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August 12, 2014
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What is a daily food blog supposed to do when confronted with the devastating realities of the world? Last night I was up far too late transfixed to the Twitter feed of the events unfolding in Ferguson, MO while it seemed much of the media preempted the protests and shockingly militarized police presence for the untimely death of a beloved actor and comedian.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Robin Williams work as much as the next guy. And both suicide and depression are two issues that hit very close to home. I think it’s important for people to be reminded to seek help for mental health disorders, without shame or judgement.

But there also seems to be an epidemic of unarmed black men being killed by police. Eric Garner was choked to death after selling loose cigarettes in New York on July 17. John Crawford was killed by police in an Ohio Walmart after being spotted walking around with a “toy gun” on August 5. Most recently, Michael Brown was shot on August 8 for walking in the middle of the road in Ferguson, Missouri.

Yes, there were a few people who took advantage of the unrest, anger and confusion who used the most recent tragedy as an excuse to burn and rob. But by and large, the protests were peaceful. Which I have to say is kind of remarkable given that the police found a way to escalate the situation by rolling in a tank, launching tear gas, kicking out journalists, and using rubber bullets and beanbag rounds to disperse the crowd.

While all of this is going on, the Anonymous Collective has taken up the cause, and as of last night released the Ferguson Police Chief’s personal information to the world.

There is only one thing I can possibly think to write in a situation like this.

Bad things are happening in Ferguson. Very, very bad things. But while one can condemn the political leaders of the community, those who are looting, and those who are escalating tensions on both sides, there are surely good things about the place.

And since food is one of those rare things that can bring people together, let’s take a moment to learn a bit more about a place that most people probably never knew existed. How? Well, how about looking at the top 10 most reviewed restaurants on Yelp. At the very least, it paints an interesting picture of the area.

#1 Ferguson Brewing Company – House brewed beers and smoked meats
#2 Cork Wine Bar – Flights of wine and bites of food
#3 Whistle Stop – Frozen custards turned into concretes
#4 Vincenzo’s – Calamari, Red Sauce, Chicken Parm
#5 Cose Dolce – Italian bakery with cookies, cupcakes and scones
#6 Cracker Barrel – The one chain on the list
#7 El Palenque Mexican Restaurant and Cantina – In MO they put lettuce on tacos
#8 Faraci Pizza – Old school pizza joint (some say the best in the state)
#9 Marley’s Bar & Grill – Much like one of Albany’s many taverns
#10 Celebrity Soul Food – Fried chicken, black eyed peas, and greens

For comparison’s sake, Albany’s top 10 is:

#1 Bombers Burrito Bar – Not a place for burritos
#2 Albany Pump Station – House brewed beers and overpriced food
#3 New World Bistro Bar – Global flavors with sustainable ingredients
#4 Van’s Vietnamese – Cheaper than My Linh but far from inexpensive
#5 Cafe Madison – Brunch, especially oatmeal raspberry pancakes
#6 The Ginger Man – Where professors like to eat
#7 The City Beer Hall – Tavern food, elevated with creativity and guts
#8 Capital Q Smokehouse – Mostly takeout with killer Carolina pulled pork
#9 The Standard Restaurant – Not a chain, but it feels like one
#10 Jack’s Oyster House – Albany’s oldest restaurant

You know, they are a lot like us. And I think that is one of the things that makes this whole situation even more upsetting. It’s as if it could happen anywhere. And really, it seems to be happening everywhere. Even in the Northern California town of Santa Rosa, 13 year old Andy Lopez was shot when he was seen by police holding a toy pellet gun.

I only bring that up because after a nine month investigation in that case, the officer who fired seven shots into the boy was cleared of all charges. These things have a way of working out for those who have power and a voice within the system.

The solution isn’t a more militarized police force. Rather, as we saw in Troy relatively recently, it would seem we could all do with a law enforcement operation that was better trained at de-escalating conflicts rather than aggravating them.

I don’t have the answer. I just know that this has to stop. In the meantime, I’m going to eat some ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    August 12, 2014 11:40 am

    That wasn’t a “tank.” It was a “Chariot of Justice.”

  2. August 12, 2014 2:19 pm

    Thank you for this today.

  3. August 12, 2014 4:49 pm

    “And since food is one of those rare things that can bring people together…”

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been a pretty big advocate of the thought that if people have viable, sustainable way to provide for their basic necessities (like food), there is greater likelihood for peace. I mean, look at us, we Americans! We all have access to decent food and we’re not out in the streets shooting each other!

    (oh, wait…)

  4. Mike Walsh permalink
    August 12, 2014 5:59 pm

    As a longtime reader of your blog and an occasional guest of your food tours years ago, I suggest you read Radley Balko’s book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces”. At the very least, take a quick look at the review of the book in the Wall Street Journal.

  5. Debo permalink
    August 12, 2014 7:06 pm

    It’s pretty simple. Police stop carrying guns. Sorted.

  6. August 14, 2014 4:39 pm

    I got upset when I saw your story yesterday, then smiled when you turned it into a comparison of the the two regions’ Yelp feeds, but on reflection I’m upset again. By all accounts Ferguson, which none of us had heard of a few days ago, is a sleepy middle class area which has seen a dramatic racial shift in recent years and its establishment hasn’t adjusted with this fact, nor that outsiders might want to shine a bright light on something that apparently went wrong.

    I haven’t been around the Cap District long enough to say that is a description of our area as well. But study after study as well as my own personal experience says that if you spend time around people who are different from you it’s a lot harder to hate and fear them. Sure would like to see a lot more ethnicity and diversity on both those Yelp lists. (Van’s is a start, as is “Celebrity Soul Food” in Ferguson.)

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