Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, July 13, 2017

You know an eatery is good if you can’t see inside owing to the curtains hanging over the windows.

This used to be a staple of the fancy French restaurants in New York City. Some little lace thingy blocked you from looking at the interior from your outside position, and perhaps that was all for the better. What diner would like it if he or she noticed an unwanted observer scrutinizing his or her meal?

Nowadays, however, it’s hard to find these curtains in the windows, except at a small selection of establishments. Maybe that’s sad, or maybe that’s just a sign of the times. Perhaps darkened or frosted windows do the trick better. At any rate, it seems like we’ve come to a point where privacy at provisioners is more necessary than ever. The idea that a place would protect its clientele by placing fabric between them and the passers-by hoping to watch them is all too quickly fading from importance. In this “look-at-me” era, we have crowds, outside tables, and loud music all saying exactly who’s munching at a spot … and who’s not. Discretion be damned. It’s all about being checked out today, I’m afraid.

Not that it wasn’t in the past. But at the most elegant temples of cuisine, there was a delicacy, a refinement. Don’t want to be examined as you nosh? Sit at this table by the curtain. No one will see you … or whoever you’re with. It’s just the opposite today, isn’t it? Even in the most hoity-toity establishments, folks just want to be spotted. You can’t sneak away into a corner and snuggle without anyone catching you. All eyes will be on you, all the time.

That’s why we here at Critical Mousse are mourning this transition from one period in our gastronomic history to another. We can change along with the times, of course, but there is a certain je ne sais quoi about the culinary memories we treasure. And no number of ear-blasting sidewalk-seating soundtracks will take that away from us.

We relish the draped joints that still offer private (as much as possible) consumption. There are some left, as quiet as they may be. The fact that they’re so silent speaks volumes, too. That’s what they’re made for. That’s what they provide to people who desire it.

I, for one, am all in favor of leaving those curtains be.

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