Always Hungry

Explorations of a culinary industry burnout

Felicia Lee

Felicia Lee
Location
Gainesville, Florida,
Birthday
December 10
Company
Always welcome--grab a plate and help yourself!
Bio
I am a freelance writer and editor. My professional experience has included testing video games, technical writing for the Space Shuttle program, making desserts in a five-star hotel, and teaching theoretical linguistics at a number of major universities. I love writing, I love cooking, and I especially love writing about cooking. Thanks for coming by!

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 9, 2010 10:51AM

Letter from Gainesville: We Are Not All Crazy

Rate: 18 Flag

 

The time has come to state the obvious.  For the past few days, my inbox has been filled with anxious messages from friends and family: the crazy Koran burners are from Gainesville! OMG! What are you going to do? I can't believe Gainesville is so filled with crazy people!

 

My answer: It's not. For those who don't know the city, here's the deal:  Gainesville is a small city centered around the University of Florida, both physically and spiritually (UF Homecoming Day is a holiday for the entire public school system and  even the city's recycling bins come in UF's colors, orange and blue). The city's population can be impressionistically broken down into the following subgroups:

 

Retirees: 25,000

 

Normal working adults and their families: 50,000

 

Tobacco chewin' good ole boys who hate those socialist college types but love them Gators!: 15,000

 

UF faculty who've developed a taste for boiled peanuts but hate those darned local hicks:     2,000

 

People who claim they're taking class notes on their laptops, but are actually updating their Facebook pages: 25,000

 

People who are, honest to God, going to file their dissertations this semester, which won't be a repeat of last semester, honest! : 500

 

Members of fringe religious cults that have lost their tax-exempt status and whose property is currently under foreclosure: 50

 

Guess which of these groups is the public face of Gainesville these days?

And what are the rest of us doing about it? Yesterday, there was this , and for a while, there has been this and this. Meanwhile, UF's Muslim student group, Islam on Campus, is planning to spend Saturday feeding the homeless and holding a candlelight vigil. They've also advised Muslim groups from out of town not to dignify the burning with their presence.

But of course, measured speeches from the pulpit and grad students in hijabs making sack lunches don't make for particularly dramatic TV. Neither do most reasonable, responsible actions people take on a regular basis. What does get attention is the loud, the obnoxious, and the stupid. Stupid ideas tend to be simple and make good sound bites ("Islam is of the devil!"), while nuanced, truthful ideas don't ("Islam has some radical anti-American adherents, but most of its followers are peaceable").

 

And since media attention equals legitimacy in the public eye, loud, obnoxious, and stupid people and ideas are seen as forces to be reckoned with. Terry Jones and The Situation are of a piece.

 

Sadly, this is why the voices of the vast majority of Gainesville's population are being drowned out. It's not that we don't care.

 

It's just  that we're not stupid enough.


 

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Comments

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Felicia, you've given a more rounded out picture of Gainesville, a place I knew little about. It's true-- sanity and reason don't get much attention. Peace.
Awesome.

Now please upload a pic of some sort. We get nervous around greyheads. :-)
Well done. Thanks for explaining this situation sanely, from the perspective of someone who's there. Rated.
Being a resident of Joisey (The Situation, Snookie, JWoww**, blah), I hear ya!

(R)

**source: Wikipedia ... yeah, like I'm a big fan and would know those names without a search ... not
I hear ya, I live in Topeka (home of the Phelps clan). We (red, blue, and purple people) are tired of their act and are glad when they are picketing out of town.
it's unfortunate because G' ville has been in the news before... crazy lives there, along with my nieces and on occasion - myself. It's a college town, smallish enough to allow a fringe populace to stand out like a smashed throbbing thumb. This guy wouldn't stand a chance in Chicago. He's insignificant and simple minded, crusading for a ridiculous cause in a small enough town to get his 15 minutes. It's just too sad that we don't have better things to read and talk about. Idiocy. We are a big part of the problem. It seems anyone that's ridiculous enough can get the attention of the public these days. Why? because we read it, we watch it, and we listen to it, instead of paying attention and standing up for the stuff that matters. I want my 15 minutes. Why can't I get attention for injustices against children, some of the horrible and demeaning circumstances of vets, or the sadness of losing everything you've ever worked for as you're appr0aching retirement age? I
I was going to say, before my piece of crap computer cut me off, that I guess I'm just not crazy enough.
Yeah, it's always the smallest members of an area, the ones who spout off the craziness, who the Media picks and folks around the world believe that is what the entire area is about.

Good piece! Rated.

Congrats on the EP.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must feel to be a sane, peaceful and rational resident of Gainesville right now. Although media attention does not automatically equate to legitimacy in my mind, I understand your sentiment. I hope more of your fellow residents will let their voices be heard.
excellent reporting from ground zero
Linda--thanks for your good wishes! As you've probably noticed, this is my first post that didn't include a recipe!

Denise--Photos of me make children cry, hence the absence of an avatar. Trust me, you don't want to see a picture of me!

Alysa--Thanks for your kindness!

CrazeCzar--At least all you get associated with is big hair and way too much hair gel!

monocog--I feel your pain--but most of America wishes you'd keep the Phelps clan close to home.

Gabby Abby--Hey, we're (sometimes) neighbors! Yes, I'm from Los Angeles originally; if Jones had gotten his start there, nobody would have heard of him. Alas, neither of us are crazy enough to make much of a difference...

Tinkerertink69--Yep, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, whether or not it's deserved!

Katy--Thanks for your understanding. Thankfully, the rest of us here know who we are and what we really are.

ONL--Thanks for coming by; come visit the Gator Nation sometime!
I didn't know this guy's ministry was in legal and financial trouble. Just goes to show...

Rated!
I like the Gainesville N.P.R. station better than the Jacksonville N.P.R. station. I'm halfway in between them sort of. Does that make me a racist, book-burning bigot?
(R)ated.
The stories that have been in the American media since the Right started throwing a fit about Obama being president is nothing more than a soap opera. I sure wished it all would go away. I just need to start tuning it out.... like I used to.
I lived in Gainesville in the 1960s when I went to UF. It was a really small town then --boring, with few good places to eat. I know it has developed nicely, and hope that its rep improves in the next weeks.
thefuddler--Yes, the guy's in trouble! Not that I feel terribly sorry for him...

Fred--Thanks! It's annoying when an agreeable majority get tainted by association with a few local bad apples.

BJD--Gainesville really is a pleasant place--and now thankfully, everything is more or less back to normal!

Gary--Sometimes it's good to know who actually holds those repulsive views, otherwise we can all get too complacent--but you are right!

Myriad--thanks!

La Captiona13--I feel you; that's why I usually write about food and not politics!

Lea--Oldtimers I know say that G-ville has grown exponentially in recent years. Still not as many good restaurants as I'd like, alas. Our main culinary contribution to the world is still Gatorade!
thefuddler--Yes, the guy's in trouble! Not that I feel terribly sorry for him...

Fred--Thanks! It's annoying when an agreeable majority get tainted by association with a few local bad apples.

BJD--Gainesville really is a pleasant place--and now thankfully, everything is more or less back to normal!

Gary--Sometimes it's good to know who actually holds those repulsive views, otherwise we can all get too complacent--but you are right!

Myriad--thanks!

La Captiona13--I feel you; that's why I usually write about food and not politics!

Lea--Oldtimers I know say that G-ville has grown exponentially in recent years. Still not as many good restaurants as I'd like, alas. Our main culinary contribution to the world is still Gatorade!
I love Gainesville! And I love Melrose! Me and my hippie friends from high school are gathering in Melrose next month! Yay, Millhopper! Yay, Paines Prairie, Ichetucknee, etc.! (all lovely natural sights surrounding Gville)--ct
Cary--you must be a Gator! Paynes Prairie is awesome, and there's nothing better than tubing at Ichetucknee on a hot day. (Very belated) thanks for coming by!
Hey, your post was really useful. I'm coming from Australia to study at UF. Can't wait to start spring semester!

Rated.

From Lachy
You folks in Gainesville and Topeka get no sympathy from me. I live in Arizona and almost everyone here really IS crazy.
Ms. Felicia: Florida has always been full of extremes, as you well know. I grew up in central Florida among rabid Christians, while in Miami I could have been a tanned atheist.

Do you remember the clapboard church pictured as being located in Gainesville in the "Devil's Adovcate"? Well, that is how I remember a lot of rural Florida. Flat land, hot weather, and a lot of churches. Is that crazy? No, it is just that a lot of Florida reflects both
its diversity, Southern history, and how extreme climate influences some behaviors!

Florida has always had its share of kooks. Remember, that is where Carl Hiasen gets his materials for his books full of nuts, a ex-governor who eats road kill, and land exploitators.

I am with CT. All of the light diversity in Gainesville is beautiful.

I will be there for 2 days in less than 3 weeks.