For Children and Idiots
In recent months I have had cause to dine at a lobster restaurant in Aix-en-Provence, a bouillabaisse joint in Marseilles, a Japanese restaurant in a suburb of Tel Aviv and a fine seafood restaurant in Athens. The decor and service at each place was impeccable and the dishes on which I chose to dine in those various places (baked stuffed lobsters, bouillabaisse, yakinuku beef, a casserole of mussels in butter, garlic and oil, and chicken wings in a spicy bitter-orange sauce) were every bit as good as I had hoped for. Let me declare, however, that in every place I rejected the bibs that were offered to protect my shirt, tie and jacket from possible stains.
Let it be clearly and finally stated (and at my age, I can state at least some things with finality), that as far as I am concerned, bibs are intended for children or people who, for one reason or another, cannot avoid eating like children. I don’t care whether the bib that is offered has been made from terry-cloth, stylized plastic or flimsy paper. I do not even care whether it has been made from the finest Irish linen – I will not let one of those things be tied around my neck or slid over my head. Simply stated, wearing a bib makes even the most intelligent adult look like an idiot and I am thus convinced that the only place for intelligent adults to be subjected to such treatment is at the dentists’ office, a place at which all of us feel like idiots no matter how pleasant our dentist may be.
It may be misguided snobbism on my part or it may, as I like to think, have something to do with a sense of aesthetics, but once and for all let me state my full and complete solidarity with American food guru James Beard who once wrote that “bibs are for babies and idiots. Civilized people would rather risk a few stains on their clothing”.
Oh yes - in case anyone is wondering – I have no such objections to men or women, peasants or sophisticates, who tuck a large white napkin under their collar while dining on any dish at all even in the finest of restaurants, but that on the condition that the diners in question are over 45 years old and are English, Irish, French, Italian, Greek or Portuguese. When carried off with the proper flair, such a habit can be absolutely charming.