Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Culinary Apocalypse

I went traveling last week on an unfortunate death in the family. The funeral was in Alabama, but our travels brought us all around the Midwest and Appalachia (total milage: ~1,500 mi; total hours driving: ~26 hours). Here is the driving map:

Along the way, yoyo and I sampled some of the most authentic local spots available to us, chain or otherwise:

Amsterdam Cafe
, Auburn, AL
Barleys Taproom, Knoxville, TN
Montgomery Inn, Cincinnatti, OH
Graeters Ice Cream, Cincinnati, OH
Skyline Chili, Cincinnati, OH
La Rosas, Cincinnati, OH
Tudor's Biscuit World, Huntington, WV
Stuart's Hot Dogs, Huntington, WV
Jolly Pirate Donuts, Huntington, WV

I wish I had better things to say about food choices in Middle America. But unfortunately, it's not much better than any town on the interstate in North Carolina. McD's, Arby's, Wendy's, you know the drill. And in the midst of this culinary apocalypse are these languishing gems (like those listed above), hanging on (sometimes by a thread) next to their corporate competitors, relying on a devoted fan base built up over the decades to keep their underpaid workers on the books. The heartland ain't pretty. Knoxville, Cincinatti, Huntington, all had large swathes of destitute, delapidated structures either inside or surrounding a once-venerable downtown. this is how I imagine Downtown Durham of the 1990's. The hollowing out of America through the export of manufacturing and other medium-skilled, middle-class jobs in the 80's and 90's is the true face of trickle-down economics. By making our economy more lean, competitive, and productive, we've increased social stratification. The resurgence of Durham as a foodie outpost of the South has improved our fortunes overall, but have the gains been distributed equally?

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