[This post started out as the (overly-long) introduction to a review I posted yesterday of Nawal, a Somali restaurant in Burnsville, MN. So as to let that review stand on its own, I’ve split the part about my current shift in focus on the blog to this separate post.]
In the days after the US General Election I published a post titled “Lifestyle Blogging in Trump’s America?“. In it I noted the incongruity of blogging about whisky and food in a time when the confirmation and acceleration of political and social crisis seemed to be all around us. I concluded by saying that while it was necessary to move (further) into political action, it was also important to not let these dark developments make us foreclose on the possibility of pleasure. Well, two and a half months later I’m still refusing to foreclose on pleasure but, especially after the events of the last 10 days, I am not feeling terribly motivated these days to sit down every night and write tasting notes on whisky (or brandy or rum).
This is not to say that I am going to stop blogging or that I am now going to start blogging about politics. I just want to make more of an effort to locate what I do here within the world we find ourselves in now. And I’m going to try to do that within the terms of the blog’s stated subject matter (even if some of that has previously only received nominal coverage here). No, I’m not going to find a way to make whisky reviews into political commentary; but I will probably blog much less about whisky (see above). My restaurant reviews, however, will shift emphasis, to far greater coverage of smaller, immigrant-run establishments; in particular, I will try to focus on establishments that cater to communities who have been specifically targeted by recent political directives: Somali, North African and Middle Eastern restaurants in the Twin Cities are at the top of my list and I will also be reviewing more Mexican and other Latin American restaurants. I will also continue to review the restaurants featuring the foods of other immigrant communities (Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai etc.)
Thinking of restaurant reviews as even soft political intervention may strike you as silly. I think, however, that food and the places we gather together to eat food are crucial sites where otherness gets taken over by neighbourliness. In eating we take other people’s cultures, the ways in which they consume the world, into ourselves and this is, I think, one of the ways in which we can translate ourselves into something new. I don’t mean to be pollyana’ish about this: it is of course true that people generally have better relationships with other cultures’ foods than they do with their people (see, for example, anti-Mexican political rhetoric coming from people who happily eat Mexican food). And I don’t mean to suggest either that eating or reviewing restaurants is a substitute for other, more direct forms of political activity (which we should also all continue to engage in). But accepting the hospitality of others, especially marginalized groups, can be a way of rewiring our connections to them, of stating true community. If it is true that we are what we eat, it may also be true, especially in times like these, that we are where we eat. If you think that’s too mushy or pretentious, it’s also a way of signaling support with money.
In addition to drawing more of my local readership’s attention to immigrant-run restaurants, I am also going to make more of an effort to write about books and films from the non-Western world. I’d wanted to do this from the get-go but never really got around to it—in part because I got caught up very early in being recognized as a whisky blogger, in part because I am lazy and tasting notes are very easy/quick to write, and in part because writing and talking about books and films are central to my professional life and it was nice to do something very different in my spare time. Now I’m going to try and do more of it on the blog. If nothing else, it may force my reading out of my comfort zones—let me admit here that I have read very little modern Arab literature and that my knowledge of African literature is also not as up-to-date as I would like.
I’m not going to stop blogging about whisky etc. entirely, but the numbers of whisky reviews will drop: probably one review a week rather than three. (I’m still going to be drinking whisky, of course.) As I’m not going to be reviewing very many whiskies I’m not going to do the usual listing of potential reviews at the start of the month. And I do hope to get back to normal service sooner rather than later; hopefully my whisky readership—or at least the fraction of my readership that is only interested in my whisky posts—will come back then. There are certainly plenty of other places to read about whisky.
Speaking of which, I should say that this is a personal decision on my part, based entirely on how I’m feeling about my priorities these days. By no means do I think that everyone should stop blogging full-time about whisky etc. It’s not like blogging is the sum-total of anyone’s activities or commitments and I’m in no sense calling for anyone else to follow my lead. Indeed, I’ll be reading other whisky blogs regularly—primarily Sku’s Recent Eats and Diving for Pearls—and maybe I’ll see some of those who lose interest in this blog in the comments there.
To the hope of the return of better days!