This past weekend, I won a seat at Herbfarm, one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. Herbfarm is beloved in my corner of the United States. It features seasonal, local ingredients, many of which they grow themselves on their own five acres of land or in their herb garden out back. They have pigs to which guests can feed scraps between courses. Their wine cellar is top notch, and they serve you freely from it. They know your name when you get there, they take your coat, they serve you homemade cherry soda on arrival.
Dinner is also around four hours long and features more than six courses, with a few dessert courses sprinkled on top for fun. They detail each course for you; it’s all part dinner and part show. The chefs cook everything in the same room; you can watch them through the curtains.
This experience was monumental for me. I have wanted to dine here for years – most, if not all, of my adult life, in fact. But I never did it, and not just because dinner runs around $200″“250 a plate, on average.
You see, I felt that I didn’t deserve to eat here. Even during the times in my life when I’ve been able to afford an experience like this one, such as now, I’ve always been too terrified of what it would mean to indulge like this. We never had opportunities and experiences like this one as a child; my mother and father certainly never had these sorts of opportunities and experiences during their childhoods, either. I worried I would be out of place, a fool, or that – even if everyone were kind and I seemed to fit in – that I would feel disappointed in some way, that this little dream of mine would not stand up to reality.
I think, had I been a younger woman, I might have passed on this free dinner. I think I would have let the fear prevent me from diving into this experience with a full and ready heart. As it was, I almost couldn’t convince myself to walk through the door.
In the end, this experience fed my soul. It wasn’t just the novelty of receiving service from a venue that could afford to provide excellent service. It was trying foods that I would otherwise not allow myself (squab! new potatoes plucked from the ground that very morning! nasturtium leaves! foie gras!), it was saying, “Yes, I would like another glass of that sweet white wine, please,” it was allowing myself to relax and accept the good thing – the incredible good fortune – that had come my way and not let fear have its way with my enjoyment.
I think experiences like these, of great pleasure unadulterated by fear, doubt, or guilt, exist for people all over the world. It doesn’t have to be at a world-famous restaurant. It can be at the diner down the street. It can be in your backyard. It can be in a good book on a warm day. It can be in a song sung with friends, or in an afternoon nap you sneak on a “sick day” from work.
Have you had a monumental experience lately? If so, I’d surely love to hear about it.