Last night, I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw this tweet from Kim Severson, food correspondent for The New York Times:
I was skeptical because as Severson correctly identifies in her tweet, Gordinier in his Esquire story argues that the restaurant revolution is over due to the recent turn of events, and I do not agree with this assessment. Still, I read on because I wanted to see what he had to say. I generally give someone the benefit of the doubt.
I thought about staying quiet about the article, but honestly, it has unsettled me so much since I read it last night that I have to say something. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Trump administration has jeopardized the fate of small businesses including many local restaurants due to its outrageous allocation of funding. It’s also true that a pandemic puts restaurants and local eateries in a difficult position. However, there is no doubt in my mind as a food lover and patron of these businesses that they will survive, as long as we commit to supporting them. Although people are framing the article as a purveyor of harsh realities, the truth is that it’s trying to predict the future and in a completely negative way. Now is the time for relentless optimism, even while we’re cautious and cognizant of what’s happening in our society.
Second, this article is an insult to anyone living in the Midwest. At one point, Gordinier writes that our region is “shorn of funk,” which is to say bereft of anything that is not generic or mass produced. This is a huge slap in the face to people who have worked hard for years to build a business in this region. It also reflects an East Coast elitism that I find distasteful and frankly, disappointing. Gordinier should not be surprised or excited that these things exist; he should try a little harder to do his job as a food writer covering the national food scene, and realize that there are wonderful places producing quality food in small towns, suburbs, and cities such as St. Louis, which, by the way, has always been a liberal stronghold in an otherwise red state. Yes, food writing is inherently political, but if you’re going to bring politics into it, do not make generalizations.
People will continue to support great restaurants like Balkan Treat Box and Indo and so many others in the Midwest because we recognize that they’re an integral part of our community. Plus, I’m a strong believer that passion, drive, and talent will always be rewarded. Gordinier purports that restaurants will be “killed off by the culture wars,” but I feel like the food revolution in the Midwest and nationally is only beginning.