Buckle My Shoe!

November 2, 2007 § 4 Comments


From Leah Peah’s interview with Maggie Mason (back when she was Margaret Berry, so a while ago):

Q. Why do you blog?

A. I can only think in tiny little spurts. And mostly I think about things I read on Metafilter or what I like to have for lunch, so blogs are a good fit.

(emphasis added)

Published August 11, 2006, Mason’s book: No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog




I’ve long considered running a weekly featurette on Bill Spurr’s Bourgois Gourmet column in The Chronicle-Herald. For those who aren’t local (that’s most of you), The Halifax Chronicle-Herald is the most widely-circulated newspaper in Nova Scotia. Since we’re a province of about 900,000 people and roughly 350,000 of those live in a twenty-mile radius around the capital city, Spurr has a surprising influence on the dining scene around here. He frequently judges Nova Scotia culinary competitions, and has been a judge in national competitions— but he knows shit about food.

My complaints about him and his food criticism are many and varied. He relies far too much on his 11-year-old son’s opinion of food. His palate is shockingly limited. He orders beef too often. HIs obsession with hand-cut fries is absurd. He knows nothing about wine, and was a committed Budweiser drinker before developing a taste for Stella Artois, the most flavorless of foreign beer. He reviews places owned by friends and after he’s been made. He called Trinity the Best Restaurant in Halifax in 2006.

But now, you don’t have to take my word for it**. I’ll excerpt the laziest or stupidest bits of his column right here, every Friday during NaBloPoMo, and even afterwards if I find I enjoy it.

See if you can spot the commonality between last week’s column and this week’s. So last week, Spurr reviewed Cousin’s Snack Bar on Agricola Street.

“I was also happy with the fried chicken, which was way less greasy than the kind you get in a bucket. The fries, however, were not good, soggy and from frozen.”

Then later,

“The best part of the meal was the fries, which surprised me by being freshly hand-cut, crisp and sensational. It turns out that the frozen fries are only served when it gets so busy that the people in the kitchen can’t cut up potatoes quickly enough to keep up. The hand-cut ones are among the best in the city.

Unfortunately, they come with ketchup packets. I hate that […]

“My club sandwich was made small-town style, that is to say the right way, a triple-decker with the traditional ingredients and regular mayo on white bread instead of focaccia or some other fancy bread.”

This week, he reviewed CocoaPesto, a restaurant about an hour outside the city that I’ve been dying to try for months. Not as bad as usual, except for this gem:

“I chose a burger, partly because I was eager to try the hand-cut fries that come with it. […] The burger turned out to be a double cheeseburger with melted cheddar, tomato and pickle all served on a fresh sesame seed bun. The burger was top-rate, and was outshone by the big pile of hand-cut, shoestring-style fries.”

Firstly, I’m not convinced that a burger (let alone a double cheeseburger) should be on a brunch menu at all, but what business does a food critic have ordering that when the option of Tuscan eggs with tomato-mint sauce* is on offer? When a kitchen is offering something unusual, don’t we do them a disservice when we order the mundane? Don’t we give the impression that readers should always stick with safe choices?

Sigh. Maybe this featurette isn’t a good idea after all. Too depressing.

*To his credit, Spurr’s father actually ordered the Tuscan Eggs, “after extensive consultation with [their] very competent waitress”, even though “a tomato mint sauce didn’t sound like something [Spurr] would want on eggs.” Not surprisingly, and by his own addmission, Ol’ Billy was wrong about that.


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