— or, Jean-Paul Sartre to the rescue:
We stopped in for lunch at our favorite restaurant today. Now this restaurant happens to make THE Best Crab Cake in the World (and I am a very tough critic when it comes to crab cakes). I’ve brought a lot of people here with the lure of the crab cake, and every one has been a happy camper.
My mouth was all set for my crab cake when the waiter (who knows me by now) said apologetically, “We made a small change in the menu. The crab cake has been changed a little — It’s now mixed with some potato, and deep-fried, fritter style, with a spinach purée — Do you want to try it?”
Deep sigh, but how conservative can a person be? So I tried it.
It was good, don’t get me wrong. It just wasn’t MY crab cake. The definitive crab cake. As I was eating it I thought, Hmm, next time I come in, I think I’ll look over the menu and see what else sounds interesting, instead of always ordering my usual crab cake, since it is no more.
And then I remembered Sartre’s anecdote about Pierre. You were probably wondering where Pierre comes into this story— Anyway, this is from Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, by way of Aaron J. Elkins’ Fellowship of Fear:
“You are late for an appointment with your friend Pierre in a café. You are not sure if he has waited for you. As you come in, you quickly scan all the customers in the crowded room, and you see that he is not there. But what exactly have you seen? Would you know any of the hundred customers if you were to see them again? No. You have not really seen them. You know they are not-Pierres, that is all. Only when you have given up the search for Pierre will they become recognizable entities in their own right, foreground rather than background…”
What you lose on the swings, you make up on the roundabouts, as the British saying has it. I lost my crab cake, but gained the freedom of Alta’s entire menu. Who said philosophy doesn’t have practical applications?