Ambition, Food, Love, Loss

The bar at Prune, courtesy of their website.

It’s not really fair for one person to be so ridiculously talented in two wildly different disciplines. Gabrielle Hamilton is a chef’s chef, cooking food that is inventive, unpretentious and sublime. And her writing is lyrical, evocative and moving.

Her piece in the New York Times Magazine about closing down Prune, her East Village restaurant of 20 years, in the wake of the shutdown of New York City is sad, beautiful, bracing and somehow still hopeful.

The first paragraph will make you catch your breath. She is about to layoff all her employees and she dreams that she is unable to save her two children from dying. It is arresting in its powerful imagery. And it lays bare the lie we’ve all been made to believe about mothers and ambition (namely that motherhood damps down women’s ambition — it doesn’t).

I ate at Prune twice. Once in its early years. Once almost exactly a year ago.

After 9/11 I remember thinking about Windows on the World. I’d had an amazing meal there and often thought I should go again. But anytime we were able to go out we picked somewhere else. New York has so many restaurants. There will always be another time. Until there isn’t another time.

New York can be a hard city to love. You can go to a restaurant for years — decades! — and then, one day, poof! and it’s gone. The list of places that I still miss, still think about … Mayrose, Tramps, Da Silvana (a local place in Queens), Les Halles, Bluewater Grill, Coffee Shop (now a Chase bank!).

And yet, the reckoning has come. What will be left when we can finally lift up the grates again? Hamilton’s hope that she can reopen, reimagine, revive. It’s a hope I share. I’ll go back! This time I promise I won’t allow myself to think that there’s always more time.