St. Louis Stockholm syndrome
There are a lot of things that have been great about going to school in my home city, from the occasional parent-driven Target run to seeing my dogs whenever needed. When choosing Washington University, I never had to struggle with friends and family wishing me luck in D.C. or Seattle because Wash. U. actually has name recognition here—no “in St. Louis” necessary. Despite multiple positive aspects, there are pitfalls to always living in the same place. I do not know a different way of life. To me, St. Louis is great. And it is. Isn’t it? No, really, I don’t know; I was born like two blocks from campus.
Meeting students from all over was exciting—meeting anyone that was not from Missouri was thrilling, actually. The more people I met, the more I began to realize that, well, maybe St. Louis was below average. Everyone, especially all of the kids from the coasts, could not stop talking about how they miss “real bagels” and that they would kill for “decent pizza.” I found this dissatisfaction confusing. If St. Louis Bread Company (not Panera, at least give us credit for something good) is not serving real bagels, then what are they? How is it possible to be dissatisfied with St. Louis style pizza? Especially Imo’s.
I was raised on these “subpar” bagels. Provel “cheese” is what I have always intended to eventually clog my arteries. This is the food I know, the food I love. Do I have bad taste? Everyone around me hates that which I love with fervor. Maybe they are just wrong. Their palates are not refined enough to appreciate the sophisticated flavors of St. Louis specialties like Imo’s. Whatever the reason, my food opinions are quickly silenced by those kids from that one borough of New York that everyone seems to be from. They always have the same comment, that I “just don’t know real food.”
I can’t help but wonder if maybe they are right. Perhaps if I ever left my little section of the Midwest I would grow dissatisfied with the food I was raised on. Perhaps a trip to New York would have me scoffing at Bread Co. and gagging at the smell of Provel. Maybe my go-to restaurant should not be QuikTrip kitchens (apparently gas station food should not be revered). I am beginning to realize that I may be suffering from Stockholm syndrome: I love my captor, I love St. Louis, because I have no escape. I have convinced myself that Provel “cheese” is better than any brie or gouda could ever be because I am trapped, because it is easier to love what you are stuck with rather than scratch your way out of your prison. Or maybe, just maybe, everyone else is wrong and St. Louis is the highest peak that the culinary arts will ever reach. Yeah, let’s go with that last one.