January 12, 2015
The first time I ate at Prune, many years ago, I was in graduate school, slightly older than just out of college but not by much. Part of my graduate school existence included teaching freshman comp, and on the first day of class my students were shocked when I turned out to be the person leading the show. I think one of them actually said, "You must be kidding," but I was not, in fact kidding, even though the idea that someone would trust me with molding the minds of children seemed like an epic joke.
I don't remember with whom I went to Prune, although now that I write that I think, "Oh, maybe I do, and maybe I would rather not remember," but memory is funny that way, because it is entirely possible that I ate there with one of my nearest and dearest. Truth be told, my memory actually is blank on this one, but maybe I'm in a dramatic mood this morning. Trying to remember anything correctly is an inherently flawed enterprise, since in my humble opinion memory is colored so strongly by emotion. At least it is for me, and when I thought about Prune in the years I lived away from New York I remembered its beautiful white walls, its pressed tin ceiling, its air of conviviality and its delicious food, which is always packed with flavor and very frequently with surprises. I also remembered the way it made me feel to be there, which is to say like an adult, despite my baby face and my lack of money and the fact that I was simulataneously engaged in a struggle to the death with the writing of prize-winning fiction and the teaching of reluctant freshman about the correct way to use a semi-colon.
Sometime last spring I had dinner at Prune with my father and my two brothers. At the time, I was not in the best place, but the food rose above the painful decision about whether or not to continue seeing the person I had been seeing, and for the time that I was eating I was happy and engaged and totally present in what I was doing. There is something about Prune that makes you feel like there is no better place to be than where you are and no better people to hang out with than the ones sitting next to you. On my most recent visit, a few weeks ago, I think I already knew I was moving downtown, and the sense that my life was about to change for the better permeated the entire meal. So when the radishes with butter and sea salt came, and the garrotxa cheese on buttered brown bread with a salted onion came, or the deep fried sesame toasts with shrimp came, each one seemed like a deliciously comforting gift. That's the thing about great food, or about great music or art or writing or fashion--they have the power to take you somewhere better, or to at least make where you are the best possible version of itself. Who knew cauliflower had that kind of power? At Prune, it does.
Prune, 54 East 1st Street, New York, NY. 212 677 6221.