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How to make the city shine / What would finally civilize
L.A.?

Break bread and barriers

December 26, 2007|BY C. THI NGUYEN | C. Thi Nguyen is senior editor of the Chow Digest for Chowhound.com.

The true mingle is dead in this town. All we ever do is meet people just like us. We drive in our own little cars to our friends' little houses where we meet more people exactly like ourselves. Or we go to our little clubs to fake-chat with those who dig the same little bands. We're all stuck in nicheville. We never meet an honest-to-God, different-walk-of-life stranger anymore.

So I say: We need to change the way we eat.

There is just not enough communal eating in Los Angeles. The closest we get is in the crowds huddled outside taco trucks at night. Outside of taco trucks, I've met professors, nurses, janitors, body shop workers, prison guards, truck drivers, TV animators and one very sympathetic homeless poet. But tacos are quick, the night is cold, and it's over all too fast.

Food breaks barriers better than booze. Drinking's too obviously social -- bars are where you schmooze, make contacts, get digits. Eating just makes people happy. Give a bunch of people a roast chicken, and they starting telling you about their terrible boss, their terrific sister, their favorite walk.

Restaurateurs, this is your chance to save society! Give us more big, communal tables! Prix fixe dinners are perfect for this. Get us in, make us sit down together, hammer us with your glorious food and watch us eat, drink and make nice with one another. Make us share carafes of wine; make us pass around dishes loaded with hot food. Because nothing makes you love your neighbor more than having him leave you the last garlic French fry.

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