This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.
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My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?
For the past 10 years I’ve been staring wide-eyed and with alarm as the sweet, gentle citizen restaurant transformed into a kind of unruly colossal beast. The food world got stranger and weirder to me right while I was deep in it. The “waiter” became the “server,” the “restaurant business” became the “hospitality industry,” what used to be the “customer” became the “guest,” what was once your “personality” became your “brand,” the small acts of kindness and the way you always used to have of sharing your talents and looking out for others became things to “monetize.”
The work itself — cooking delicious, interesting food and cleaning up after cooking it — still feels as fresh and honest and immensely satisfying as ever. Our beloved regulars and the people who work so hard at Prune are all still my favorite people on earth. But maybe it’s the bloat, the fetishistic foodies, the new demographic of my city who have never been forced to work in retail or service sectors. Maybe it’s the auxiliary industries that feed off the restaurants themselves — the bloggers and agents and the “influencers,” the brand managers, the personal assistants hired just to keep you fresh on “Insta,” the Food & Wine festivals, the multitude of panels we chefs are now routinely invited to join, to offer our charming yet thoroughly unresearched opinions on. The proliferation of television shows and YouTube channels and culinary competitions and season after season of programming where you find yourself aghast to see an idol of yours stuffing packaged cinnamon buns into a football-shaped baking pan and squirting the frosting into a laces pattern for a tailgating episode on the Food Network.
And God, the brunch, the brunch. The phone hauled out for every single pancake and every single Bloody Mary to be photographed and Instagrammed. That guy who strolls in and won’t remove his sunglasses as he holds up two fingers at my hostess without saying a word: He wants a table for two. The purebred lap dogs now passed off as service animals to calm the anxieties that might arise from eating eggs Benedict on a Sunday afternoon. I want the girl who called the first day of our mandated shut down to call back, in however many months when restaurants are allowed to reopen, so I can tell her with delight and sincerity: No. We are not open for brunch. There is no more brunch.
Shoot, [No] Score
Why Sports Aren’t Coming Back Soon
Athletes, Jenga, Coaching Staff, Jenga, Interpreters, Jenga, Medical Staff, Jenga, Reporters, Jenga, Broadcasters, Jenga, Grounds Keepers, Jenga, Maintenance Workers, Jenga, Bus Drivers, Jenga, Hotel Staff, Jenga, Security Personnel, Jenga, Delivery People, Jenga.
No Worse Nightmare
The Devastating Decline of a Brilliant Young Coder
What makes you you? The question cuts to the core of who we are, the things that make us special in this universe. The converse of the question raises another kind of philosophical dilemma: If a person isn’t himself, who is he?
Countless philosophers have taken a swing at this elusive piñata. In the 17th century, John Locke pinned selfhood on memory, using recollections as the thread connecting a person’s past with their present. That holds some intuitive appeal: Memory, after all, is how most of us register our continued existence. But memory is unreliable. Writing in the 1970s, renowned philosopher Derek Parfit recast Locke’s idea to argue that personhood emerges from a more complex view of psychological connectedness across time. He suggested that a host of mental phenomena—memories, intentions, beliefs, and so on—forge chains that bind us to our past selves. A person today has many of the same psychological states as that person a day ago. Yesterday’s human enjoys similar overlap with an individual of two days prior. Each memory or belief is a chain that stretches back through time, holding a person together in the face of inevitable flux.
The gist, then, is that someone is “himself” because countless mental artifacts stay firm from one day to the next, anchoring that person’s character over time. It’s a less crisp definition than the old idea of a soul, offering no firm threshold where selfhood breaks down. It doesn’t pinpoint, for example, how many psychological chains you can lose before you stop being yourself.
Around The Web
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Thanks for reading. Have a great month,