From Tweezers to Truth

Food for Thought

“I hate clichés,” I said to Alex, who responded: “Isn’t that a cliché too?” True. Technically, for something to be a cliché, it must lack the awareness of being a cliché. If you intentionally produce a cliché, it turns into a postmodern appropriation.

We discussed our distaste for certain types of fine dining, particularly those that seem to necessitate the use of precision tweezers for plating. Despite the intentional nature of every detail, these dishes often succumb to clichés, like meticulously placed tiny mint leaves or sauces artistically brushed across expansive plates. Avoiding cliché is not about paying attention to details; it’s about what you pay attention to. It’s about cultivating self-awareness rather than mere self-consciousness.

Self-awareness requires an honest and sincere understanding of who you are beyond words. Our attempts to symbolically encapsulate our identity are invariably flawed, given the inherently irrational nature of human beings. We are continuously evolving, our identities reshaped by ever-changing contexts. Presuming to define ourselves is to fundamentally misunderstand our nature.

Clinton Street Baking Company serves classic American dishes but not mindlessly. Honest self-awareness is reflected in their unpretentious approach to cooking, which endures beyond words and trends. Even though they are “classic,” they are not clichés.

In contrast, many fine-dining establishments, despite their heightened self-consciousness, often lack this essential self-awareness, falling into the trap of cliché. From this perspective, restaurants like Clinton are a level above fine dining; they need to have “been there, done that” before they can begin the evolution of “unlearning,” the process of shedding the habits acquired mindlessly. It is a necessary step in personal growth. All the noise of self-consciousness fades into the past, and you finally hear who you are in the products you create.

In this sense, we all need to go through the “fine dining” phase, striving with all our might to be who we think we are, before finding who we truly are.