The Flavors of Loss
La Bebere turned fifty-three on Saturday, the last great French restaurant in New York. As on its birth night, there was snow outside the old speakeasy on Mulberry Street, and this made the soft, glittering light of the brocaded interior seem all the more inviting, the flowers towering out of the corners all the more welcoming, the sheer elegance of the place all the more arresting, important, rare.
Dr. Mowatt had never been in such a restaurant. A Moroccan Jew, he owned a restaurant in Tel Aviv known for its lamb. When Dr. Mowatt first opened the restaurant, he’d hung the lamb to age on meat hooks outside his kitchen window.
La Bebere turned fifty-four this year on Sunday, the last great French restaurant in New York. As on its birth night, there was snow outside the old speakeasy on Mulberry Street, and this made the air even crisper, the warmth inside even more enveloping and the sheer elegance of the place even more pronounced.
Dr. Mowatt returned the following year as a birthday present to himself and La Bebere. His wife had left him that year, and he had gained ten pounds on his already hefty frame. But the way the mutton melted in his mouth made sense of the year, as if his body had been cooking slowly in a pot with red wine, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, onions and cubed potatoes, and now he was eating himself, finally taking in the flavors of loss.
La Bebere turned fifty-five this year on Monday, the last great French restaurant in New York. As on its birth night, snow fell outside the old speakeasy on Mulberry Street, but this was the final evening that La Bebere would serve the public. She finally decided to close her doors and we all mourn her as we would a friend who has lived the city, enlivened it, but now has finally chosen, as she always threatened she would, to move to the country where she’ll walk quiet roads alone and only read descriptions of a city.
Dr. Mowatt walked out into the whiteness on that final evening into a desired solitude only possible in the pockets of soundlessness inspired by a sense of snow. His shadow varied itself, spreading out far beyond him, doubling, then shrinking to almost nothing. He could hardly recognize his shifting form, now, after the weight of years had been shed and he was so much lighter, possessed of a suppleness that only arises when one is able to fly above the imperfection of the present moment, when everything becomes a flight of shadows. Dr. Mowatt walked out into the snow wondering how many things could he throw his image against.