As he started a nation-wide job hunt for a university position, a grad school friend once told me that he would never live in an area where he could not find arugula in the supermarket.
Arugula, that bitter sharp lettuce, was Lawrence’s shorthand method for narrowing down his options for jobs. Any position must be located in areas with a sophisticated culture, liberal politics, and hopping community life to keep him amused when not in the classroom. His arugula method ruled about 3/4rd of America at that time; he ultimately landed in London.
Today, Lawrence would need some other shortcut to find a sophisticated, educated, progressive community. Because food is the rare thing in our culture that has not been politicized. Pretty much anywhere in this country, you can find a bearded, tattooed hipster, who will make you a cocktail involving rosemary, smoke, and small batch vodka distilled just a mile away at a shiny distillery in a former paper mill. There’s shaved brussel sprouts salads in the heart of West Virginia, and burnt brisket ends in a converted garage in upstate New York. For me, the ubiquitousness of fine food is a sign of hope, a rare sign of agreement in our polarized society.