Defining the Eugene Food Scene

Eugene by Melissa Haskin

Today I got an email from a graduate student at UO. I had recently followed her blog, the eugene coloring book blog, a black-and-white blog with pages that look like they came out of a coloring book. Each page features something in Eugene. I figured it was a cute idea for Eugene kids. In actuality it is part of her terminal project for her master’s degree, the object of which is to engage people, to have them “color-in” pages with their own stories. She asked me to add my own and so I did in perhaps the most appropriate place: page 6, The Eugene Food Scene.

Let a five-year-old design a sundae–gummy worms, cake batter ice cream, Oreos, sprinkles and maybe some chips–and it might come close to what the Eugene food scene looks like.

It’s a whimsical world of sometimes local, sometimes Sysco food with a focus on everyone-friendly fare (think gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, etc.).
You can duck into a dive for $2.50 tacos or put on a fancy skirt and head out for a fish bowl and a pot of beer cheddar fondue.

What the Eugene food scene has meant to me is a new beginning. It is here that I started my career as a journalist and set myself apart as a food writer. It is here that I have begun to find my voice, my purpose.

Each place is filled with stories. Who is the lady at the table? How long has that couple been dating? Did they fight before they came to dinner? Are the biscuits and gravy made fresh every morning? How did the owners hold up during the recession? We’re they down to a two-person staff, feeding glorious food to others while they ate noodles and butter every night?

Some of these stories I have begun to uncover, but the beauty is that they are endless. Ever-changing.

It happens.

In the end I will only truly know my story. Saturday market happiness in a New Day garlic kale roll. Dishing about boys at Little Big Burger, the sounds bouncing off the gym-like walls not quite covered by the compensatingly loud music. Girly cocktails at the Vintage. Yellow duck cookies from Barry’s to celebrate and brighten days. And forever the memory (caution: pg-13 material coming up!) of condoms and Duct tape falling out of my purse during a first date at Cornucopia. It was an excellent burger.

One place stands out most in my mind though: Max’s. Pear cider, popcorn in a pitcher, summer nights, a snowy night, twinkling lights, fires without s’mores, a bit of banter with all of the male bartenders and perhaps questionable company.

Alas Eugene, I am smitten (with you).

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