May 22, 2014

Atlanta: Food Town

Look closely... yes, that is a donut bacon cheeseburger
The first time I went to Atlanta, way back in the Fall of 2000, when all of the world had comforted ourselves with the fact that we'd survived the Y2K fall-out, and it was apparent that the 2000 tech bubble was going to result in some alternate fall-out, I attended the Atlanta Linux Showcase for work.

Memorably, I was told by a potential customer/prospect, "You're too attractive to be in tech" -- Oh, great, a fully-voiced version of the classic demeaning compliment-insult that many women experience when trying to break into technology.

For me, frankly, it was the first time I'd really encountered this perspective and I was a bit confused.  At the time, I had a purple streak in my hair and I wore doc martins.  I certainly wasn't going for "attractive" as a visual goal.  In the bay area, my apparel and hair choices made this clear and I didn't have to deal with sexist bullshit.  But in Atlanta, apparently, my boobs and butt meant that I was still obviously female and people were going to try to schmooze me along standard gender norms (BLECH!).

At the time, the frothy tech-bubble was big enough that the conference was full of all sorts of ridiculousness like booth-babes who were scantily clad by professional standards but strippers in their other lives, so super comfortable in what seemed like not enough clothes to me, and many folks who had paid full price to attend the conference and yet were just there to see the booth babes and talk with whomever with no command of technology at all (in case you've forgotten, this was the year of the epic puppet commercial at the Superbowl).

For some reason, at the end of my trip, my flights got messed up and I ended up staying the last night of the trip at the parents of one of my co-workers.  Full disclosure:  that co-worker was E.  And E's dad basically decided we were dating and said, "Us L men need strong women, I'm happy E has obviously found himself one."  You might think this would be awkward, and truly, it should have been, but it just sort of helped me feel comfortable with the reality that E was my soulmate and I did want to be dating him, even though we hadn't really discussed dating or anything else along those lines.

My memories of this first trip regarding food are that outside of E's mom's awesome cooking, there wasn't much other than Waffle House, Chick Fil A, and Cracker Barrel, plus other less memorable options at the conference food court.  Certainly no-one tried to make the case that Atlanta was a food destination at the time.

After E and I admitted we were dating, I started coming to Atlanta on a regular basis.  Initially, foodwise, it felt very stereotypically American and Southern.  I was treated to great barbeque (Georgian and South Carolinan Style).  I was introduced to the awesome options of fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and fried pickles.  And I had *many* great home-cooked meals including bacon and grits, greens and black-eyed peas, succatoush, brunswick stew and more.

Back then, it felt like a big cultural trip -- there was a huge disparity between California and Georgia. But, over the years, that's changed when it comes to food.
Salad course at Tomo

This visit, I had the best Japanese meal I've had this year (omakase at Tomo), despite having spent a week in Japan in February.  And, I joined E's mom, dad, and sister for an amazing high-end Mother's day lunch present (it's good to be the plus-one!) at a fancy seafood restaurant.

Atlanta has emerged as a serious food city, which means it's become more international and experimental.    Watch any reality-tv chef competition and there's guaranteed to be a contender from ATL

This trip, we were there while E's sister was the managing director of a food-based benefit for the local children's hospital.  Local restaurants all set up booths and competed with food and drink entries so the attendees could vote (the donut bacon cheeseburger won).  There were too many delicious options of all types of cuisine and I couldn't even eat a bite of everything.

It's only been 14 years, but Atlanta's food scene has changed dramatically in that time.  You can still get great barbeque and southern food, but if you tire of that, you can also get just about anything else your heart desires.        


Jen said...

I love southern food, but the other stuff you described sounds delicious too!

Biting Tongue said...

@Jen -- NOM NOM NOM for sure!

FL said...

Enjoyed this blog post, reading about yours and E's early years together. It was sweet & funny. :)

L.A. Runner said...

Hahaah! I love this post! My favorite quote is "sexist bullshit!" If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, "You don't LOOK like a coach..." Like you, it's very confusing as to if that's a compliment or insult. I think it just shows the other person's ignorance. The south is notorious for this kind of thinking, even worse where I live (country-fied, rural, south).

I haven't been to ATL in years; so I'm glad to hear they've stepped it up a few notches. My hubby's family is all about country cooking, and frankly, it makes me sick.

Cool story about you and your hubby. :)

bt said...

@FL -- thanks.

@L.A. Runner -- on this trip, E's dad (who's from Alabama) made a joke about what they mean when they say "L.A." vs. what we mean in California. I said, "Oh! Now I know what the title of a blog-friend's blog refers to!"