“I've been studying the diner burger lately, and there's something so reassuring about the formula of burger, bun, garnishes, fries, and small cup of slaw--if you want to go wild, you can simply dump the slaw on the burger. This is food at its simplest and most elegant, food that doesn't want to slap your face. This is food that is simply good, and defines a sort of normalcy in eating that no longer exists. Nowadays, every meal is a challenge and a problem. Have you eaten well enough? Have you eaten innovatively, locavorically, and seasonally enough?”—
That’s the elegant level-headedness of Robert Sietsema, the longtime Village Voice food critic who was fired today, per a Gawker report. He’s the guy who writes about restaurants you’ve never heard of, because they don’t have publicists and they’re not listed on UrbanDaddy. Sietsema goes reviewing in parts of the city where yellow cabs don’t fill the streets, where subways aren’t always close by, in neighborhoods you didn’t know existed, and where English isn’t the first language of either the clientele, the waiters or the owners. He was, and still is, one of our most essential critics.
“His relationships with small restaurant owners not only led directly to the creation of the paper’s annual, sold-out “Choice Eats” event, but his written reviews literally changed the economic fortunes of several hundred small business owners throughout the five boroughs over the past two decades and left an indelible mark on the city’s food culture,” Hugh Merwin eloquently writes for New York Magazine’s Grub Street.
It’s important for us food writers and critics to cover the highly-touted new restaurants in Manhattan and cool parts of Brooklyn, because, well, that’s where people are spending their money, and it’s our job to follow and critique that money trail. Of course, every now and then, with re-reviews, we try to lead our readers off the trail by turning a spotlight on a more forgotton venue, or a venue that’s imporoved over the years.
And while Sietsema covered the big important new joints like the rest of us, his dedication to leading us WAY off the beaten path, outside of our Manhattan-Williamsburg-Carroll Gardens comfort zone, is why he’s so necessary. And with our city’s hospitality industry still getting back on its feet in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, it’s ever more vital that these small “Sietsema restaurants” (if I can call them that) be given their proper due.
I hope we find him writing again soon. New York City needs Sietsema.
VILLAGE VOICE UNION CONTRACT EXPIRES AT MIDNIGHT AS THE REAL VOICE RECEIVES A WARM WELCOME
With the union contract set to expire in twelve hours, our leadership returns to the negotiating table invigorated by the outpouring of support at last night’s strike benefit, from our readers and in the media, as sampled below.
The symbolic value of the first-ever Voice strike should not be underestimated. It would be an homage to the ethos of Mailer’s Voice. Perhaps it would remind the Arizona libertarians why they named their media conglomerate after it.
The Voice dispute features a little intersection of money and politics as well. Rayman: “Despite our editorial support of gay marriage and domestic partner benefits, and despite the fact that the Voice was one of the first companies to give domestic partner benefits to employees, the company is also refusing in the negotiations to pay the tax on health insurance for domestic partners.”
The initial post already has dozens of likes and reblogs. Tumblr’s built-in virality could be a huge asset for the union, as the Voice’s readers stay informed about the issue and stop visiting the official website. Tumblr is popular as a brand-builder and traffic driver for media, but it also supports the local news blog network Neighborhoodr, which sells ads on its Tumblr-powered site. Maybe the Voice staffers should try to woo some of the paper’s advertisers–that would put pressure on talks real quick.