Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Bob Evans and The New York Times

There was an article in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine that really got my attention. No, the George Bush feature story was not it. In this article reporter Rebecca Skloot takes the reader on a journey between Bob Evans and Baristas, in New Martinsville, WV.

It is perhaps more than apropos to pick up the theme of John Edwards' Presidential bid this year and give it new life in the daily lives of West Virginians, or residents of any other state for that matter. Even though, I’m not inclined to vote for Democrats on a national level, it was not hard for me to understand the appeal Edward’s was making. Since this was not the appeal of the Kerry campaign, and seems relegated to the back burner of the current national debate, the idea remains there waiting for the embrace of others.

Ms. Skloot did just that in her review of the eating habits of New Martinsville’s residents. From a culinary perspective, I tend to side with the diners at Baristas. As a reader of the New York Times, I’m left wondering why the article was in the magazine in the first place. That isn’t to suggest that Ms. Skloot doesn’t come across as a good writer able to captivate the readers attention (not only did I read it, but I’m writing about it).

What I am suggesting (and narrowly, as well) is that it was a bad choice by the editorial staff of the Times to publish this article. It was a mistake because for people who live in cities larger than New Martinsville and smaller than New York City, the conclusion of the article is a no-brainer:
Maybe I had an idea that I could convert people -- that I could persuade some Bob Evans folks that they should be open to change, that the food really was better at Baristas; and maybe persuade some Baristas people that the Bob Evans people are interesting and funny and friendly, too. But in all my time shuttling back and forth between the two restaurants, I didn't change a single person's mind. At some point, it hit me: it's not just New Martinsville. Bob Evans people and Baristas people live together all over the United States. [emphasis added] They often go to the same stores and send their kids to the same schools, but try as they might, they simply can't understand why anyone in his right mind wouldn't eat the way they do, think the way they do and vote the way they do. Unfortunately, I'm not sure a burger can change that, not even a really, really good one.
This kind of observation, while more than appropriate for a nice comfortable piece on CBS Sunday Morning, does not belong in a magazine like this. Observations of this sort are, well, a lot like Bob Evans.


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