Thursday, December 29, 2011



Today’s (i.e., Thursday, 12/29’s) Chicago Sun-Times reports that 2012’s Taste of Chicago, having been returned to the tutelage of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs after being managed by the Park District in 2011, will run for only five days and will not coincide with the Independence Day holiday. This is, of course, great news; the only better news would have been for this annual Taste of Ptomaine to have been canceled altogether. (See my iconic 6/22/11 post, TASTE OF DYSPEPSIA.)

The good news regarding “the Taste” ends there, however. As the Sun-Times reports

In October, (Cultural Affairs) department commissioner Michelle Boone told the Sun-Times to expect a shorter festival with more focus on the city’s cutting edge culinary scene.

“Cutting edge culinary scene”? Yours truly, who is, as is readily apparent from his considerable girth, quite attuned to things culinary, has, after years of observation, determined that “cutting edge,” as applied to the “culinary scene,” is determined by the ratio of the price of the cuisine to the size of the portion served. The higher the ratio, the more “cutting edge” the cuisine. When one ends up paying $75-$100 dollars for a portion of sufficient size to fill one’s tooth, one has achieved the apex of cutting edgedness, if you will. But I digress.

It seems, according to the Sun-Times, that Department of Cultural Affairs (The moniker “Department of Cultural Affairs” has a distinctively Soviet flavor to it, don’t you think? But I digress again.) is looking to something called Chow Town, an appendage to something called Lollapalooza, as a template for “the Taste” in its effort to achieve cutting edge nirvana. The cited Chowtown last summer featured such faire as “endamame with soy cumin hemp seed vinaigrette,” “scallops with torched ponzu aioli,” and, in another apparent hapless in-crowd bid to appear blue collar hip, "lobster corndogs.”

Huh? Don’t ask me what “endamame with soy cumin hemp seed vinaigrette” or “torched ponzu aioli” are; I have no idea, either. But this is the type of thing we should have expected when we replaced our wannabe yuppie mayor with a genuine yuppie mayor, the kind of guy who doubtless is vastly more familiar with “endamame with soy cumin hemp seed vinaigrette” than with a Snyder’s hot dog, a Wonderburger, a Tom-Tom Tamale, a World’s Finest chocolate bar, or a golabki from the late and lamented Busy Bee or the still up and running Sawa’s Old Warsaw.

Not only does the mayor’s minions’ seeking to transform the Taste of Chicago into a display case for “the city’s cutting edge culinary scene” symbolize the degeneration of our great city from an ethnic blue collar heaven into a dystopia of gentrified predictability; it also makes no economic sense. As I pointed out in my seminal 6/22/11 post, TASTE OF DYSPEPSIA, a good measure of “the Taste’s” reason to exist is to provide an avenue for suburban and transplanted suburban types to sample our great city’s ethnic cuisine without actually having to leave the north shore or the near north side to venture into areas that might even be (EGADS!) situated south of Congress and west of Hyde Park. No one, other than those who are too sensible to pay ludicrous prices in a desperate attempt to appear to be hip, is afraid to venture into neighborhoods in which the “neighborhood” restaurants feature “endamame with soy cumin hemp seed vinaigrette.” So why should those seeking “scallops with torched ponzu aioli” have to brave the crowds in Grant Park when they can sample such faire on Fullerton Avenue or in dear old Lake Forest?

What is really perplexing about the changes signified by the transformation of Chicago from a kielbasa and czernina town into an “endamame with soy cumin hemp seed vinaigrette” bastion of yuppie artificiality is that the mayor, his dazzling young urbanite staff, and the consanguineous media seem to regard such a defenestration as a sign of progress.

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