Michael Kelly's June 24 op-ed column resorts to the tiredest of comic cliches: the Jersey Joke. Under the headline "Smorgasbord by the Sea," Kelly maligns the cuisine of Garden State shore towns. Kelly's condescending attitude explains a T-shirt popular among locals that reads, "Welcome to the Jersey Shore. Now go home!" As a South Jersey native who has had the privilege of spending 40 summers in North Wildwood, I feel compelled to set the record straight on shore culture.
Not only does Cape May County inspire the poetry of A. R. Aamons and the novels of William Wharton, but it also educates some very sophisticated palettes. Next time Kelly is "down the shore," as we say, he should expand his culinary horizons. Skip Dock Mike's and the boardwalk bistros, as much fun as they are. In fact, he should stop by my family's place and let us serve him some authentic South Jersey fare. We'll start with clams steamed in olive oil, white wine and herbs; move on to a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad made from the fruits of our backyard garden (how could Kelly write about dining in South Jersey without mentioning tomatoes?); and enjoy a main course of flounder so fresh that an hour before it had been swimming in Grassy Sound. There's a meal a cardiologist could applaud! Since it's so healthful, we even can afford a dollop of whipped cream on our dessert of local blueberries and peaches.
That's South Jersey for you. There's a whole lot more to the Shore than Kelly knows.
-- Scott R. Pilarz
Michael Kelly does an excellent (tongue-in-cheek, I assume) job of insulting almost all Americans, except perhaps Native Americans. In my case, since my four grandparents all immigrated from Norway, it concerns lutefisk.
Kelly says, "Nobody eats lutefisk." I love to eat lutefisk and do not consider myself exceptional. And Norwegian salmon, of course (with or without dill or new potatoes) is far superior to any salmon one can get in the United States, unless one imports it from Norway.
I must correct Kelly's statement that lutefisk starts out as herring. It starts out as codfish, which is an entirely different thing. It is true, of course, that during World War II, Norwegian diets were severely limited by the German invaders, to the point that many Norwegians were deprived of most food other than lutefisk and therefore ate mostly that, with consequent negative reactions.
The very word "smorgasbord" (butter-feast-table) comes from Scandinavia. If Kelly were to eat at a real smorgasbord and sample other delicacies in a Scandinavian restaurant, I believe he might wish to reconsider his claim that, "Over there, everybody eats the same stuff all the time."
-- Alden Bestul