BY MARDI LINK
Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — Did you hear the big news?
Well, it’s been announced all over the place so if you haven’t heard about it, that can only be because you’ve been doing a lot of chewing and it has temporarily blocked your auditory canals.
But I’m here to tell you that somewhere between the Omelette Shop’s colossal Country Skillet, Peegeo’s Spud Lover’s pizza, and the oh-so-heavenly Lamb Crudo at Trattoria Stella, Traverse City has eaten its way to the top. The top 10, that is.
The editors of Fodor’s Travel have named TC one of the best small towns in America. And, according to this very newspaper, we got there mostly on the power of our stomachs. Don’t get me wrong — our beaches, forests and dunes certainly helped, but it is what’s on our plates that put us over the top.
“An unexpected foodie haven” — that’s what our town is to the sophisticated palates of people like chef Mario Batali and the Fodor’s editors. Of course, the 14,894 of us who live here year round already knew that.
If you’re local, you also surely know about the hard work behind the publicity. But none of the lists, so quick to recognize our terrific town, ever recognize that.
So here’s to the drudgery behind the deliciousness, the labor behind the laurels, the grind behind the glamour. It might not make a good headline, but I do know this part of the story pretty well. As a matter of fact, I sometimes feel like I’ve helped scrub, serve, carry, ferry and parent Traverse City onto that top 10 list myself.
When my sons were babies, I waitressed at night so I could be home with them during the day. In a process more mysterious than whipping up a perfect cheese soufflé, some of my brief restaurant experience apparently rubbed off on my sons.
My oldest, Owen, worked at Trattoria Stella while he was going to college, spending night after night washing dishes, then making pizzas, then working the line. Now he lives in Chicago and works in a swanky champagne bar preparing Russian caviar and chocolate ganache.
My middle son, Luke, works nights at Stella, like his brother before him, and is a college student during the day. Both their kitchen skills have far outpaced my own and I love that they can prepare such intricate and artful food. But it is not until I think about all the hard work that went into their pretty dishes that my pride peaks like a good meringue.
My youngest, Will, is 16. He told me last week that working in a restaurant wouldn’t be such a bad summer job.
“It’s hard work,” I warn.
“Yeah,” he says, “but I bet it’s tasty work, too.”
Mardi Link is a Traverse City writer and the author of “Isadore’s Secret.” She has also written a memoir about motherhood that will be published soon. Send comments and questions care of the Record-Eagle or via email at email@example.com.