Sunday, November 15, 2015

Omaha Food: Bigger Than Beef

Out now on The History Press/Arcadia Publishing

Hey. Oh, HEY!

No, I didn't finally fall victim to my rampant overeating, though I've often imagined myself voluntarily succumbing to the same fate as that poor chap from the movie Seven. I haven't been dead this last year or so, but I was under a rock—or more accurately in my bed, propped by a mountain of pillows looking at my laptop screen, chin pasted to my upper chest with hours worth of sweat, the kind you imagine protruding from the pores of all the great writers when caught up in the heat of creativity. Folks, I was writing a book.

When I'd finally emerge from a weekend of this, after my butt and bed had nearly becoming one, I'd routinely dislodge myself around 9 p.m. on a Sunday night, hunger raging. It's not possible to exist on whole bags of Maggie's White Cheddar popcorn, I learned (though my white film-crusted keyboard will tell you otherwise). I'd want something to eat, and not just because I was spending weeks and months thinking and writing about food. But as my fellow eaters in Omaha know, come sundown on a Sunday, the viable restaurant options start rapidly vanishing. Ever try to grab some Salween on the Sabbath day? Or anything remotely Asian-ish in general? Blackstone is a ghost town. Benson is hungover. And come 9 p.m., everything that's not that one really busy Taco Bell is shuttered for the night, it seems.

"Food sucks in this town," we'd complain to each other over some mediocre tacos from a truck we found open, like a beacon of light, at the edge of the earth.

I'd routinely ask myself why I was doing this in the first place, devoting ridiculous amounts of time and money to a project that seemed overly optimistic and somewhat naive. I don't believe in boosterism, so how would I fill up 140 pages with a realistic account of stuff worthy of reading on the topic of Omaha food when I couldn't even find anything sufficient to stuff my face with on a Sunday night?

Well, I did it anyway. I did it because I do believe we are onto something. As a transplant about to celebrate my five-year Omahversary, I don't have a firsthand account of the city pre-2010. But I've seen a lot since then. I've seen the the opening of a number of new, noteworthy restaurants, the formation of some outstanding organizations, the launching of galleries, the painting of bike lanes, the start of new music venues and festivals, and the revitalization of multiple entire neighborhoods—all in just the last couple of years. Overzealousness aside, I believe this ever-changing town is at a very precise point in its cultural history, where we can stop comparing ourselves to other cities and start earning our very own well-rounded snobbish hipster attitude about things. And what better way to help nudge that cool factor over the edge than with a book, one that became a nice snapshot of Omaha food as it stands in 2015?

Finally, with a degree in History, this book is exactly the type of project I get off on. I'll attack any pile of research with an enthusiasm usually reserved for only the most diligent nerd. Now for the low, low price of $21.99, you can come on my little food adventure, too. Available online, in stores, and at events over the next couple of months.

The next place to partake is Friday, November 20, 2015 at The New BLK. Part concert, part art show, and part book signing, it's sure to be a doozy, and not to be missed. Details here.

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