June 27th, 2008

Tasty Treat

After Skylar performed in Dr. Doolittle this afternoon -- the climax to her week at Live Theater Workshop's excellent summer camp -- we took her next door to the dessert-only restaurant in the same plaza for a treat. The menu is huge and therefore as intimidating as it is alluring. Since we were the only customers -- the place seems to get a late-night crowd, for the most part -- we decided to ask our server for advice. His reluctance to provide it was expressed in a friendly fashion, making the prospect of securing his input all the more inviting. "I have very specific tastes," he explained. It sounded like the confession of someone with an unusual sexual fetish. Predictably, when he did finally spill the beans, his two favorite desserts on the menu did not seem particularly noteworthy. Nor did they seem to go together in obvious fashion. As a result, I was led to wonder whether his desire not to give advice derived more from a theory of taste-making than a sense that he might be giving too much of himself away by assuming the role of taste-maker. And that possibility, in turn, made me think that the trends in cultural legitimation that I've been researching over the past decade-plus are starting to show themselves even in situations where the stakes seem to be low, as in the ordering of desserts. Perhaps our server, who was probably in his early 20s, was someone who has internalized the mode of thinking Chris Anderson's describes in The Long Tail to such an extent that he finds it risible to regard his own tastes as a standard for those of other people. Or maybe he just likes to feel special, which is nearly the same thing.