with food, there’s always something new

The UnFood Food Column

Originally published on,  February 2, 2007

The local food press is active and alert as any in the nation and a pleasure to read”
Jeffrey Steengarten’s article In Search of a Cuisine

Does Indy have a food scene? Or are we hapless, ignorant, overfed hicks who settle for Applebee and Chili’s chain/franchises? Are we like Las Vegas, so barren of agricultural bounty and cultural heritage that we have to import Puck to run our art museum’s restaurant?

When Ruth Holladay wrote about the 86th and Haverstick Road lawsuit, a local food pundit errupted in anger.
“If Whole Foods doesn’t come to Indy, it won’t be Judith Conley’s fault, or Tom Kite’s, or the City-County Council’s. Nor will it be because the supposedly community friendly store is put off by our contentious wrangling (Whole Foods grocery happily located its Upper West Side location in the bottom floor the NYC’s Columbus Circle Time Warner building amid much gnashing of teeth.)

It will be because we just may not yet be big or affluent enough yet for the high-end. organic grocery” (FeedmeDrinkMe, August 19, 2006)

Gee whiz, we’re not only dumb hicks, we’re po’ trash! Even if we did know what foie gras is, we sho’ nuf couldn’t afford it.

I see Indianapolis as a work-in-progress, a glass half full, not half empty. And the food scene is a pot simmering, about to come to a full boil. Not only are we big enough and rich enough for a Whole Foods store, we’re getting one twice as big as their normal store. (Does that makes us twice as affluent?) Trader’s Point Creamery was started just a few years ago, and is gaining momentum. We have two culinary schools, each with different approaches, but turning out talented cooks. There are two Slow Food conviviums in the state. Even though our agricultural policy is draconian, sustainable farming is alive and well.

We may not be San Francisco or Seattle when it comes to restaurants and farmers markets, but guess what? San Francisco wasn’t San Francisco 30 years ago when Alice Watters started Chez Panisse. And Seattle, ditto twenty years ago. Good “terroir,” talented chefs and an active, creative press buillt the foundation for dynamic food scenes.

It’s for that reason, I’ve decided to write a weekly food column for indyrats. Once a week for the next year, you can read The Unfood Food Column on this blog. It’s going to be quirky, a little Laurie Colwin, a little Jeffrey Steingarten.

It won’t have restaurant reviews or recipes. Passion, not money fuels this writing. There’s no expense account, and since I’m a professional cook, the budget doesn’t allow for much dining out. Besides, Terry Kirts of Nuvo magazine does such an admirable, informative job, why bother?

You won’t find tuna casserole recipes or five-in-a-fix in this column. You’ll have to go to Gannett for that.

Don’t expect conniseurship, chef worship or food porn. Renee Wilmeth of FeedMeDrinkMe does the wine/restaurant/chef scene with elan and irritation. Sweet, gentle Christine Barbour is tops in food photography (and writing) at her My Plate Or Yours blog. And of course, there’s Indianapolis Monthly and the new Indianapolis Dine magazines to provide you with all the salivating you need.

This column is about things we enjoy and think you will too, like Fromage Blanc and Lodge cookware. It’s an insider/back of the house view of the food industry. We’ll visit talented farmers and purveyor’s.

We’ll discuss the economics and politics of food in Indianapolis and Indiana. The first Unfood Food Column was about the disconnect between Governor Daniels efforts to curb Indiana runaway appetite while the ag department ramps up meat and processed food production. Expect to revisit that issue again.

This weekend the Colts go to the Super Bowl and here’s hoping they win. Even if they don’t, the Indianapolis food scene will score a championship.

“Chef Greg Hardesty, co-owner of the Indianapolis restaurant Elements, is going to be representing the Indianapolis Colts in this years Taste of the NFL. Hardesty will be preparing beef carpaccio for 3,000 people. The dish will feature local food, including beef from Fischer’s Farm in Jasper, IN and Fleur de la Terre from Traders Point Creamery. The event hosts more than 30 chefs from around the country who create special recipes for the Super Bowl.” (Trader’s Point Creamery Newsletter, February 2, 2007)

Go Colts, go Chef Hardesty–put those chi-chi chefs from Chicago and San Francisco and Seattle to shame.

Written by Susan Gillie

February 2, 2007 at 11:55 pm

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