“There is a difference between dining and eating. Dining is an art. When you eat to get most out of your meal, to please the palate, just as well as to satiate the appetite, that, my friend, is dining.”—Yuan Mei
I was obsessively reading cookbooks yesterday, worried by the niggling thought that I couldn't eat whatever I wanted, but I know that half the pleasure I take in summer feasting is the setting, the ritual of setting a table, setting it in a garden and in the larger landscape, setting out the dishes and the foods, setting myself down for a long, pleasant meditation on what is in front of me and around me—whether a barge canal in Georgetown, a darkening stretch of Lake Como, caryatids in the Rodin Sculpture Garden on campus, a candelabra on a millstone table in Mallorca getting on for midnight, a rooftop with oregano in feta cans in Crete, a harbor with a sunken ancient city at Epidaurus, dappled cottonwood shade in Santa Fe, or a few bursts of lavender in my own weedy garden.
I once dined out in Sicily's Valley of the Temples, and was amazed to see a lobster climb off the display of antipasti and go roaming among the tables; but I have not yet dined with cows. I imagine it would be quite amiable.