After reading this New York Times Magazine piece on Prune, a restaurant in the East Village of New York City, I’m thinking about correction. In it, the writer and Prune owner Gabrielle Hamilton reflects on her original dreams for the beloved restaurant and how those dreams were forced to shift over the past 20 years. Today, Prune is closed due to COVID-19, and she wonders if the New York of the future will want or need it anymore.
A certain passage from the article stuck with me:
“...perhaps it will be a chance for a correction...What delusional mind-set am I in that I just do not feel that this is the end, that I find myself convinced that this is only a pause, if I want it to be?”
I found myself agreeing with her line of questioning. Does this pause—the forced, frightening hitch in our daily lives—offer us the chance to reconsider our dreams for what we want our work to be, to do? What do we want the “new normal” to include? What old ways are we happy to shed? From environmental protections to health care and self-care to employment practices—can we course correct?
And I kept mentally replacing the word “restaurant” with “art.”
"So I’m going to let the (art) sleep, like the beauty she is, shallow breathing, dormant. Bills unpaid. And see what she looks like when she wakes up — so well rested, young all over again, in a city that may no longer recognize her, want her or need her.”
Image: "I wanted a place you could go after work or on your day off if you had only a line cook’s paycheck but also a line cook’s palate." Credit: Philip Montgomery for The New York Times
As Hamilton ends her magazine piece, she dreams of round tables, not square; lingering lunches instead of hyper-hip brunches; early suppers that honor precious time at home. In short, she looks forward to new ways of working that make room for life-affirming pauses.
Editors are often correcting mistakes. And so I’m taking a cue from this visionary chef, using this moment to recognize the beauty that lies in the “wrong” word placed here, the “incorrect” grammar used there. Maybe, in the close read of what each of us is trying to say, what we are trying to express, we’ll learn more about what art can be and do.