Despite the things you have heard, my era was not a “simpler time.” Things were not “slow and easy” in the 16th century. It was a tumultuous age of passion, war, famine, plague, and death. Every day, the city of London re-invented itself along with the fleas, footsteps, fanfare, filth, and frenzy that defined that adolescence of the Common Era.
These are the simple times. These are the times that do not try men’s souls. These are the halcyon days of yesteryear, except that the halcyon days of yesteryear were never the halcyon days of yesteryear.
Your machines have gotten faster, but your lives, your experiences, dare I say even your minds have gotten slower. You have time in your absurdly elongated lifespan, free from the hardships of my age, to put off the challenges, ideas, and burdens that assaulted us every day. So you spend your time floating on the surface of things, reading your 140 character messages and drifting idly over an ocean of limitless data. Reality never forces you into the deep end.
Case in point—Restaurant Week. In my day, that luxurious boredom that the French call “ennui” was the privilege of the upper class. The common man had no sense of that feeling—nay, could not imagine such a thing. Most of us had to struggle for hours to earn a meal big enough to imagine what a full stomach would be like.
On restaurant week, even the groundlings get a chance to dine side by side with the dukes and duchesses of New York City. Any New Yorkers who could summon up $38 can make their way to one of Manhattan’s finest restaurants, and imagine themselves to be the richest noblemen of the city.
It was on this egalitarian week that I found myself in Gusto—a West Village restaurant so classy that the description “American Bar” on the front window had to be written in Italian. Each dish that appeared before me was creative and inspired in ways I could never imagine. The appetizers—including slivers of veal (O, forgive me Maximilian!) served over tuna and carefully decorated with capers—was creatively assembled in some room where, through the dark arts or other witchcraft, flavors that should not work well together transform on the tongue into some ethereal substance.
The entrée—ravioli with a wild boar ragu—brought me back to my childhood in Stratford, and the way my mother, Mary Shakespeare, made her wild sauce—tender and flavorful
(lately, wild boar has become a staple of New York dining, available at Bareburger among other places). There were only a few raviolis to sate my desire, a tragic truth that forced me to eat each one as slowly as I could.
Tiramisu for dessert. Coffee on the side. Eat it slowly, carefully, quietly, lest reality should find us. Luxury slows time. Christopher Sly will soon be a drunkard again, but until the last sip comes and goes, until the last morsel is gone, until he step’s out onto Greenwich Avenue, until his credit card bill arrives in the mail, life will be simple and sweet.