New Yorkers: They’re just like us! I mean, not really. They rarely drive cars, preferring to walk and take something called “trains” to get from place to place. They live in tiny boxes that tend to cost more than the mortgages of even Texans who live in nice houses in our biggest cities. And they go crazy for the chance to wait in line for hours for these little confections called “cronuts.” Check it out:
Fabiola and Melissa Baptiste schlepped down from Harlem at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning to stand in line at a swanky Soho bakery run by Chef Dominique Ansel. Their objective: one of his freshly baked Cronuts.
“I was like, what the heck is a Cronut?” says Fabiola, a Soho designer and manager at Mulberry, a leather goods fashion company with a store down the street. “So I looked online and thought, ‘wow’ – and mind you, I’m a food junkie, dessert junkie, sugar junkie – so, I was like, I need to try this once in my life.”
“So, today is my day off, and I said, ‘Ok, Melissa, don’t go to sleep tonight, we’re gonna’ go straight there,’ Ms. Baptiste continues. “So we came, and now today’s going to be our first time trying it, so I’m excited.” They got in line a little after 6 a.m., and at about 8:40, they still have about 50 people in front of them. The bakery opened at 8.
Getting in line in the wee hours of the morning to wait for some food? What will those New Yorkers think of next?
You may be thinking, “Hey, the cronut fad peaked in the summer of 2013, and although the pastry confections are still popular and tasty, acting like you’ve stumbled onto an exciting new trend many years after the fact just because it’s in another part of the country is weird.” To which we would say, “Uh, they started it.” Because that’s exactly what The New York Times did yesterday, when it ran a piece on the line at Franklin Barbecue.
After double-checking the date to make sure that the Times‘ piece wasn’t a 2013 attempt to let cronut-obsessed New Yorkers know that their fellow Americans deep in the heart of Texas also like to wait in line for delicious food, we were confused. The Franklin line has been a thing for a long time now.
Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn noted the growing lines for Franklin Barbecue way back in October 2010, when the establishment was merely a trailer off of I-35. By his visit in September 2011, the story was the line, and by March 2012, the Franklin line had become such an established part of Austin culture that the SXSW Film bumpers included an entire 60-second sketch dedicated to mocking out-of-towners who thought they were going to be able to score some of that Franklin meat without having to wait for it.
To be fair, if you’re a reporter and you can convince an editor to let you write off the time and expense of getting some of Aaron Franklin’s brisket, you go ahead and do that—we can’t really blame you. But while Times reporters Manny Fernandez and Tamir Kalifa—who wrote and photographed the piece, respectively—are based in Texas, there’s a thing that happens when the Paper of Record explores the goings-on in a place far from their headquarters: Namely, the reportage starts to come off like an anthropological study of a strange culture that the paper’s readers need explained to them.
People pass the time in useful, creative ways. They play cornhole. They munch on breakfast tacos, which amounts to eating while waiting to eat. They socialize to an extraordinary degree (at least two couples who met in line here have since gotten married). Someone in line once had a funk band in tow.
Down the line behind Mr. Chaudhry, Tyler Vasquez, 28, brought a football. Jake Hazzard, 30 — “like the Dukes of,” he said — kept busy with the Pocket Mortys game on his phone. Dylan Walter, 29, played the card game Pepper with his wife and his parents at a deluxe card table with built-in cup holders. And Amber Sarker, 34, had her goodie bag.
They also mostly stare at their phones a lot and listen to podcasts, but anecdotes like that are a little less charming.
Collecting the instances of national media condescending to Texans could be a full-time job. A story from earlier this month about real estate in Texas used its headline to explain to New Yorkers that “wealth is measured in acres” here (also in, you know, cash, property, stocks, and other accumulated resources). Last October, the Times ran a story about Texas (and Florida) schools’ strong national rankings in math and reading (number three for Texas, according to the study the story was reporting on) with the headline, “Surprise: Florida and Texas Excel in Math and Reading Scores.” Texas kids aren’t a bunch of illiterate morons who have to take off their socks to figure out how many cronuts are in a dozen? Surprise!
As an example of the way that media like the Times treats Texas like a weird foreign country that needs to be interpreted for their readers, the story about the Franklin line is innocuous. Mostly, it’s a fun, breezy, well-written look at a cultural phenomenon that’s existed in Austin for literally the entire decade that we’re already more than halfway through. But it does speak to an imbalance in the ability of national media to define Texas to the world. Because so much of the media world centers around New York, the Times can declare that it’s a surprise that Texas kids are good at math simply because they assumed they wouldn’t be. When New York media wants to paint Texas with one broad, flat brush, there’s little we can do. We can’t take to our own national TV shows or nationally distributed newspapers, because they don’t exist. What happens in New York media filters out to the rest of the country, and the biases that come with that are on display in ways big and small. Whether it’s expressing “surprise” that Texas kids do well in school or when a story about the Franklin Barbecue line spends most of its time talking about the people playing cornhole, card games, and referencing the Dukes of Hazzard—as opposed to the all of the ones screwing around on their phones—while they wait.
When it’s all about barbecue, who cares? (Reading between the lines on this tweet from Austin American-Statesman food writer Matthew Odam, the attention might have even reduced the wait today!) But when the subjects get more serious, and the perspective stays the same, it can matter more. At the very least, to those of us in Texas, it’s as out-of-touch sounding as declaring that you just discovered cronuts.