September 19, 2013

Inspired by Buddhist monks, a Brooklyn restaurant enforces total silence for a 90-minute organic, locavore dinner.

"Nicholas Nauman, Eat’s 28-year-old managing chef and events planner, said he was inspired to hosts the meals by silent breakfasts he enjoyed at a monastery in the Indian Buddhist pilgrimage city of Bodh Gaya."
Punishment for talking was having one’s plate... removed and placed on a bench outside, where loudmouths could finish their meals....


Maria Usbeck, a 28-year-old freelance art director from Williamsburg, tried to make her companion laugh by turning her napkin into a paper airplane and sailing it from one knee to the other.

Three women celebrating a 30th birthday developed such elaborate pantomimes that they were able to have a fully silent conversation....

Some diners tried to pantomime what they were having, like this woman miming the gills of a fish.
Well, hell! You go in search of meditative, religionish quietude and you find yourself in the presence of mimes. The named violators of the spirit of the thing were all females, interestingly. Possible theories: 1. Women are just soooo verbal. 2. Only women were willing to give their names to the reporter. 3. It was mostly only women who were attracted to this event in the first place. 4. Men are better at following rules. 5. The reporter, a man, sought out women to talk to. 6. Happenstance.
Ms. Usbeck, who felt she might break into speech before dessert arrived, used the opportunity to give herself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror — “only a mental pep talk,” she promised — in which she stared herself down and told herself “You can do this.”
Pep talk in the mirror. Mental pep talk in the mirror. What was the function of the mirror?
“At first it felt like being 50 and married,” said Bianca Alvarez, a 33-year-old creative director from Williamsburg. “But then it became good, the good kind of quiet.”
Because being 50 and married can't be good. Thanks, creative director lady. Thanks for the spilling from your you-must-think-it's-creative mind.

15 comments:

Graham Powell said...

I'd have to dispute the "women are so verbal" reason. I know that when I get together with friends, my mouth seems to open of its own accord, and doesn't shut until it's time to go.

I'm voting for happenstance.

Peter said...

I could do without the pseudo-Buddhist, organic, locavore part. But considering how noisy many restaurants have become, I just might enjoy the "total silence" part.

Random said...

By my reckoning, there are ten different easily identifiable people in the pictures accompanying the article, five of whome are pretty obviously men, so 3 is out. The visible women are - well, pretty much the sort you'd expect to see in a Buddhist themed vegetarian restaurant, so 5 is probably out too. I'm going for a mixture of 1 and 4 - I mean why would anybody go to an event who's theme is silence and spend the whole time trying to find increasingly ridiculous ways to communicate (what's wrong with texting if you want to communicate silently?) unless they were suffering from compulsive logorrhea?

mrs. e said...

Wonderful idea, but why would one go to a place like this for a birthday celebration? At least, mirror-lady and creative-lady gave it a go...

MadisonMan said...

What if you fart really loudly?

Ann Althouse said...

"I could do without the pseudo-Buddhist, organic, locavore part. But considering how noisy many restaurants have become, I just might enjoy the "total silence" part."

Restaurants were deliberately made loud. The solution isn't to go to the opposite extreme, but only to put back some of the noise-deadening features that were removed in pursuit of clamor.

The idea was, I think, that -- as in a night club -- people wanted to feel that there was a highly social atmosphere, but they actually had little to say.

In that sense, the silent place and the noisy place are alike.

The real change is to the middle position, but that depends the patrons bringing good quality conversation. There's the real risk.

kimsch said...

I would think that the sounds of eating; chewing, utensils on plates, swallowing, would all seem so much louder without all the other ambient sounds of a restaurant. And yes, why go to this type of event for a birthday celebration?

Clyde said...

Being 50 and divorced is a much better way to get some peace and quiet.

EDH said...

MadisonMan said...
What if you fart really loudly?


"I'm afraid fatty is right..."

"He said he's farting because of his medication. I get that."

MadisonMan said...

From the article:

I tend to pride myself on my ability to articulate

Just not all the time, apparently.

Ann Althouse said...

"And yes, why go to this type of event for a birthday celebration?"

1. They wanted to do this event and it happened to coincide with a birthday, and they either didn't mind or thought it would be amusing.

2. A birthday is a good time to reflect and settle into a deeply intimate experience with your friends.

3. The non-birthday-girls thought it would be a funny prank, to say we're taking you out for your birthday and then squelch the birthday girl's expectations that she'd be a special focus of attention.

Strelnikov said...

Although this is nonsensical and annoying beyond belief, this is a private business and can do as it wishes. You don't want to eat there? Don't. The problem will arise when some numbnuts government agency decides we should all eat in silence.

Sam L. said...

Only in New york metro, eh!

Mitch H. said...

I've been dragged to group events at a local Austrian place where they threaten to beat customers who don't clear their plates - there's a red knout hanging on the wall next to the cash register, and occasionally the waiter would walk around with the club in his hand making slightly theatrical small talk with the diners.

I really don't like sauerkraut, despite my Teutonic last name. Luckily, their sauerkraut (of which every dish had a generous mound) was less bitter and nasty than the stuff I suffered through in childhood.

But yes, people get dragged to establishments that they'd never go to of their own accord.

John Lynch said...

I'd love to go to a truly quiet restaurant. They are all too loud.