KJ Hannah Greenberg

Slow Dining

Computer Cowboy’s and my minhag is to welcome each of my book’s releases with dinner out. Recently, BH, two new books, a poetry collection, Communicated Childbirth Options (Seashell Books) and a novel, Upon the Lion and the Serpent (Eden Stories Press), launched. Whereas the second of those two books’ celebration will have to wait until after Pesach (as a Jewish grandma, I have limited temporal resources during the span from Purim to Pesach), my husband and I did mark the advent of the first of those books.

Dining out with Computer Cowboy is lovely. Not only do we enjoy each other’s company, but because each of us spend most of our time banging on keyboards (he’s a software architect), we don’t talk as regularly as we’d like. Despite the fact that relative solitude is necessary for our respective professions, it’s not so great for our relationship. Although we set aside time, daily, to talk, to problem solve, to unload feelings, and to share meals, and although we go on dates, most weeks, a leisurely fine dining experience is far different than our ordinarily casual get-togethers at bagel or burger shops.

Additionally, I like “sophisticated” experiences because I like tasting food made by experts. New combinations and hidden ingredients thrill me. My decades of stirring pots usually enables me to identify the herbs, spices, vinegars, etc. used in dishes, their degree of doneness, the method of cooking that was used, and so on. For example, to Older Dude’s dismay, when my spouse and I feted that child of ours (and his lady love), at a nice restaurant, for his thirtieth birthday, I asked our waiter to let the chef know that the pea soup would have been better balanced had it had a drizzle of mint-infused oil. At many fancy eateries, all the same, I often learn new ideas for gourmet preparations and feel little inclined to share my insights.

Regardless of the excellent fare, that commemoration my latest poetry collection found the two of us riding up an elevator to a plush venue. We had no reservations as we had spontaneously decided to fit that happy event into our calendars. Accordingly, we weren’t sure we’d be able to be seated. Nonetheless, the manager of that white tablecloth location graciously arranged a few things on his floor chart and on his schedule and then brought us to a table (in hindsight, I wish we had dressed formally; we’re accustomed to working at home, i.e., to interacting only with our computer screens and to wearing relaxed clothing.)

Anyway, at that place of upscale ambiance, the waitstaff, as well as their manager, attended to more needs than we knew we had. For instance, the waitstaff was careful to hold plates in such a way that their palms never showed. As well, at the same time as those young people watched, from a short distance, to see if we required anything, they did not hover. My husband and I appreciated that discretion.

Over and above that, the manager intervened when one of our entrees came to our table an entire minute later than the other (note: here, in Israel, often appetizers are often served with or after the main course— having our food appear in a timely fashion, and in the North American/European order of service was lovely. In fact, Hubs and I have acclimated so much to local routines that we didn’t notice the lag between our entrees until the manager apologized for it.)

Beyond the impeccable service, the food was delicious. Not only had the main culinary artist succeeded in presenting items with sauces that were novel to me, but the salad was made in the kitchen, not dished up from an industrial-sized can, the meat was perfectly grilled, and the sorbet was properly quenelled. Besides, the portions of the sides did not overpower the main dishes and the plating, overall, had pleasing texture and color.

During our meal, soft music played in the background. Its low volume meant that the love of my life and I could converse without trying to overcome distractions. Into the bargain, the lights of the city flickered beyond the restaurant’s windows. Luxury is not only choice cuts of proteins or high menu fees; luxury is also understated elegance.

Computer Cowboy commented again and again how nice it was to enjoy “slow dining.” Both of us liked not being rushed from one course to the next. In fact, our greatest takeaway was the calm. We were not hurried between courses or even following our after blessings, despite the fact that our seating had been squeezed among scheduled ones.

Too often the two of us neglect self-care. We’ve each become so accustomed to pushing to meet deadlines (publications for me, product releases for him), that we too rarely linger or elsewise truly stop to appreciate life. That night, we were able to slow down. We remain grateful.

About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
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