Saturday, September 25, 2010

Magnificent Obsessions: Eating a City and Eating the World

Here's a typical conversation that can happen in large cities with lots of different restaurants. It starts with:
"Where do you want to eat?"
Typically followed by:
"I don't know. What type of food do you feel like?"
In 1989 a group in Toronto decided to solve the questions of "where do you want to eat?". They'd eat at every restaurant in the city, one a week, in alphabetical order. Every year they take the Toronto Yellow Pages restaurant section and continue from whichever restaurant they last visited. The Serial Diners are still going strong. Their agenda shows that as of July 2010 they had reached the letter K - kniblets LMT to be exact.

Their site has the rules, and copies of several articles that chronicle the story of the group. If you own a restaurant in Toronto which starts with the letter L then be prepared. On a seemingly random Friday a large group of friendly diners will descend on your restaurant unannounced.

That solves the question of where to eat. What about the type of food?

Well three intrepid diners living in New York are trying to systematically handle that problem. They are going to eat the cuisine of the United Nations. Again the approach is to take the countries in alphabetical order. But they aren't going to fly around the world. They don't need to do that. After all they live in New York City. Home of the United Nations and one of the most diverse cities on the planet - at least in terms of cuisine.

So, to use their tag line they will be "eating the UN, A-Z without ever leaving NYC". The wonderfully named Confined Nomads are not quite as proscribed in their choice of restaurants. They don't have to visit every Chinese restaurant. They will jut try and do a representative sampling of the cuisine of China. Their journey, which as of now has reached Columbia, is filled with discussions on how much is representative and insights into the cuisines and restaurants they've encountered.

Being Canadian I decided to check out what the confined nomads came up with for Canadian cuisine. Canada is blessed with being a large country where we freely eat and enjoy the foods of the world. Toronto is probably even more diverse in terms of ethnic and regional restaurants than even New York. But we've been so busy eating the cuisine of the rest of the world that I'm not sure we've created a unique cuisine of our own. So I was a little hesitant to find out what represented Canada in New York City.

Canada, according to our restaurants, is TPoutine (and who doesn't love the concept of poutine), Tim Horton's Donuts (though they didn't like the coffee. Must be all that over roasted and burnt starbuckian crud the USA calls coffee. At least it isn't the watered down barely dark brown water they used to serve in the US), and The Ontario Bar. They didn't make it to Mile End which is a Montreal style deli.

Poutine, Donuts, and an inviting bar with Canadian beer and Whiskey? That's good enough representation for me!

No comments: