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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Published: Monday, 2/17/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

COMMENTARY

Thank you for the warm welcome

BY MARY BILYEU
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

I have been completely overwhelmed by the welcome I’ve received to town.

So many, many people emailed, called, and even wrote letters by hand. Each of you took some time from your day to say “Hi” and to encourage me to visit — and enjoy — your favorite restaurants or markets.

You warmly opened your hearts to my son and to my boyfriend, too, making sure that their special foods were covered; we now have tours planned to taste all the Reubens and doughnuts in the area. I’m going to need an Excel spreadsheet to sort out all the delicious options and keep track of them. And buying gym memberships will have to be our next task.

There is one feature of all these communications, no matter how brief or long (and some of you were quite chatty and enthusiastic), that stands out clearly: you are all fiercely proud of Toledo. So much positive energy, so much passion for good food and for beloved establishments, so much devotion to wonderful local places. You know there are great things going on here and you shared it all with me, wanting this newcomer to fall in love with the city, too, knowing that the way to my heart is through my stomach. Thank you all so very much.

And thank you, too, for letting me know about the dedicated folks taking care of those who don’t have the luxury of indulging in sweet treats on a whim or choosing to eat out when feeling too tired to cook.

I am so touched, and teary-eyed, as I read about the many programs that take care of those who need assistance. Everyone needs help in this life at some time, the only difference is in the details. I look forward to learning more about some of the food assistance organizations in town, and to sharing what I learn with all of you. As one woman put it, when writing to me: “We can all help feed people if we know more.”

In Yiddish, the word “haymish” [HAY-mish] means “warm,” “welcoming.” Toledo is a fabulously haymish city.

‘Babette’s Feast’

While others were mourning the significant cultural losses of Shirley Temple Black and Sid Caesar last week, a little piece of my heart was broken when I read that Gabriel Axel died in Copenhagen at the age of 95. He directed my very favorite movie, Babette’s Feast. (Pope Francis even once noted that it is his favorite film, as well.)

On the surface, the film is an utter indulgence in the sensuality of food. I don’t deny that this is a significant portion of its appeal — the viewer is treated to the spectacle of course after sumptuous course of a lavish dinner prepared by a renowned French chef who has found refuge in Denmark, caring for elderly sisters who live a stark life of sacrifice.

But the movie also addresses spiritual issues, such as the merits of an ascetic and austere lifestyle vs. a hearty and hedonistic one and the debate over which will bring a person closer to God. Babette’s Feast provides proverbial food for thought. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it highly; it is a beautiful, poignant movie in which many questions are raised, and there are very few correct answers.

‘On the Radio’

I’m showing my age, here, that my first thought upon typing those three words — “On the Radio” — is the Donna Summer song from the 1970s. I have a perverse affinity for songs from that era, which causes my loved ones to look askance sometimes; I should hang my head in shame, but I like to think this little quirk makes me more interesting.

It doesn’t give me character, rather it makes me one. I remember being a tween and a teenager when Shaun Cassidy, the Bay City Rollers, the Bee Gees, and other bubblegum pop stars and disco divas were all the rage, and I still have a pathetic little soft spot for them all. I often think I should write a cheese-related article, with recipes inspired by the cheesiest of the songs.

But rather than making you listen to that drivel, you can listen to me instead: at noon Saturday, you can find me chatting about food — of course! — with Saundra Irvine on the Fat Cat Cooking Show on Fox Sports 1230 AM (1230foxsports.com for those not in the Toledo area). I’m not sure where the conversation will meander to, but please join us for the ride.

Contact Mary Bilyeu at 
mbilyeu@theblade.com
 or 419-724-6155 or on Twitter @foodfloozie.



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