Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gripes, Grapes and Hidden Connecticut

The lead on today's front page New York Times utterly miss-characterizes my native state:

"Think of Connecticut, and what comes to mind are the swells of Greenwich, the exurban good life of Litchfield County, the land of New England steady habits."
Volvos and Ralph Lauren, that's all we are. (sigh). The irony of this story is that the picture accompanying it undermines the lead. It's of the governor standing with mayors of three of the state's biggest cities, which are most certainly not bastions of high end Swedish cars and polo ponies.

This is the second time in less than week that I've been smacked in the face with false Connecticut stereotypes. Over the weekend, I attended a talk by the author Lisa See, and she told the audience how the first time she was going to come to Connecticut, she felt compelled to shop for an clothes specifically for her visit. The clear implication was that she needed to appear in a some sort of yachting outfit.

The joke fell flat.

Yes, parts of Connecticut do fit the image of mansions and bond traders. But much, if not most of the state is very blue collar and ethnic. Cities like New Haven, where I work, look more like Brooklyn than Brookfield. New Haven's schools, for example, enroll immigrants from more than 60 nations. Sorry, no polo ponies where I live. Just a lot of guys who speak fluent Fugitaboutit.

But in one sense this misconception is typical of the Nutmeg state. I've found over the years that most of what makes Connecticut interesting and unique is hidden or not widely known outside of its immediate area.

This is a food blog, so I'll cite as an example New Haven pizza or "apizza" as its locally called. The city has some of the best, oldest and most storied pizza restaurants in America. Ever hear of them? Probably not. It's always New York or Chicago that get all the ink.

The New Haven Register had another example earlier this week. It published an article about the a new book on the history of winemaking in Connecticut. Before Prohibition, there was a significant wine industry the state, which has revived in recent years. Some excellent wines are now produced in the state. Not a total surprise given that grapes are on the state flag.

Vineyards in Connecticut? Who would have thunk?

So the next time you think Connecticut is just people who curl their pinky when they drink tea, think again. If only we could get the Times to listen.

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