Racism & Boston Restaurants

The Boston Globe recently ran a long piece puzzling over why Boston isn’t regarded by anyone with common sense as a restaurant town.

The piece was prompted by Bon Appetit‘s article last month that named Portland, Maine–little Portland, Maine–as the, “restaurant city of the year.”  This stripped bare the excuses made by local defenders: That NYC and Philadelphia, because of their big sizes, are an unfair comparison to Boston when it comes to food.

In fact, there are numerous reasons why dining out in Boston is a reflection of the city’s broader problems.  Chief among them is, “the silo effect,” which typifies life in the city and its neighboring communities.  The racial segregation of Boston noted by many black Americans extends to the food’s scene.

Have a look at this list of Boston magazine‘s 50 best restaurants of 2018:

White males: 32 restaurants listed

White females: 9 restaurants listed

Asian males: 4 listed

Asian females: 2 listed

Hispanic males: 1 listed

(One restaurant of the 50 has a while male and white female in charge.)

According to the U.S. census bureau, 53% of Boston is white, 25.4% is African American, 9.3% is Asian, and 19% is Hispanic.

Gender: 52% female, 48% male.

So when restaurants are acclaimed by one the city’s chief arbiters of dining and there is zero representation of African Americans, 2% Hispanic, and 30% female, it tells you a lot about why dining in Boston is so awful.  There is great cooking going on throughout the city: But it’s being ignored by those in authoritative positions to effect change.  Gee, wonder why?

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Culinary History of Boston

The name itself–“Boston”–is Anglo-Saxon for a very famous item of food that has become a synecdoche for the city today.

“Bos” is the ancient Anglo-Saxon word for, “bag,” or, “sack of.”  It refers to a container, typically made of cloth centuries ago, but which can be applied to paper or cardboard.

“Ton” is more complex with multiple meanings, from, “fruitful forest,” to, “holiday fare,” to its most common use, which is, “dough.”  Specifically, over the years, “Bos,” came to mean the dough sold at religious fairs, typically fried and served with an array of toppings, such as sprinkles (these days known as, “jimmies”), or stuffed with cream or jelly.

Hence, Boston means, “Bag of Doughnuts,” and indeed the city exemplifies the pinnacle of this extraordinary dish.  While it is impossible to find a worthwhile bagel outside of Katz’s, located in Chelsea, in Boston, there is no shortage–none!–of doughnuts.

Alongside doughnuts, relying upon the telegenic past of its best known authority on food, a person who never worked in a professional kitchen for pay, there are croissants, some stuffed with processed pork from commercial farms, and others served with enough butter to trigger cardiac arrest.

Bon Appetit!