1) As I’ve mentioned before, my neighborhood is a quirky mix of Poles and Latinos with an enormous Catholic church at the center. Spring is quite the BFD in these parts, starting with Lent. Yet Chicago’s weather stubbornly refuses to let up with the cold shoulder (and ears and noses and fingers and toes). The cold/damp retains that distinctly woolen, crisp smell of winter, which is still kinda foreign to me for March weather. I wrestled with this sensation, once again, as I walked to the gas station for smokes and a Dr. Pepper (for Jeff). While grumbling in my coat, a spot of yellow popped out of the otherwise white landscape. Flowers? Indeed there were. However, they were fakes that someone had stuck in the ground in a hopeful offering toward an expedited thaw.

2) Finishing a book in two days always bolsters my spirits. Toward the end of my doctoral studies, especially when I was studying for my candidacy exams, I would fall asleep one paragraph into whatever I was reading no matter what time of day, what snacks and beverages I had on hand. Some topics were better than others. Tom Gunning, for example, writes like a boss on Weimar film. Regardless, I actually started to worry that I had adult onset ADD or narcolepsy. Turns out I don’t. To use the oft quoted phrase, “It’s not me. It’s you.”

3) Along the lines of finishing books, we (the Royal “we”) have decided to eschew a trip to Alinea. Our foodie friends have extolled the sublime virtues of this fine dining giant, as well as the egregious cost. “It’s worth it,” they say. Ever curious for new experiences, Jeff and I considered the location for our annual Valentine’s Day splurge. As much as the photo gallery induced a boner, the prices chopped it down to half mast. Plus, tiny food – other than sushi or precious desserts – makes me very suspicious. So it was that we filed it away under “someday.” Then I finished Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. To his credit, Bourdain explicitly states that a reader should not take his thoughts on Alinea as gospel; that he’s a grouchy, overstimulated, overprivileged foodie. We should go and decide for ourselves. In recounting his dining experience, however, he mentioned one thing that I absolutely cannot stand when eating out – being told what I’m eating and how to eat it. As a cultural historian, I can appreciate the importance of provenance. However, my attention span is limited to about one minute. If a waiter actually hangs around the table, co-opting what could and should be a pleasurable conversation over good food and drink with dining companions, to “inform” me without my consent, then I start to get pissy. I mean, really people. It’s food. Food goes in your mouth. Similarly with art. You look at it with your eyes. Context always enriches an experience, but the last thing anyone wants is some condescending twat prattling on about how Tibet never had a military or rosemary foam. I admire the approach taken by the good folks of Publican. They’ve worked really hard to find and serve high-quality, relatively local seafood and charcuterie. Their menu has short didactics about where the pig lived or who their oyster vendor is. The waiters do tell you about it without a prompting question. I even got a little card with my oysters that told me what kind and where from. The difference between Publican and other “informative” restaurants is that they keep it brief. In doing so, they acknowledge their patrons’ desires to relax over dinner as well as their literacy and intelligence, which facilitates the possibility for (wait for it….) a conversation between server and patron. There – in conversation – restaurateurs will find the quickest path to educating people about food. After all, most people are happy to graduate and not return for a reason.