Thursday, February 27, 2020

A Cultural Revolution

Open Table and Grub Hub are sites where you can make reservations or order food on line. These are all part of a process by which there’s less human interaction involved with transactions between the consumer and producer of services. Gone are the days when you had to know somebody if you were calling for a reservation at an “in” spot (the one bright light in the consumer's increasingly antiseptic relationship to food). The choreography associated with ordering in Chinese in which directives, like “no MSG” were “lost in translation” is now becoming a rather arcane phenomenon that only the most retrograde computer illiterate patrons are still able and willing to endure. And there was a delicious fear of rejection that once accompanied calls to some of the city’s great redoubts and watering holes. Your heart beat a little faster and you rehearsed your spiel before you dared dial up one of these Ivory tower eateries to ask for a table, whose very positioning was a sign of your position on the food chain. Elaine’s, a restaurant catering to literati, famously had “the line,” which were a group of tables in the front room where celebrities sat. Some patrons put the cart before the horse thinking that one short cut to getting renown was to get one of these tables. Conversely, though ordering in Chinese on Grub Hub is a cultural revolution, it’s a far cry from the one that Mao was talking about when he forcibly exiled the urban intelligentsia so they could participate in reeducation programs in impoverished rural areas.

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