A DEFINITION

restaurant |ˈrest(ə)rənt, ˈrestəˌränt, ˈresˌtränt| noun

A room crammed with tables and chairs, noisy kitchen adjoined. Occupying these tables is a crowd of people who may not look much like you and who are dressed in fascinating ways. At every table a voluble conversation is in progress, the outcome, or conclusion, of which is presently unknown — to you, to them, to anyone.

More than half of these people will have reached this destination on foot, or by bicycle, or by subway, or in taxis. A handful will have driven themselves in private cars, dealing with difficult parking (as they expected to) because no curbside valet service would be provided. Once seated and scanning menus, none of tonight’s patrons will have searched for the word “Entrée,” knowing that in the country of its origin this word has nothing to do with food or dining. 

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A few, maybe just three or four, will identify Barthes as the person who said, “You are the only one who can never see yourself except as an image.” Most will know of Barthes, or perhaps will have read about Barthes. Some will recall that Barthes was a good friend of the person who said, “Interpretation is a radical strategy for conserving an old text, which is thought too precious to repudiate … ” 

And the remaining handful who haven’t, or don’t, may feel — quite rightly — that they could have arrived better prepared for the meal.


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