Right around the corner from where L’Enfant Plaza food trucks usually gather on weekday afternoons, some anonymous prankster has stenciled a weird and cryptic bit of graffiti: “Eat at Home,” it says, with two underlines and an asterisk that leads to no footnote.
Is the tagger telling us to avoid food trucks? Embrace the slow food movement? Stop bringing snacks on the Metro? Is it, perhaps, a poorly conceived piece of guerrilla marketing for some catering or grocery delivery service no one has ever heard of?
All of these theories have been floated on the blogs and online forums where Washingtonians, Richmonders and New Yorkers have debated the tag since it began to pop up around Virginia as early as last September. But the truth is, no one knows where the stencil came from or what it means.
“I have no idea what it is,” one Richmond-area Redditor griped in April. “All I know is that I dislike it, and I eat out every meal now because of it.”
It’s easy to rule out a few explanations, at least. Several people have pointed the finger at a Richmond personal chef service called, logically, Eat at Home. While the proprietor behind the company didn't respond to a request for comment on the matter, her online profiles suggest she’s moved on to a second career as a yoga instructor and that she recently got married and signed up for a baby registry -- which would seem to complicate the whole chef-for-yuppies-by-day, graffiti-artist-by-night thing.
Some have suggested it’s a metaphor for D.C. home rule, especially considering the two flag-like lines below the text. But in addition to L’Enfant Plaza, Union Station, H Street and U Street, the stencil has also reportedly surfaced in Brooklyn, Richmond, northern Virginia and around the University of Maryland campus, which rules out a local connection. As for the whole no-snacks-on-the-Metro theory, we all know New Yorkers have no problem befouling their subway system -- and Richmond doesn't have one.
So that leaves two reasonable front-runners: Either some graffiti artist(s) really likes Paul McCartney, or a transient hipster has decided to share his or her love of home cooking with the East Coast. This is, after all, how people generally use the hashtag #eatathome, and the conclusion favored by Richmond's WTVR:
We will roll with the latter for now, and invite you to leave alternate theories in the comments. In the meantime, look out for the "Eat at Home" tag around town.