Friday, March 2, 2012

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!

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At March 2, 2012 at 12:55 AM , Blogger Ally Gregory-Moore said...

I support businesses that, in my opinion, reflect my values.

I loved the Bistro before all this drama, but I make sure to frequent it more now.

I don't frequent a lot of national chains due to what issues they have donated money to or what causes they have supported. (Chick-Fil-A being one of them)

The fundraiser at Boyd's actually took place on a night when I was at work across the street at Urban. It was a strange site to see in the Old City, but I didn't pay it any mind one way or the other.

At March 2, 2012 at 8:04 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

Never discuss politics at the dinner table.

At March 2, 2012 at 10:09 AM , Anonymous p_q said...

Definitely never going to Boyd's jig and reel. As the new political mantra goes - vote with your dollars!

At March 2, 2012 at 11:31 AM , Anonymous Art Wagner said...

There is a big difference between taking a political or social stand on the spur of the moment--unplanned and extemporaneously, if you will--as Boggs did, and one taken through deliberate and specific planning as the Boyds did with their fundraiser.

Frankly, I was extremely surprised by the Boyds doing this. Knowing their interest in animal issues, and knowing that many of the employees of the bar and of PetSafe probably do not share these political views, it seemed strange that they wanted to specifically alienate a large segment of downtown customers. Equally strange, but not political, is that the bar menu shows absolutely no sensitivity to animal issues, if you get my drift.

At March 2, 2012 at 11:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if Boyd's were to hold an Obama rally next week, would that equal out the damage? Showing both sides of the political picture?

No idea if they would, but I KNOW that many of you would not be complaining if the coin was on the other shoe, and you'd be probably be defending it when the conservatives come a criticizing you for having an Obama rally.

Let's not be hypocrites.

As a downtown business owner myself, we once held a Mike Padgett event. I don't know him, what he believes in or frankly who he really is. I also don't care. My job is to make money, not to change anyone's political beliefs using my business.

At March 2, 2012 at 12:23 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Great discussion, everyone. I have to honestly say that I'm surprised at the intensity of the reaction to Boyd's. Maybe you guys can bring me along, but I kind of see it like "Anonymous," above, it's their restaurant and I never really assumed they agreed with me politically.

I wouldn't want to have campaign literature forced on me nor would I want their views impinging on my enjoyment of the place, but it is their place and they can rent to whom they please, right? If it was more extreme than simply supporting a particular candidate, maybe I would feel the outrage.

I'm open to convincing, so let the conversation continue.

At March 2, 2012 at 12:55 PM , Blogger Andrea said...

I agree with Ally on a lot of points. I loved the Bistro before, I love it more after what Martha did. I stay away from corporate chains that I don't agree with, Chik-fil-a being one of them. But the goal for any business is to make money. So what is the problem if Boyd let Romney supporters hold a fundraiser there? I assume they paid to rent the place. That doesn't necessarily reflect the business owner's politics. It's just business.

However if they held a fundraiser to raise money for someone more contentious and hateful, I'd probably have a problem with it. Like Rush Limbaugh and his woman-hating ways. If they hold a fundraiser or anything in support of that guy, I definitely will boycott them.

At March 2, 2012 at 2:09 PM , Anonymous Art Wagner said...

Maybe I'm incorrect, but I assumed that the Boyds were SPONSORING the fundraiser, not just renting the place out. Correct me if I'm wrong.

At March 3, 2012 at 10:14 AM , Blogger Larkin said...

This is a really interesting question b/c I don't like the idea of boycotting a business for supporting a political candidate or party I don't support. Political diversity-- no matter how frustrating I might find some of the directions politics has taken lately--is important.

That being said, I loved that Martha told Campfield to leave, and I've gone out of my way to eat at the Bistro at the Bijou more often since then. And, I agree w/Andrea's point about boycotting a business that supports people such as Limbaugh who thrive on hateful words that regularly misrepresent opposing viewpoints to fan the flames of bigotry in the name of political discourse.

But that can be a pretty fine line in practice, esp. given how contentious politics has been in recent years. For me, however it is less about the politics for me than about supporting positive ideas/places at a time when there is too much negativity in the world as it is. Market Square reflects our political diversity-- in it's businesses as well as the groups who make it the center of their protests, etc. I love the energy such a diversity of views/voices can have when the dynamic of that discourse is tempered by our need to be good neighbors.

At March 4, 2012 at 7:33 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

I think you may be right. That was the impression I got. Still, that means we disagree on candidates and they are supporting theirs. Should I be angry?

At March 4, 2012 at 7:34 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

It sounds like we are on about the same page, Andrea. Rush Limbaugh is another question, entirely.

At March 4, 2012 at 7:35 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Very nicely said, Larkin.

At March 4, 2012 at 9:13 PM , Anonymous Art Wagner said...

No, you shouldn't be angry--and I'm not. Disappointed is more like it. I think my original point was that Boggs made an impromptu decision in the heat of the moment based on personal principal that was not strictly political, while the Boyds willingly chose to have their business aligned with a specific candidate for political reasons. Apples and oranges really.

At March 10, 2012 at 8:02 PM , Anonymous Nathan Johnson said...

In all the discussion no one has asked us here at the Jig & Reel. Although we try to avoid public discussions of this type, because they are not generally conducive to good business, we felt that this matter should be addressed. The person that actually started this all did not asked us why the event took place. They simply assumed they knew why and began defaming us on facebook as well as any other site they could post a review on. We chose to delete the users post because we felt it was misinformation and OUR facebook page is not the place for this type of discussion. The event was not sponsored by the Boyd's nor was it a fund raiser. It was simply a rally. And to clear up any confusion, they rented the place just like anyone else can. Thank you for the open discussion and your patronage of our establishment. We appreciate and encourage the diversity that everyone brings through our doors.

At March 15, 2012 at 10:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

WBIR channel 10 was very clear that the event being held for Mitt Romney was a fundraiser when the TV coverage was broadcast on the 11PM news that night.

Perhaps the lesson to Boyd's Jig & Reel is they need to be careful about who they rent out their establishment to. Television news coverage of a political event held at your establishment is NOT good PR. There was quite a bit of discussion on Facebook about the Romney fundraiser right after the fact, and you can see above from comments that there are quite a few people that aren't going to patronize businesses associated with political candidates.


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