the kicker

A.G. Sulzberger is getting chewed up

January 12, 2012

It’s beginning to look a lot like a Stephen Bloom reprise.

Not even a month after Bloom, a New Jersey native-cum-University of Iowa journalism professor went into hiding(!) after riling Iowans with a brave?/satiric?/not-so-nice essay on The Atlantic’s website (Bloom emerged from hiding only to land in the scary-eyed grip of NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams’s Willie Geist), another east-coast media transplant has raised the hackles of the meat-eating, gun-toting Midwestern lot he’s reporting on.

Yesterday, The New York Times’s Kansas City correspondent A.G. Sulzberger had a piece “Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival” in which he shares his personal travails as a vegetarian living in the country’s bread meat basket. The story is run alongside a photo of big men in line for brisket—fresh off the industrial meat carver—for breakfast.

Despite having some nice things to say about his current home and talking about his “struggle for sustenance” with a lightish touch, Sulzberger has ticked off, at the very least, the region’s vegetarians and food snobs (we’re a Top Chef nation, now):

It should be stated right up front that the Midwest, with its rich culture, stark natural beauty and superlative decency, quickly defies stereotypes. Living in the middle of the country is very different from living in the middle of nowhere.

But make no mistake: meat-loving is one stereotype that the region wears with pride. Lard still plays a starring role in many kitchens, bacon comes standard in salads, and perhaps the most important event on Kansas City social calendars is a barbecue contest.

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It didn’t take long before word had gotten around to Midwestern folk (funny how that happens in the Internet era) and they were fighting back on their blogs. Poynter’s Steve Myers has started a round-up here (plus some bonus east-coast criticism).

Maybe we should call it a ground roundup?

Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.