Doc receives dozens of wine and food-related letters daily. This is one of his favorites. Doc's comment: "Here's the best antidote to fear and depression I've received. Following in this spirit will send a message, I believe, to the Barbarians."

John Mariani

After a day of watching in horror the events of September 11, 2001, I had a difficult time deciding whether I should proceed to dine out at a restaurant I had to cover for an article. Psychologically I had no desire to go out; professionally I felt bound to do so. Then I remembered the story of what Winston Churchill said when told that the Germans had completely destroyed the city of Coventry. Seeming flippant but deadly serious, the old lion thought for a moment, then said, “Well, let’s have lunch. Everything looks better after lunch.”

That sentiment has always carried weight with me, not only because sitting down to a meal requires the harried mind to re-focus attention on a human ritual but, because it truly helps to return to a normal need. After hearing of a tragedy, the appetite may flag, eating may be the last thing on one’s mind, and dining seems downright frivolous. But to restore one’s appetite is to restore one’s strength, as anyone who has long been sick knows.

A year and a half ago when I heard the news that my mother had passed away overnight, I was tying my tie in a room at the Crillon Hotel in Paris, ready to go down to dinner. The news had the obvious effect of bringing me to my knees, but after commiserating with my wife, I determined that going down to dinner would be the very best thing rather than stay in the room and weep.

We went to dinner, sure that my mother, who gave me life, nurtured me as an infant, and imbued me with a love of good food, a woman who was a great hostess and loved nothing more than going out to a fine restaurant, would have insisted I do so. And so, we ate very well and drank a very fine wine, toasting my mother as she so richly deserved.

As a food and travel writer what I do for a living may seem odd (T.S. Eliot wrote, “We measure out our lives in coffee spoons,” but I measure out mine in morsels of foie gras); but, whenever I think of it as ephemeral to the great issues of the day, I am reminded of a scene in the play based on “The Diary of Anne Frank,” in which the family, isolated for months in an attic but still believing they will soon be out, fantasize about the first thing they’ll do when they return to the world outside.

Anne says she yearns to go to a dance. The teenage boy wants to go to a movie, a western movie! And the adults all start remembering and dreaming of a wonderful pastry shop, a good stew, a romantic restaurant with thick linen and fine wines. None, not one, declares that the first thing he wanted to do was to change the political structure of Europe.

This scene made me realize not only that deprivation takes away freedoms of movement but also access to the most wonderful sights, sounds, and tastes of life—the very things we live for until they are taken away from us. Every human being on earth who has ever gone hungry thinks first of survival, then of doing something seemingly superficial—a dance, a western movie, a visit to a restaurant. For when all goes well, when the doctor cuts out the cancer, when debt is retired, when the debris is cleared away, returning to normal means returning to those things that make life worth living.

During World War II director Frank Capra made a series of powerful propaganda films entitled “Why We Fight,” and if seeing yet again the cheesecake photos (an interesting turn of phrase) of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable in servicemen’s lockers seems pointedly nostalgic, that does not destroy its touching allure. “Why We Dine” is as reasonable a proposition as any other, once we survive the inevitable rigors and horrors of life that must be endured. “Animals feed, man eats,” said Brillat-Savarin, “but only a man of culture knows how to dine.”

So I carry on extolling and criticizing our world’s food culture, sometimes whimsically, sometimes with vitriol. For the importance of dining out, and drinking good wine, and falling in love under the spell of candlelight at the dinner table is to enjoy all that terrorists—especially those whose religious fanaticism seeks to deprive people of all pleasure—would seek to destroy.

By indulging in life’s passions we do much more than live out ourlives. We gain strength in the belief that they are part of the goodness of man.

Eat well, be well.

(Contributed by John.Patrick W Fegan, Director, Chicago Wine School

Interesting links:

Doc's Restaurant Recommendations

Doc's Wine Choices

Doc's New Orleans Restaurant Recommendations

Doc's Atlanta Restaurant Recommendations

Legendary Wine Cellars

In Vino Veritas

To Doc's News Front Page

To Wine and Food Section front page

To top of this page


DocsNews, (, is produced, published by and is a subsidiary of Lehmann Desloge Communications, Inc.
Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. Doc Lawrence can be reached at:

Webpage created by Mountain Light Graphics.