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Writing About Eating

July 13, 2016

Yesterday’s post, about not sending back food that failed to live up to expectations, generated a lot of feedback over Facebook and in the comments section of the FLB.

There were those who took me to task for not telling the waitress that the pizza was undercooked. Some were harsher than others. But I especially appreciated the constructive and thoughtful response from J who wrote:

We allow substandard food to be served and offer a half hearted “it’s good” before turning to a place like Yelp to trash the restaurant for serving undercooked pizza. It’s the double edged sword of the industry. Do you offend the restaurant to its face? Or do you take to the Internet to do so anonymously?

And J is not alone. In fact that very sentiment was echoed earlier this year on Tasting Table.

However, I was also encouraged to hear from those who absolutely do the same thing, including one of my colleagues who writes a blog focused more on the food of Saratoga Springs. My goal in writing yesterday’s story was to shine a light on the fact that a lot of people struggle with this. Perhaps I didn’t quite hammer home the conclusion as well as I could.

So let’s address J’s issues, and clarify a big reason why I generally don’t make a fuss.

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It’s Good

July 12, 2016

You know the moment. You’re at a restaurant. The food has been delivered. It looks fine. You take a bite, and truth be told, it’s really not that great.

Is it rancid? No.
Will it make you sick? No.
Can you eat it in polite company without making a face? Sure.

Then the server comes over and asks about your meal. And you say succinctly and without a smile, “It’s good.” Which isn’t entirely a lie.

I hate this moment. But last night, when asked, I told the waitress at a pizza place that the pizza was good when it was absolutely undercooked. So, why did I do this? And why will I continue to do this? Probably for the same reasons as many of you.

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Elbow to Elbow

July 11, 2016

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.

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Dallas

July 8, 2016

Welcome to a new kind of horror. Again, it’s hard to have a food blog today. I’m not going to have a discussion about guns on the FLB, but yesterday, five police officers were killed by two snipers firing from elevated positions, in broad daylight, in downtown Dallas. A total of twelve were shot, but when I went to bed, the police were still engaged in an armed standoff. This morning that person is dead.

One of the perpetrators claimed to have planted bombs throughout Dallas. And the police chief was not certain that everyone responsible for the shootings was in police custody.

Last night, downtown Dallas was a war zone. Today, downtown Dallas is a crime scene.

I know I said I was going to try and stay off social media yesterday, and it worked pretty well. But I got sucked in a little bit. Yesterday, I was focussed on how hard it must be to be a person of color in America today. Those feelings don’t go away, when now I’m struggling with how hard it must be to be a police officer.

Today, I promise to bring this back around to food. Because dammit, this is a food blog. And even in the grips of tragedy you have to eat.

Although first I wanted to share a video from The Daily Show.

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Minor Infractions

July 7, 2016
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Do you ever get trapped in a spiraling descent into despair? Don’t worry. I’ll be okay. I wasn’t directly or indirectly touched by the 250 left dead in Iraq this past weekend. And I was able to shake that off at the time, as horrible as that might sound. And then there was all the anti-semitism that swirled around the anti-Clinton images. That was bad. Worse was the presumptive Republican nominee’s defense of the retweeted iconography.

Then I saw Alton Sterling get killed by police. By bleeding out. Alone. On the ground.

Then I saw Philando Castile get killed by police. By bleeding out. With his girlfriend next to him. Who could neither help him, nor comfort him. Because while he was dying, with a four year old in the back seat, the officer still had his gun drawn on the occupants of the vehicle.

Alton Sterling seemed to be selling CDs illegally. Philando Castile’s car may have had some problem with the tail light. In theory, we are all supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But America’s core values seem to be fading fast.

Yes, both men were black. And it’s hard to call these deaths a tragedy, because this pattern of deadly force against members of the black community when confronted with minor infractions by law enforcement, is all too predictable.

And while I am deeply concerned for minority communities in the U.S. I’m concerned for us all.

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Shameless Plugs on Nat’l Fried Chicken Day

July 6, 2016

It’s Wednesday, and I’m supposed to be headed towards Utica. But I’m not headed towards Utica. Summer giveth, and summer taketh away. Easy come. Easy go. While I’ll miss the plate of Utica greens, and the visit with cousins who usually can be found in the southwest, this is a function of summer.

The unexpected break from travel may give me a chance to get some work done. Those Yelp newsletters don’t write themselves, you know. Speaking of which, there is a new one out today.

And speaking of today, did you know it’s National Fried Chicken Day? The only way I heard was an email from The Flying Chicken people telling me that they’ll be giving out one piece of free fried chicken to anyone who walks in today. And while that sounds too good to be true, that’s the plan. You know, until they run out of chicken. So get yourself down to Troy.

If you do go down to Troy, I also have another idea for you. But wherever you are, if you are reading these words right now, I know you’re on the internet. And that means the following things are just a click away.

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Family Traditions

July 5, 2016

Hopefully your fourth was fulfilling.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was super excited to see the seasonal fireworks stands pop up, and spend my allowance on all kinds of spark-tastic tchotchkes that I would light on fire at the first sign of darkness. Sure, there were some kids who always were hunting for the illegal fireworks that would make big explosions, but I was always happy with significantly tamer devices.

These days, I’m content to leave the fireworks to the professionals. And frankly, even the idea of kids running around with hot flaming sparklers makes me intensely uneasy. Fortunately, my own children seem to be perfectly happy to sit and watch from a safe distance.

This year, we walked down to the beach in Milford, Connecticut to see the fireworks, and it was lovely. Cool breezes, the salty air, and the smell of the ocean brought me back to my youth. Which is kind of interesting, because the main reason for this visit wasn’t youth at all. In fact, it was just the opposite.

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