The Sanctity of Restaurants

I have a standard practice here at Accidental Hedonist – I try not to talk about restaurants and restaurant experiences that have played a part in my personal relationships. Partly this is because you, the reader, don’t need to hear about every bit of food I consume. Partly this is because this can assure my partners that not everything that happens to us becomes fodder for public consumption.

But sometimes? Sometimes it’s because the restaurants have taken on a quality of sanctity. They become places that represent something more than a simple night out. Restaurants can become a near personal Holy site.

There are no rules on how a restaurant becomes such a private location, but most often something personal and intimate had occurred there. Sometimes it’s a simple as your local eatery was the first place you saw your partner. Perhaps it was location where you had your first date, or marriage was proposed. Other places can take on an iconic status when you repeatedly have a good time there, and you don’t wish to jinx it.

How can you tell if you’ve sanctified a restaurant? Simple – there are only two criteria;

1) You speak of the restaurant with nothing but fondness.
2) You steadfastly refuse to go there except for under very specific circumstances.

If you only go to a certain restaurant with your partner, and refuse to go there with any one else, you’ve sanctified a restaurant. If you only go to a certain place due to a ritual behavior, you’ve sanctified a restaurant. If you and your friends only meet at one location, you’ve sanctified it. In all of these points, the place has taken on greater meaning than simply being a “place to eat”.

At face value, this sort of behavior sounds a bit silly. But it happens far more often than you think. There are breakfast locations around the country that make a fortune on Sunday morning, because people go there on a regular basis after church. I know of sports fans who believe that they help their team by having a certain meal at a certain location right before a game. I can name two different friends who absolutely will not go back to a restaurant because they had the best meal of their life at that restaurant, and don’t wish to ruin whatever memories they had there.

But if you look at these behaviors, there is a value there. They imbue our lives with moments and memories of good times. That “greater meaning” that I spoke of above are part of what defines us. I can’t tell you what I had for dinner two weeks ago. And I’m sure there are countless restaurants that I’ve forgotten, or feel indifferent about. But I can tell you the meal I had in 2003, when I went on my first date with Tara, and the name of the restaurant. That place, since closed, will always be part of me.

Food is often just food. We mindlessly consume it, because our bodies require it for sustenance. But there are times when it takes on a bigger role in our lives, something greater than simple nutrition. Restaurants have a similar characteristic. Tara and I spent the weekend paring down our list of sanctified places, and we’ve decided on two places that we absolutely won’t go with anyone else.

I could tell you the names of those places. But I won’t. Because then they wouldn’t be ours anymore.