Political Food Fights

Bistro at the Bijou, Knoxville

Has eating always been this political? It seems it is ever more so, recently in this city.

There have always been political/social/religious overtones to eating. Some cultures such as Indian cultures have traditionally been vegetarian. Traditional Jewish culture has insisted on kosher foods. Both Jews and Moslems have insisted on a pork-free diet. More recent converts to the vegetarian life-style sometimes seemed to look askance at us meat eaters. Vegans seem to think vegetarians are just a little too loose with the diet. Some meat eaters kill their own meat while others don’t really want to know the details behind their steak.

Other dietary battle grounds, or at least arenas for discussion include the whole industrial foods vs. organic foods debate. The imported or the local can set some people to draw lines in the sand. Thanks mostly to the fine folks at Just Ripe, I’ve come to appreciate local, organic foods more than I ever expected.

More recently, the political lines in Knoxville have been drawn around which restaurants deserve our support and which we should avoid at all costs. Of course, when Martha decided to clean out her kitchen at the Bistro at the Bijou ridding it of any Campfieldness, all hell broke loose. Supporters promised to flood the place and celebrate one small blow struck for the oppressed, while detractors announced they would never set foot in there again.

Boyd’s Jig and Reel, Old City Knoxville
Apparently, that isn’t where the political food fight stops. At the other end of downtown, in the Old City at Boyd’s Jig and Reel, a fund-raiser for Romney was held last week. I also wrote a post about Boyd’s that week, and as a result got this post from an anonymous commenter, “Boyd’s Jig and Reel has been holding fundraisers for Mitt Romney, and when comments are posted on their Facebook profile questioning this, they’ve been deleting them. Shame on them! Old time string musicians are not conservative Republicans and it’s a disgrace they’d do such a thing. Not seeing food in there again, and we’ve been spreading the word far and wide on Facebook about this.”

This took me aback for multiple reasons. I’d never realized that “old time string musicians” could be characterized as having one or another political philosophy. If pressed, I might have guessed that the older members of that group might be conservative enough to reject Mitt Romney for being too liberal. Maybe I’ve missed something there.

Sabrina has a birthday at Boyd’s Jig and Reel, Old City, Knoxville
I started my dining day last Saturday at the Bistro and ended it at Boyd’s Jig and Reel at a birthday party for a friend. I went to both because I thought I might enjoy myself, not so much for politics either way. People who read this blog either know or suspect I’m more in the progressive camp than not, though I’m interested in any one’s ideas. For that reason I might be inclined to support Martha, but not so much to boycott Boyd’s. I mean if a progressive wanted to eat politically in east Tennessee, he or she might well starve.

According to the numbers in the survey above (at the time of this writing) we are a pretty divided group with about the same percentage saying politics and food never mix as those saying food is always political. The majority of us allow that it could influence our decisions and that seems about right to me, if the situation were extreme.

So, what do yo think? Are you going to avoid Boyd’s or party at Martha’s for political reasons or ignore the politics and just enjoy downtown for what it is? Leave a comment or vote above. In the meantime, if you won’t throw any food at me, I won’t throw any at you!