Herding instinct

Dear Feastlings,

As animals go- and I count humans among them- the herd has never been in my comfort zone; I’ve always had more of a fondness for the stragglers and the odd ones that stray and meander, blind in their peregrinations to what the rest of their contingent was doing. I had a fond weakens for the old and the sick and the weak ones, but for the individualistic and the lost and the disenfranchised too, and I always counted myself among them.

The holidays, and the restaurant industry, always fill me with wonder, not over the spices and spruce and twinkly lights, but over the way we herd animals work, and each year for the past twenty-one holiday seasons, I’ve grudgingly come to accept the fact that the herding instinct, while it may destroy no small number of us, will likely save us in the end. Long have I dreaded how we humans clump together and insist on a clustered lifestyle as opposed to my own cloistered one. In restaurants we see it all year long- everyone wants to dine at the same hour, in Tucson from about six to about seven-thirty lately, but everyplace has its own custom. That changes with other herd activities. If there’s theatre or a concert, everyone piles in at five so they can pile into an auditorium at seven and then fight each other to be first out of the parking lot at nine. A sporting event not only shifts eating time, but suddenly the dining room is awash in red as well.

The holidays compound it, of course, and it being Black Friday, there’ll be throngs of people lined up at various retail meccas, ready to save a few dollars on the Ten Things Most People Seem to Want This Year, and Monday will find people isolated by behaving en masse, parked in front of their computers for Cyber Monday. And I suppose stuff is nice to have for those of us in the First World, but frankly, I feel lucky not to have the urge to shoehorn myself into a mall or a big box store, even a virtual one, or to have someone else do it in order to gift me stuff I don’t really need come holiday time. Food and drink, games and idle banter sound pretty good to me, so I’ll content myself with those and be glad that I’m in this business, where they’re all easy to come by.

I still have a mortgage to pay, though, so we’ll be contributing to the holiday madness this weekend by offering our own deals in the wine shop- 10% off any six bottles, mix and match, and 15% off any case, also mix and match, though not in conjunction with any other sale pricing (gotta pay that mortgage, remember,) and we do at least have this to offer over everyone else having their big sales for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday: first, we’re also doing it on Sunday, and second, we’re not all that big- no five-acre parking lot to walk across, no 300 to 1 guest-to-staff ratio where you’ll never be helped, and presumably less quarreling with other patrons and cashiers who are even more overextended than we are here.

As the herding question goes, though, I find myself questioning where I stand. It’s the herd that fills me with unease and awkwardness- I was the kid strolling quietly around the periphery of the playground while the core of the herd was running around the center in shapes that likely looked from above like flocks of birds look from below- a few in front like Instagram influencers with a scattered group billowing out behind them, spreading out but never straying too far. Still, as much as I’m more comfortable out on the periphery, and as frustrated as I am that Feast sits empty for hours each day while we wait for our brief moment the herd to stuff itself into the dining room and nod politely every time someone tells us how lucky we are to be so busy- you know, for that hour and a half that we’re busy- I’m also grateful for it. It’s the herd that’s kept our doors open, and despite my penchant for tiptoeing around the outer edge of the community on a personal level, I need to realize that you can’t crowdsurf without a crowd. So thank you, crowd. I’m grateful for you, and I dare say so are the rest of us at Feast.

As herds go, there’ll be a smallish, still-six-feet-apart herd joining us tomorrow for our Saturday wine tasting at 2 pm,

How the Grenache stole Christmas

but Sunday poses a bit of a problem, as the majority of those who’ve signed up prefer to join remotely, and we have yet to come up with a way to serve people in the dining room, moderate the tasting from the kitchen, moderate from the dining room, and show people what to do to heat and plate their food pairings, so you who’ve strayed from the herd will have to join them if you’d like to be a part of the tasting, which ironically means not joining them at all, but tuning in from home.

’tis the season.

The wine dinner, on the other hand, has proven to be better served in person, and enough of you came to Kent Callaghan’s dinner this month that we’re convinced next month’s dinner with David Rossi of Fulcrum. David will be here in person, so if he suddenly stops moving or you can’t hear him speaking, our troubles are far more serious than low bandwidth.

Wine dinner with David Rossi of Fulcrum Winery

So there it all is for now, and I wish those of you who brave Costco or Best Buy or any of the other shopping havens today safe passage at least, and a bargain or two, but if you find yourself trampled under the feet of a thousand other people trying to buy the same thing you are, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Stay well and safe.



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