Thursday, June 01, 2017

Catching Up After Two (!) Months

Center Cut Doughnuts have brought me some joy over the past couple months
When I woke up this morning, one of my first thoughts was that it's been two months (yikes!) since the last time I posted. That's the longest stretch I've gone without posting since I started this blog back in 2005. Crazy.

In the past two months, I have been around food, though thanks to both the stomach flu and pneumonia, I actually haven't been eating with quite as much gusto as normal.

But still, there was a good dinner with old friends from California at Chez Billy Sud, a charming French spot in Georgetown. And a fun morning with my Dixon, my sister and her new baby at Sub Rosa, a really good bakery she can walk to from her house in Richmond. And The Emporiyum, which is always a great time. A tasting at Center Cut Doughnuts, when Dixon was my plus-one. A fun seafood boil over Memorial Day weekend up at Keuka Lake.

Plus, I haven't stopped writing for other publications. Though it's not all published yet, I've spent the spring thinking and writing about the opening of the Sagamore Spirit distillery, the food policy at Camden Yards, the origin of crushes, the city's best fried chicken, and iconic beach foods.

I've also continued to write my weekly restaurant news column, Hot Plate, for Baltimore Fishbowl. And do some Facebook and Instagram posting, of course - though even that has fallen off a bit, especially over the past month (pneumonia really sucks).

During that time, I've also started, but haven't finished, a few posts with actual substance - things like what makes a local classic actually classic and how to be a good restaurant guest. But - and I hate to say this - much of the larger conversation taking place around food these days frustrates me more than it inspires me.

When I started writing this blog, a dozen years ago, the food world was in a massive state of growth. Every day, something new and interesting was happening. There was debate about topics like authenticity and egregious experimentation and globalism; participating in those debates left me feeling invigorated and excited about what was to come. I assumed it would be better than what came before.

In recent years, though, two things have happened. One is that many of the smaller conversations have disappeared - though I'm seeing interesting chats on Facebook sometimes, much of today's food buzz takes place on Instagram, which doesn't exactly lend itself to thoughtful conversation (though it does lend itself to 20 media/influencer types posting pretty much the same photo).

The other phenomenon is that those debates - the ones about authenticity, experimentation and globalism - have evolved. Or, rather, devolved...and I am decidedly less excited about food as a result. The words "cultural appropriation" don't excite me. They frustrate me - at best. Mostly, they bore me.

People speaking against cultural appropriation are, theoretically, trying to promote respect for other cultures - which is all well and good and it's tough to argue with that point. Respect is great. Duh.

But the by-product of the movement is that it chills creativity and collaboration. And that chills my level of excitement about the food world as a whole.

Overall, I'm not easily offended and I like feeling enthusiastic. I want to be excited about food and drinks and I want to participate in conversations about what they mean to us - the role they play in our lives and our culture. That's what this blog used to be about.

But these days, I'm struggling to gin up any enthusiasm for the cultural conversation.

Fortunately, the pendulum is always swinging. Soon enough, we'll have moved on to a new topic within the food world - hopefully one that gets me more excited.

And until then, at least I have doughnuts.


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