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A cowgirl in Boston?
Local, global - it's all good
By Ruth Tobias

Revelation struck the afternoon I took a seat along the bar at Bukowski Tavern and guiltily ordered that first peanut-butter burger. After all, the sandwich-scarfing infamy in which Dagwood and Homer (not to mention Elvis) live is no coincidence - it's barely even a caricature of the bourgeois American appetite for excess. Could I, a self-styled gourmet in a worldly metropolis, really start down that slippery slope? What was next, jelly with my fries? But one simultaneously creamy and juicy bite showed me the light: maybe I could be a Coca-Cola cowgirl. And I wouldn't be drifting down-home alone, either, now that some of the city's most acclaimed chefs were trading in their chinois sieves for splatter guards. Imagine, EVOO's Peter McCarthy, running an Arlington pizza parlor called Za? Chris Douglass of Icarus opening a neighborhood joint like the Ashmont Grill? And Ken Oringer of Clio all set to slum it with rustic tapas bar Toro?

Granted, from the vantage point of Dagwood and Homer (and maybe Elvis, depending on his current location), we'd all still look like Bostonians: blue-state Brahmins, forming the very core of the cultural elite. With our Ivy League educations and our gay marriages, we might as well be French. With our corner on the lobster and oyster markets, we might as well eat like them too, devouring delicacies morning, noon, and night. And yet, if Boston's never been the bastion of snobs and nabobs it might seem to the God-fearing taxpayers of East Anytown, nor would anyone dare dub it the next capital of NASCAR nation. And that's especially unlikely in light of the comeback of Parisian-style eateries that poll-inductee Petit Robert Bistro and Eastern Standard have been making, and given the rise of white-hot, South Beach-meets-Scandinavia-sleek spots like Mare and Stella (also a poll placer).

Downmarket, upmarket, local, global: all told, our current culinary choices show simply that we're playing an ever-growing field, not increasingly fierce politics. We're partiers, not partisans. And all we want is our dining freedom - with a side of French fries.