I used to love mailbag columns. For those of you who don't know what that is, it was a column (and maybe it still is) that printed letters from readers, that usually had a question, in the newspaper and then the newspaper would answer them. I usually read the ones related to sports and the ones I enjoyed most were the ones that included irreverence and whimsy. Why am I writing about this? Primarily because I think this will be my only chance to write a mail bag since I got a little bit of response from my last post. Other reasons include:
- The post I wrote last week was far and away the most read post on this blog by like a factor of 62 gazillion. Many thanks to the Jedi who posted a blurb of it on social media. Even more thanks to all of you that read it.
- As with something that does get read, there were many opinions on the lists and more importantly, some great discussions on parts of the post that didn't involve a list.
- I obviously missed a few people that I wanted to get on the lists so just letting people know that that lists are a work in progress and will be constantly updated.
- I've always wanted to write a mail bag post.
Well, the closest thing to a mail bag post because I'm not going to post exactly what people have spoken to me about or wrote to me.
Thankfully there were only a few inquiries from people and why they didn't make the lists. My best answer is that I simply forgot them. In some cases, it's a shitty answer because I like their accounts. In other cases, I wasn't familiar with the person or their account. I just can't put you on a list if I'm not familiar with your content. Regardless, I'm sorry if I forgot.
I was thankful for people highlighting the fact that I took the time to put people in overlapping categories. The categories aren't perfect and may not even be relevant but it is the way I look at the food social media community in Baltimore. But, some good conversations did come out of them.
The one I want to highlight is the category I labeled The Others. I wrestled with the title and even if this needed to be pointed out. The name of the category could be better but I wanted to point out exactly what we are in this city. There are some amazing social media accounts curated by people of color (I'm certain I didn't get all of them) but their representation in food social media seems disproportional to what this city looks like. I realize that putting them all together puts an unfortunate label on them which may not lead to further inclusion. I hope that doesn't happen. I weighed that consequence with the fact that at least starting this discussion is more important.
Why is this important? I think it's important that for you to evaluate any city's food scene, you need input from a diverse cultural mosaic. It's important to see what different faces think of the same place or important to see how different cultural paths lead to the same spot. In my opinion, it doesn't seem like there is enough cultural representation in social media influencer events to properly get the whole perspective for different restaurants and events. It's not my place to say who should or shouldn't get invited. But, I don't think you'll get a proper picture, evaluation or even worse appealing to all the markets that you could possibly access.
But, why is social media important since I spent a whole blog post on why it's so hard to measure return on social media for restaurants? It matters because of what I quoted in my last post from the Baltimore Beat. In case you didn't read it, here it is:
The only possible reason why anyone would care about the Rec Pier Chop House is because it might say something to an outsider about the state of Baltimore dining. But that’s a bad reason even if it were true. And it’s not true. I promise you that not a living soul outside of Baltimore has an opinion about the dining scene in Baltimore. I think that’s a good thing.
This quote has stuck in my head ever since I read it. It not only denigrates a restaurant that the writer has never been to but also denigrates the food scene in Baltimore. Now, I can't say I'm completely happy about Baltimore's food scene but I think it's mainly because I've lived in New York City and Washington, DC and have been somewhat nostalgic about how good the food is in those cities. But, that doesn't mean there isn't something going on in this city and it certainly doesn't mean no one outside of Baltimore thinks about the food in Baltimore and that sure as fuck isn't a good thing.
In my opinion, Baltimore's food scene is growing in all the years I've had a chance to eat here. No matter what you think of Woodberry Kitchen or The Charleston, they have started a wave of culinary interest in this city from the outside world. Ekiben, La Cuchara, Alma Cocina Latina, and many more have all generated buzz outside of 695. Even the addition of Rec Pier and Rye Street Tavern (though I think they need to be less cautious) has shown that Baltimore is growing as a food town. The reason why it should matter that people outside of Charm City are taking notice is because in order for a food scene to grow, it needs outside influence to maybe spur some creative collaboration, it needs people comparing it's cuisine to those around the country to see where our food stands, and it's never a bad thing when people outside this city take notice of something good about food in Baltimore.
Where does social media come in? In the absence of a vibrant food media in Baltimore, there are plenty of social media personalities that have plenty to say about Baltimore food. You've already seen my list but there are plenty more that have something to contribute. Obviously, you'd have to parse through them to see what you like and don't like but don't think for a second that there are some strong and well informed opinions about food in Baltimore. It may not have the most cutting edge food and I've definitely has some disappointing meals here but there are so many great and creative personalities in the food industry here or at least food industry adjacent that you can find on social media and perhaps because Baltimore has smaller scene, you have fewer accounts (a la NYC or DC) that get paid for posting and more accounts that just post food because they enjoy it. This make Baltimore seem more genuine when you filter through social media. This also makes it easier to form your own opinion on Baltimore food even if you're an outsider.