S.R.: Beppi, you're the greatest foodie in the room - does it rub you the wrong way when people say they don't want to eat because it might make them look bad?
B.C.: It depends on the context. If it's your party, you like to see people eating, so I think it's a generous act to eat at people's parties.
AT THE OPERA S.H.: I think people in public feel that nobody's watching them, when in fact it's the opposite. Once, I was going to the opera, meeting a man that I was just getting to know. He was a Bay Street type in a suit, and he showed up with this big, sloppy piece of pizza that he was stuffing into his mouth as he greeted me. The looks people gave him were unbelievable - this is the opera, we're supposed to be refined, and here he was being sort of gross. I thought that was a faux pas.
B.C.: Well, it depends on the kind of pizza. I'm assuming from what you're saying that it wasn't a crisp pizza bianca, it was probably a quattro formaggio or something like that, pretty sloppy.
But I have no problem with somebody eating before the opera because you're facing four hours of starvation. It's better that than having your stomach grumble during some soprano's resting moment.
I actually bring food into the opera but I make sure the food is very quiet. I don't bring anything in cellophane. But I'll bring in nuts, and put them in my own little plastic bags that don't make noise. I once brought Nibs into the opera, and the moment I opened the bag, this pungent smell of strawberry wafted through the theatre. People actually turned around to look at me. I couldn't tell whether it was because it was bothering them or it was envy.
S.R.: They wanted them.
B.C.: That's opera in Canada. Have you ever been to the opera in other countries? I was in Paris recently facing a six-hour opera - Messiaen's St. Francis of Assisi - and I thought, how am I going to endure this without something to eat? But there they had three 45-minute intermissions, and people head to the snack bars for real food. Opera is more of a popular art form there, whereas here it's been co-opted by the tuxedo class and it's more about starched shirts and social appearances than having a good time.
S.H.: I think the Italians must be eating spaghetti at the opera.
B.C.: I think they used to. When opera was a pop art form, perhaps a century ago, people brought food in, and they wore informal clothing. Who was it - Maria Callas in the fifties, I think - was pelted with radishes. I don't know where people got the radishes if they weren't already eating veggies and dip in the stands. Lord knows food is a major theme in opera, judging by the size of some of the singers.
IN TRANSIT S.H.: What are your other public eating faux pas?
S.R.: Well, when we were speaking about odours and people watching you, it made me think of the TTC. Not that I mind people eating; I eat on the TTC. But once I ventured out with a Tupperware filled with yogurt and a real spoon from home and it felt really weird.
B.C.: That's brave.
S.H.: That is brave.
S.R.: I felt like, this is wrong. I had this cutlery that didn't belong ... but I was hungry, which overrides a lot. But it really smells in the small compartments. It's like that whole debate with perfume: You may like it, but what about when it's infringing on others?
S.H.: Eating on the subway is a real example of loss of ritual. I see that all the time and it strikes me that it's a real loss of that lovely, beautiful ritual of setting a table and sitting down to a meal.
MESSY MEALS B.C.: Don't you find it kind of attractive when a man can actually eat something gracefully in public? Is it always disgusting?