There is a separation taking place in the area — the separation of diners.
It’s now about choosing to settle with becoming an educated and often pretentious foodie, eating out to silently prove something to others with social and financial standing, or depriving oneself of good eating by carelessly consuming. This modern age doesn’t allow for being A and B. I refuse to simply conform to the masses. How to find the middle ground, I hope to find out.
Boston is certainly not the only US city home to this “Food Classism,” nor will it be the first to change, but could recognizing its dense population of collegians and powerful group of food aficionados be the first step in reaching the city’s maximum culinary potential?
The customary fad amongst young people today is to eat cheap without taking into account the consequences of not eating well. Perhaps the cause is that most weekend destinations of 20-somethings offer bars with little more than the bare minimum of quality food. Ideally, this would be compensated for by surrounding restaurants if they stayed open into the night, not an average pizza joint or the hot dog stand on the corner, but places like Korean Restaurant, Color or Dim Sum Bakery in Allston. How wondrous it would be to walk out of the bar at 2 a.m. and rather than have to create some makeshift meal from old leftovers and pantry fillings, have the option of getting a bowl of steaming noodles or late night tapas nearby.
It’s rare to find high end culinary havens advertised in college reading and even less common to spot undergrad at a Michelin-Rated restaurant. This definitive line does not seem to harm any in day to day life, but it does have influence on what food as a culture means. It screams extreme; although society has evolved greatly since the days of TV dinners, it turns a blind eye in other ways. There is a population whose diet largely consists of Ramen, Ellio’s Pizza, and scrambled eggs. On the contrary, a good portion of any given nationwide city is searching for the most succulent aged steaks, the earthiest truffles, and the fattiest foie gras. Is it that one must grow into such a species in order to partake in these delicacies?
This culinary gap must be filled to make room for a more united community. The resident college students, many of which remain in Boston after getting one, two, three degrees surely have had noteworthy meals back home. Moving out of comfort and into new routines could aid in lowering the standards, replacing a decent dinner with Natty Ice. This would explain why the majority of educated culinarians in America are older; quality of food is rarely on the top of any soul-searching 20 year old’s list. That is why; as children, fond memories of meals are created; as teenagers, the traditions are reminisced and missed but not continued; and as adults, new ones are reinstated.
The disconnect may not be as apparent in culinary terms as it is in other ways. There are few nightlife hot spots in which all age groups coexist in the same venue. When an exception arises, in such places as the Allston dive bars, the common ground is something limited to that of throwing darts or playing pool. Similarly, select whiskey bars downtown are inviting to those who share the interest of consuming high end scotch. This is not to say that any one lifestyle is better than the next, but rather that the choices are limited for those who wish to harmonize.
Luckily, Boston is so adventurously divine in its ways, offered are hidden gems tucked away throughout the city. It can be difficult to find a reasonably priced retail outlet for gourmet food, but there are select places in which the staff is so friendly and eager to educate, price will no longer be a major concern. Although the majority of shoppers at newly owned and operated Don Otto’s Market may have larger paychecks than the average Bostonian and the clientele at Cambridge’s Formaggio Kitchen are likely to be shopping for more indulgent dinners, the quality surpasses Star Market any day. Likewise, such places as Super 88 offer great deals on produce to neighboring BU students and imported, yet inexpensive, specialties to the diverse community of Boston with the benefit of not having to travel into Chinatown. Missing in the supermarket are the gastronomers who may not venture out to one of their locations, not knowing what they’re missing.
I ask you to take a step away from your comfort zone and ask yourself what food means to you. The simplest of questions often have the most complex answers.