Elbow to Elbow
Food blog. Dammit, this is a food blog. And it’s easy to get distracted from the core of the blog’s mission when everything is going to hell. But when I griped about how it was hard to write about trivial food matters when there is such pain, anguish, hate, fear, blindness, hubris, and a host of other powerful forces driving people apart, my friend Fox snapped to attention.
She defended food and its role in society, and demanded that it be taken seriously.
At the time, I was at a loss for how food could be anything but trivial in times like these. I mean, for me, I was taking comfort in eating too much dim sum and drowning my concerns in a shit-ton of soft serve on Saturday’s tour.
The write up from the tour may take longer than usual. I hope to get it posted this week, but no promises. There is still a big Yelp event on Wednesday, and that has me all kinds of busy. Plus the kids are in camp in two different cities this week. And on top of it all, I’m preparing for a week in the mountains. So, please be patient.
But back to the topic at hand. Because I was thinking about what Fox said, and I have an idea. Actually, I’m going to give you an assignment.
Go and sit at the counter at Famous Lunch in Troy or Dan’s Place Two in Albany or Peter Pause in Schenectady.
Go for breakfast. Or go for lunch.
If you like, bring a newspaper. But put your phone away.
Be there. Be in the moment. Take it all in.
There may be other places like these too. And if there are, I’d love to hear about them. But one of the things that I’ve always appreciated about these deeply rooted local institutions is how they are gathering spots for their diverse local communities.
Blue collar, white collar, and no collar all come and sit out the counter. From all walks of life. Okay, maybe not all. You aren’t going to find anyone observing halal or kosher dietary laws eating there. But even still, these may be some of the most inclusive places our region has to offer.
And that is no trivial thing.
We live in a very segregated society. And I’m not even just talking about racial segregation. Socioeconomic segregation is just as powerful, and maybe even more so. And let’s not forget religious and cultural segregation.
It’s easy to be oblivious or fearful of communities that don’t intersect with your daily life. But we’re all just people. And for the most part, we all like eggs. We all have to eat. And if you ask someone to pass you the salt, they will pass you the salt.
Is it a major interaction? Certainly not. But it’s something. And most of the times there is nothing. Things have flown so far off the rails, it’s time to start with baby steps.
Now, go out and do it.
I’d also love to hear about other local businesses where you can sit elbow to elbow with a wide cross section of the local community. Because there have to be more than just the three I’ve listed above.