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food & tourists... semi rant... in defense of tourists

  • m

There is a post on the SF Bay area board about tourists over-running the ferry building in SF


Which got me thinking... While I wish we all could live a genteel life, in our own ivory tower wandering in peace through our local farmer's market, consuming only lovingly prepared local produce and delicious foods that make our foodie hearts melt... (can you hear the birds chirping... as a cool breeze drifts in from the bay???)

but in reality... in order to sustain those markets and ferry's buildings that we love so much, it takes money. plain and simple. money from those who love and appreciate the fruits of organic farming and from those who are just their to have a san francisco experience, get their pictures taken in front of a giant cheese wheel and pick up some tapenade as a souvenir.

We need people from around the world to believe that california is a destination for good food and wine. really not just a source of these things, but a lifestyle to be desired and emulated. Market branding has become a staple of the food tourism of California. it's not just good cheese, it is from the cowgirl creamery. Red wine with dinner? but of course only it is is from the napa valley.

why would you pay $12-15 for a burger and fries? oh well, because it isn't "just" a burger and fries. it is from Taylor's Refresher with zinfandel carmelized onions.

I love that we all live in an area that has so many great restaurants, markets and foods to sample and enjoy. I guess what is boils down to is that I have been a tourist myself and been annoyed by tourists on many occassions. As has everyone... but really if you live in SF, and drive up to the napa valley for the day (and even if you love and appreciate every bite of your french laundry dinner) you are still a tourist! Whether a stylish foodie or a sneaker shod mid-westerner with elastic waistband pants and a camera slung around your neck. we shouldn't bite the hand that helps keeps places we love open.

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  1. Believe it or not, there are "stylish foodies" in the Midwest too. But how interesting to hear that there are no sneaker-shod, elastic waistband pants-wearers on your coast. I could have sworn on my trips out there that I saw ... but I guess those people must have been "midwesterners", huh?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kimm

      Hmmm...I am on the coast and currently wearing sneakers and elastic waisted pants...Good God, was I born in Wisconsin? Why didn't someone tell me? *lol*

      I get what you are saying and I agree...even though it aggravates me to do so...I loathe slow moving looky-loos blocking the aisle when I just need to get my shopping done. Of course I will attempt to look at them with a new perspective. Perhaps it will make me more tolerant. And less cranky.

      1. re: Cyndy

        Jeez. I was gonna keep my mouth off of this one, but yunz are making it too easy.

        Any time I'm in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, I make it a point to get by the Westside Market or the Strip. I amble and gawk and wish there was something so great in the Bay. I occasionally get nudged aside by some sharp-elbowed shopper cause I'm blocking Steve's Sausages, or whatever. I eat as much as I can, have coffees and pastry, take some noshes home. I rarely drop less than $50, and my brothers and sisters and in-laws always stock up, too. I wear sneakers.

        What's my point? No point, I guess, except like others have said, we're all tourists somewhere, be it Maui or Singapore or Nice or Cleveland. We ain't doing any harm, and we're generally pretty happy to be where we are, and we hope the natives don't hate us. Maybe, next time I'm at the Ferry Market, I'll buy some schmo a cup of overpriced coffee.

    2. t
      torta basilica

      Sorry, you blew it with the Midwesterner stereotype... I'm married to a guy from Wisconsin who wouldn't be caught dead in anything less than Zegna jeans, Armani or Prada shirt - no cameras slung around necks & Cole Haans on the feet. Actually, most people I've seen in the MW dress the same or better than us in coastal California. You're complaining about being stereotyped as a tourist, then you do the same to others.

      2 Replies
      1. re: torta basilica

        I'm sure your midwestern relatives would surely put my personal fashion sense to shame... and honestly, I meant it a little tongue in cheek... not all tourists fit that particular bill... (although I really did have a mental picture of my beloved aunt and uncle from indiana in mind when i wrote it).

        1. re: torta basilica

          Yeah, let's hear it for gay marriage.

        2. There's an article in todays NY Times on the very same subject.

          I'm from NYC, and have joined in the ranting at Christmas time at the tourists (even from the suburbs) who make midtown impassable. My own personal inconvenience aside, though, your point is well taken and applies here. A SUBSTANTIAL portion of our local economy is tourism-based, and I know I wouldn't have so much at my disposal if they weren't subsidizing.

          3 Replies
          1. re: dude

            The main gist of the NY Times article is that tourists go to the farmers market in San Fran not to spend money, but to "tour" it because it was written up in Fodors. The complaint is that the tourists inevitably cause a crowd, take pictures, eat the free samples and then don't buy anything. That is the problem, not complaining that someone from Sheboygan looks funny but indeeds spends money at the greenmarket.

            1. re: Evan


              The market needs locals who actually buy groceries to stay in business. If the crowds of tourists drive the locals away, then the market will die.

              It's not the tourists' fault they don't buy groceries, since they're staying in hotels and undoubtedly eating out at our fine restaurants (who also need their business). In that sense, it's nobody's fault -- it's just a potential problem that needs to be dealt with.

              1. re: Evan

                Hey....I was in the San Fran area for 3 weeks this Winter (from the east coast) and after visiting the Ferry Bldg. Farmers Market on Saturday morning - Heaven! - I decided to mail ALL of my clothes and camping gear home the Friday before I left so that my 2 checked bags could be filled with my purchases from the Market & China town! My bags included organic broccoli, baby bok choy, asian pears and LOADS of CHEESE - mostly Andante Dairy. We had a mid-Winter feast back home in February!! Oh, and LOTS of wine, too!!!!

            2. honestly, I meant my tourist description to be a little tongue in cheek... I do realize that not all tourists fit that particular bill... (although I really did have a mental picture of my beloved aunt and uncle from indiana in mind when i wrote it).

              5 Replies
              1. re: megan

                I just think the stereotype of the Midwest is funny. People seem to forget that the third-largest metro area in the country is in this region. We don't have great produce in Chicago, so, yes, I do drool at the Ferry Market, and probably annoy the people behind me in line at Acme. But our agricultural deficiencies don't necessarily translate into cultural ones.

                1. re: Grace

                  and really, it was just meant as poking fun at the stereotype of a tourist.. not a jab at the midwest.

                  you reminded me of when my grandparents from minnesota came to visit when I was a kid.. they were shocked to find that vegetables didn't come wrapped in saran wrap with styrofoam backing here... and they also had never seen or tasted an avocado... other than as reconstituted guacamole. (and they lived in St. Paul at the time!)

                  the bulk of americans do not live on the west or east coast... and they are all lovely, intelligent, food loving people.

                  1. re: megan

                    I can sure believe about the avocado, but I would bet Grandma and Grandpa did not think all vegetables were wrapped in Saran Wrap. When younger, they were a lot closer to the source than we have ever been. What they did not grow on their own was supplied by farmers driving their trucks slowly through the neighborhoods, calling out their products. When the lady waved, the farmer stopped.

                    1. re: Spudlover

                      I was watching some show about new British cooking yesterday, and about how its image is changing. The host asked the chef how so, and the chef replied something like "we've started to use fresh veggies instead of just canned." I thought that was so funny and shocking, this conversation reminds me of it. However, the chef insisted you had to used canned fruit in syrup for a trifle.

                      Wow, this is tying into the thread above about low-dessert culture as well!

                2. re: megan

                  Oh, I realize that you were joking. But come on. Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota went blue in the last election. Who you calling red? ;)

                3. Guilty as charged-I'm a tourist from the Midwest who carries a camera and wears tennis shoes and elastic band pants. However, my money is just as green as a more sophisticated persons is.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Darlene

                    and that was my point... we need tourism. not people complaining about crowds.

                    1. re: Darlene

                      Don't sweat it. Heck, I'd rather hang with you with the camera and elastic band pants that with most of the overly pretentious people who live here. A lot of us honestly love the tourists that come here. What fun would it be without someone new always coming into town to see it? SF is a blast, it should be enjoyed so much that you just HAVE to come back.

                    2. Well, I wouldn't have said anything until so many started dissing Wisconsin. Just for the record, we are the coolest people on earth, and we live in the coolest place. If you don't believe me, just ask any driver in those long lines of big SUV's that clog our highways from Chicago every Friday night, pulling campers and boat trailers and escaping to paradise.

                      We love them, because they all bring us money. And their unique and impressive driving skills have earned them a special name here. Some call them FIB's, which stands for Friendly Illinois Brethren, or something like that.

                      You all can come too, if you bring money. And you will want to live here. Probably have buy some new clothes, though, 'cause from what I have seen on the coasts, we are better dressed. Hey, great idea! Bring the money and buy the clothes here.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Spudlover

                        And just for the record, Wisconsin is a BLUE state.

                        1. re: Spudlover

                          I thought fib stood for f***ing illinois bastards. But yours is much more friendly.

                          Greetings from a chicagoan who loves WI.

                          1. re: bryan

                            You're welcome here any time, B. The cheese curds are on me.

                          2. re: Spudlover

                            Well, maybe I'll stop by when bug season is over and the curds are in bloom. But you can't make me wear one of those Cheese Hats, no matter what!

                            1. re: Striver

                              You have touched on a topic of intense debate and personal feelings in the Dairy State. After many years of testing, researchers have found that upon imbibing enough of some of Wisconsin's other fine products, the hats start to look pretty good. The impulse comes from the same part of the brain that makes you take off your shirt at 20 below, and show off your green and gold painted chest.

                              The hats do have drawbacks, though. They are hot, and they leave you with the dreaded "cheese hat hair." They won't stay on during the Chicken Dance, and they make it very hard to pick up chicks (unless the chick is wearing one too).

                              But we would be glad to have you join us. Sit down at our table, pour a few glasses out of our pitcher, and remember, Never Say Never!

                              1. re: Spudlover

                                ...which is proof why Wisconsin and all of the Midwest is the greatest area on earth! You hear this guy? Happy and friendly. He WANTS us to come by and say hi, wear the cool cheese hats and dance around. Here in the bay area, we love our snob status, and it's kinda icky. Rock on, Wisconsin!

                                1. re: Larry Wayne

                                  Larry, you sound like one of us. After conferring with the Committee, I am pleased to announce you have been awarded the title of Honorary Wisconsinite. Unfortunately, there is currently no prize or stipend associated with the award, but we guarantee you a good time when you come here. Because it's all about attitude, baby, and you got that!

                                  By the way, I do love the Bay area too.

                                  1. re: Larry Wayne

                                    "Snob status"? I don't know, I think it's kinda more like we live in this giant theme park. And, and, we all want to be recognized as "inside" by the tourists, like those people that play Mickey and Goofy at D***eyland, and have folks take happy pictures with us. Except, most of us are more like the people that sweep up at D***eyland. No picture, no autograph B^(

                                    But seriously, folks, I don't know why tourists come here, but if they didn't, we wouldn't have half the great chowplaces we do now. All Silicon Valley ever spun off chow-wise, was 360 Burrito.

                            2. I agree completely. IMHO it is a better tourist destination than Pier 39. I travel to S.F. for fun and for business. I'd rather spend my tourist dollar at Hog Island Oyster Bar than some overpriced chowder joint at Pier 39!

                              1. I live in a small urban area in coastal Florida. Lots of tourists down here, and I'm glad they are because we end up with far more good restaurants down here than could be supported by the local population alone.

                                My rant is pretty much the opposite: you're down here on vacation in an area that bills itself "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village". You could be dining on a beautiful hunk of mahi/ snapper/ pompano/ cobia/ grouper tonight that was swimming in the Gulf this morning. You could get a mahi sandwich that counts as bar food fish of the day here that they'd be fighting over in New York for its quality. And if you don't like seafood, there are a lot of other damn fine dining options.

                                So why in the world are you sitting at Applebee's, Chili's, O'Charley's, and/or TGI Friday's tonight? Don't you people know any better?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: BW Jill

                                  Who is this "you"? We're not a bunch of sheep on this site!

                                  1. re: applehome

                                    Is this a joke? I think he's talking to the tourists, not you/us.

                                    And if anyone is guilty of generalized rants...

                                    1. re: anona

                                      Yes, not the you here, the you elsewhere.

                                      I thought it would be obvious which one I meant.