Meet me inside – I hate eating outdoors

It’s not that I’m against the outdoors. I just don’t want to eat there.

My lack of enthusiasm for anything outside is not a popular point of view, I know. This time of year, when the days are long and warm, it’s just outdoor barbecues and picnics and brunches, one after the other. Gentle breezes and large open fire pits, what’s not to love, you ask? And isn’t it nice to have loved ones in your life who want you to come over and hang out in their yard or eat a sandwich on the beach or whatever? But fair? Can I just stay in the kitchen? I prefer to eat where there is no weather.

Picnicking is the biggest scam of all. Inevitably there won’t be enough space on that blanket, the ground will be damp, your food will get covered in dirt and/or sand. A big bug will crawl on you. Another bug gets on your food, making you wonder if you should eat it now. That dilemma immediately becomes irrelevant, because it is going to rain.

If you’re a person who wears skirts, all the going up and down and arranging yourself comfortably while seated adds a whole extra level of discomfort to the picnic experience. If there’s one reason Victorine Meurent is naked in Manet’s famous painting “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe,” it might be because her dress, crumpled among the scattered rubbish from lunch, was impossible to work with during the meal. She stares at the viewer with an expression I’ve worn to every picnic I’ve ever been to, a tired look that says, “We’ve got restaurants, right?” Nearby is another woman, loosely dressed, in a stream, probably trying to get rid of a mustard stain before it sets. Critics have been trying to interpret the meaning of Manet’s iconic work for more than 150 years. I think it’s, “Picnics are stupid.”

A better, if not attractive option is the barbecue. Every outdoor fire situation holds at least the promise of my favorite kind of food – burnt stuff. My love for all things charred, blackened, brown and otherwise burnt runs deep. The fact that cookouts often come with a high probability of beer is also great. What I don’t like, though, is hanging out with smoke in my eyes, hair, and clothes as unpredictable winds hurl ash in my direction. Have you ever been to a bonfire in your life? Do you smell like that fire forever now? Was the experience of drinking from a jar worth all the beach mosquito bites obtained in the process?

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Then there’s the cafe riddle. I’m truly grateful that outdoor dining has helped so many talented, hard-working people in the restaurant industry stay afloat during the pandemic. I’m thankful that the experience of dining out didn’t have to go away completely. I am also very happy that I can now go back to my favorite restaurants.

In the al fresco ideal you are somewhere on a lively boulevard, perched at a marble table that certainly does not wobble on uneven pavement. Depending on the time of day you drink coffee or wine. You eat spectacular bread while watching the most intriguing members of the demimonde walk by. In reality – car alarms, jackhammers, helicopters, walk-by spitters.

My opposition to the “restaurant but outside” model stems from the fact that I live in New York City. Maybe it would be a different story if I was tucked away on a quaint side street in the Alfama. But outside here rarely means relaxation and never a reasonable decibel level. A few weeks ago I was out with some friends in Chelsea just in time for a traffic stop protest on the same corner as our restaurant. While we were eating, the friend of a member of our party passed by on his way home from the gym. This led to an awkward ten minutes of sidewalk chatter, during which the rest of us weren’t sure what to say and whether we should continue with the meal. This is a plot point in at least two awkward episodes of “Sex and the City,” and that’s not even the one where Carrie fell into the lake at the Central Park Boathouse restaurant. That day with my friends at brunch, I wondered how I’d managed to spend way too much money for the privilege of eating cold French toast while a crowd of strangers yelled.

There are a few other souls of my kind. In 2015, Kelly O’Laughlin took offense at her blog A Highly Sensitive Person’s Life, baffling why her colleagues insisted on going outside to eat “Even if it was 90 degrees and humid… Why sit outside,” she said. . asked, “sweating in a cloud of bees when you don’t need to?” Why indeed? There’s a Buzzfeed list of “16 Reasons Why Eating Outside at Restaurants Is Never Fun.” Just because it’s Buzzfeed doesn’t mean it’s incorrect that “the worst restaurants in the world…have outdoor seating.” When it comes to dining, how often is a so-called view an excuse to serve substandard food? I’ve been to Niagara Falls and I can attest. And while the late Laurie Colwin wrote in the culinary classic “Home Cooking,” opined that “no healthy person” prefers to dine outside. While I do not question the sanity of the millions of people who believe that open air is a natural flavor enhancer, in the discourse I remain firmly on the in side. There are the air conditioning and the benches.

I love my friends and family enough to know that I will always eat out with them. It’s a small price to pay – I’d rather wave mosquitoes away in good company than enjoy climate control alone. But the fact that there’s a Guardian article on “How to Enjoy Eating Outside: A Guide to Avoiding Wasps, Sand, and Hot Mayonnaise” pretty much says it all for me. Here’s a thought – you’ve never seen a feature on how to get around the dangers of eating inside four walls and a roof. That’s the beauty of it. I know it’s fun there. But maybe sometime this summer, can I persuade you to drop by ‘Hamilton’ and meet me inside?


Might as well have a cuppa

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