Grok My Enthusiasm (1)

By: Robert Wringham
January 13, 2016

One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars.

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waterhouse lunch

If a breast-pocketed volume ever spares me the kiss of a bullet, there’s a significant chance it’ll be The Theory and Practice of Lunch. I’m not very fond of putting it down.

What’s to grok? For starters it’s written by Keith Waterhouse, one of a set of rowdy Soho journos and impossibly good company. I did not grow up in London and was never particularly drawn to it, but Soho was a world of its own and immediately appealing for its bohemian glamour and grime. Waterhouse wrote many great and famous plays and books including Billy Liar, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, and a fine continuation of the Grossmiths’ Diary of a Nobody, but Lunch for me is the most cherished.

What is it? Well, it’s a companion to lunch. Waterhouse is clear though, in a section called “what this book is not” that it’s no restaurant- or good-food-guide and is not very much about food at all, though food does feature. It’s not an etiquette guide either, though that topic’s relevant too. In fact, it’s an ode to the pleasure of the institution of lunch, of the importance of ventilating one’s day with a deliberate two hours of tending to the body and spirit. It’s about the fun of choosing a favourite table, of flirting with the waiters and of achieving the level of drunkenness appropriate to noon. Not a good food guide, then, but a good life guide: an Epicurean manifesto and a celebration of mindful, accessible, everyday pleasure and the skill of opening the soul to a certain expansiveness and generosity. It flicks a sporting breadpill into the face of parsimony without ever succumbing to tackiness or debauchery. It contains such treasures as a justification for “pud,” the choice between bottle or half-bot, a rule about keeping professional matters off the conversational menu, and a meditation on why a tabletop ought to be messy at lunch’s end, not tidied away too quickly.

I admire that the book is a confection, a sort-of self-contained feuilleton: it’s almost like something from Montaigne, a near-accidental philosophical treatise on things that really matter (and if you think the quotidian doesn’t matter perhaps you’d tell me what lies beyond it). I like to imagine the gestation of this book, the theoretical copy extant only in the backrooms of the Waterhouse mind before committing it to print: while he was ostensibly toiling on “greater” projects, Waterhouse was squirrelling observations, anecdotes and fancies about the institution of lunch to be served eventually in this opus-cum-side-project.

I’ve been threatening half-seriously to write a “prequel” about breakfast. But until I get around to it, there’s this. Lunch, folks. It’s what’s for dinner.

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GROK MY ENTHUSIASM: Rob Wringham on THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | Gordon Dahlquist on WEEKEND | Joe Alterio on MILLION YEAR PICNIC | Adrienne Crew on LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | Josh Glenn on THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | Alix Lambert on THE SKIES BELONG TO US | Adam McGovern on PENELOPE and CHAVEZ RAVINE | Rob Wringham on THE LYKE WAKE WALK | Mark Kingwell on NORTH STAR SNEAKERS & GWG JEANS | Gordon Dahlquist on FELLINI SATYRICON | Erik Davis on AH! | Devin McKinney on WHISPERING AFRAID | Mimi Lipson on 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG | Jessamyn West on MOSS | Josh Glenn on THE SCOUT HOW BOOK | Brian Berger on SLACKER | Alix Lambert on ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS | Chelsey Johnson on MONOTREMES | Devin McKinney on THE BUTCHER COVER | Flourish Klink on ONE DIRECTION | Gordon Dahlquist on FULL METAL JACKET | Allegra Huston on CLOTHESLINE | Jenny Davidson on POWERLIFTING | Evan Narcisse on REZ | Deborah Wassertzug on VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS | Chris Spurgeon on WALLACE AND GROMIT | Mandy Keifetz on BENEFICIAL MICROBES | Annie Nocenti on MARKS ON WALLS | Molly Sauter on THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF | William Nericcio on LAND OF THE LOST | Dan Fox on “VOICE OF GOD” RADIO DJS | Brandi Brown on WIKIPEDIA TALK | Claire Lehmann on THE APPARATUS REVEAL | Alice Boone on COSTUME JEWELRY | Colin Dickey on WIDESPREAD PANIC | Anshuman Iddamsetty on THE FULL BODY PROJECT | John Hilgart on MAKING GRATEFUL DEAD ALBUMS | Rob Wringham on STEVEN UNIVERSE | John Overholt on DECKLE EDGES | James Hannaham on HABIT PATTERNS | Jessamyn West on THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM | Adam McGovern on THE SPACE GIANTS | Brian Berger on MEDIUM COOL | Chris Spurgeon on THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT | Joe Alterio on TABLETOP WARGAMING | Mimi Lipson on TRASH PICKING | Jason Grote on CZECH CINEMA | Roxane Gay on AUTOMATED CAR WASH | Dan Fox on JULIA DAVIS | Amy Thielen on BINGO | Steph Burt on FEIJOA.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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Enthusiasms, Haw-Haw