Increasingly, it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish between The Onion and many websites devoted to the culinary arts. A recent visit to eater.com revealed articles on these earth-shattering topics:
Where can you find the best cookie in Los Angeles?
What is the most underrated pastry shop in Montreal?
If you could only have one doughnut in Portland, what would it be?
What’s the best lobster roll in Maine?
The last one does have some merit, even if it’s a bit silly—the worst lobster roll in Maine, after all, is probably going to be the best one you’ve ever had. But doughnuts in Portland? Do we actually need a new version of the Michelin Guide, As Told to Homer Simpson?
Yes, it’s too easy to poke fun at desperate attempts to fill up space, to appear hip and current and trendy. But the frightening thing is that eater.com is probably one of the best delivery systems on food information out there. As the culinary world (and the world of culinary journalism) has become more crowded and overheated, food coverage has morphed into a parody of itself. Turn on the TV, and you can watch 24/7 reports on restaurants around the country that serve six-pound hamburgers and all-you-can eat fried catfish.
The common theme in a great deal of this coverage is gluttony. We’re eating more, not better, but apparently fewer people can tell the difference. And I’m not just referring to shows such as Adam Richman’s Man vs. Food: the main thing being celebrated through much of the food media appears to be abbondanza, rather than talent or creativity or originality. Part of the reason is that it’s hard to envision Guy Fieri doing a thoughtful report on a Michelin three-star dining experience, but the other part is that it’s even harder to picture a TV audience that would be interested.
For the record, the best doughnut in Portland (Oregon, not Maine) may be found at a place called Cocodonuts. If you’re going, it’s the maple buttermilk bar. According to eater.com, “Eating one is kind of like having the world’s best stack of pancakes in the palm of your hand.”
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); for more information, go to amazon.com