. The salad immediately fails her scrutiny.
“This isn’t good,” she says matter-of-factly. “The corn isn’t good– it’s starchy, it doesn’t have much flavor.”
I taste too and nod my agreement.
“Whatever flavor it has,” she continues, “is obscured by the goat cheese, the chanterelles, and the nuts.”
The prognosis is thoughtfully delivered and done so in a way that justifies her status as a great arbiter of taste. She’s articulate in a way that most diners aren’t because they don’t know how to be. Her pronouncements are those of a good writer: they are specific. She doesn’t say “yummy” or “bad.” She says “the corn is starchy” and “the flavor is obscured.” She knows her field, she knows how to analyze, she knows how to be critical.
And this is true of anyone who’s passionate about a subject. Ask a movie buff what he thinks of the new Almodovar film and he’ll answer you with great enthusiasm and flair. Ask a wrestling fan how he feels about cage matches, and he’ll wax lyrical for hours. The lesson is that once you care about food, once you care about dining, you will pay more attention. Understand why some dishes succeed while others fail, notice how a dish is composed, what flavors it contains, how those flavors are contrasted, the freshness of the ingredients, the level of seasoning, the overall balance. Once you start noticing these things your ability to judge a restaurant on its merits will improve immeasurably. Ruth Reichl got to where she is because she paid attention. She pays attention now and I attempt to do the same.
And so from here on out I will also attempt to do the same. Such a nice takeaway for this writing space.