Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Diasporic Dining XVIII: Eataly

You know what a fleshpot is. Eataly, the new Mario Batali food emporium on 23rd street, is a fresspot.  Gourmands are crowded together like the abused animals in Food, Inc., only the animals have no choice in the matter, while here the humans willingly undergo the experience of the goose on its way to becoming fois gras. Covetousness led Cain to slay Abel, but seldom has it led to the kind of suicidal thronging on display amongst the patrons of Batali’s experiment. Malthus would be proud, as would Swift, who in his infamous Modest Proposal suggested eating babies as a way to solve the hunger problem in Ireland. The ingenuity of the great salesman and promoter is to make people want to do something that they would ordinarily have second thoughts about, if they had their senses about them. Here people actually jostle to buy food to eat while standing in long lines to get a crowded table in a loud central atrium, where they pay large sums of money to not have their basic needs met. There is something charmless and impersonal about Eataly, and it’s ironic since Italy is a place filled with trattorias and ristorantes—along with rural spots in the mountains where elderly men play bocce—that are notable for their personal quality and intimacy. That old-world charm is why generations of Americans have flocked to Italy, and the absence of it in Batali’s latest environment is what makes Eataly a flop.

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