But I can’t do any of those things now. Some restaurants, although I hope none of them, have already declared that they cannot return. Many more are gone and we, or they, don’t know it yet. Those who are able to return will not look, feel or act the same for long.
I have a bowl full of matchbooks by my bed that I picked up at restaurants. Looking at them, I feel nothing but the urge to smoke. The only things I know that can bring restaurants to life when I’m outside their walls are recipes. Even when I don’t cook them, they still do.
But I’ve had lots and lots of time lately to cook meals that put me in touch with a place I used to go. Tonight I’m going to make Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough so that tomorrow night, with my grill blazing, I can make Co. style pizza, which has been closed for two years.
When You Asked For It was still published, people usually wanted recipes for dishes they could get at a restaurant that existed. It might have been across town or halfway around the world, but it was there, and the reader who loved this dish so much could still go there and eat it. A recipe in the column was a postcard from another place, a card you could come back to one day.
Every restaurant recipe is now a postcard from another time: the days before, when you could take the metro, taxi, ferry or plane without thinking twice, and where you could arrive wherever you go and walk down the street where the lights were on and the doors were open.
Inside, there was probably no room at the bar, but you could sneak in, get the bartender’s attention, and when your cocktail, so cold it almost hurt, landed in front of you, you could smile and know that other people might see you doing it.