I’ve never been able to imagine one day reaching a point in life where I’d fit into the category of ‘ladies who lunch’. Lunch to me has more often than not, been centered on the task of finding sustenance for a weary body, hours after a low-cal yogurt breakfast, when in need of a re-fueling, to plow through the rest of my workday. Lunch was always something like PB&J or turkey and Swiss on pita, rounded out with apple slices, and sweetened by a miniature peppermint patty. It was packed daily in a humble brown paper bag and consumed at my desk in front of the computer. I would eat it quietly in approximately ten minutes flat, because as many of us that have ever spent any amount of time as part of the workforce know, the lunch hour has died. In my world, lunch was ordinarily not a dressed-up affair; never a mid-day delighting in culinary pleasures with my gals; rarely a treat, no matter how well deserved a regular one might have been.
When my childhood friend and former fellow Manhattan gal Katie called me last week to let me know she was coming into town for work, my head began buzzing. We would go here and there and everywhere, painting the town together, like we did in the old days. But as usual when she’s here, though her paying job demands only a small fraction of her time, she is like a piece of taffy, pulled in ten directions trying to see all half-dozen of us she keeps in touch with. So, being the free agent I am these days, I laid out my open calendar and offered that she choose whatever window she like for us to do something—brunch, drinks, whatever. It made no difference to me. I did however sneak in a mention that New York City Restaurant Week was going on and maybe we go to dinner at one of the participating restaurants that ordinarily would not fit within our personal budgetary constraints. Her voice took on a fervent ring, being not so much a foodie, but one that’s always up for a touch of glamour, be it ruby-red lipstick, fine wine, trips to Paris, dinner at fancy restaurants…you get the idea. But it was only 11am so dinner was at least six hours away, and we were already so famished we might’ve taken to eating our hands. Instead, we decided on making it a lunch. And along with Katie, would come Nathalie, her equally glamorous co-worker, who in their trips over the years, I’ve come to know and love.
After scanning menus online and measuring our options with each of our tastes, we landed on Bar Boulud. It seemed the perfect place—French cuisine (as we all loved), outdoor seating (that who in the summertime in NYC doesn’t love?), and best, only steps from Katie and Nat’s hotel. We arrived shortly after one o’clock, sat at our table in the shade, ordered three crisp glasses of wine and studied our menus trying all the while not to be distracted by the sensory overload that enveloped the air around us—sips and sighs, clanking glasses and gorgeous plates of artfully prepared food being set down at adjacent tables. It was all so much more beautiful than our typical daytime fare, and so out of the norm for us.
We managed to try all nine of the items on the Restaurant Week lunch menu, each of us choosing a different appetizer, entrée and dessert, and subsequently sharing bites, collectively savoring not only the exquisite flavors of our meal, but the act of lunching itself. There we sat, dolled up in summer sundresses, with dark sunglasses, French twist hairdos, and Pashmina scarves that an hour before were pulled out of our closets— or for Katie and Nat, their suitcases—and thrown on to make us each look the part. No one there knew that this wasn’t an everyday indulgence for us. No one knew that under the table I was texting my bank to confirm my week’s unemployment pay had gone through. I know, I know—is a fifty-dollar lunch really a responsible move for a woman without a job? Not typically, but in the name of research, yes!
So thanks to my lovely friends being in town, for a day, I got to sit amongst the ‘ladies who lunch’. Even better, I got to be one myself. Now I know the pleasure it is, and yes, I’d happily be a lady who lunches any day of the week!