This week's Twitter war began innocuously enough: On May 8, Portland-based food blogger and restaurateur Nick Zukin, who owns a Mexico City-style snack shop called Mi Mero Mole in PDX, inquired via Twitter where to find jarred flor de calabaza (squash blossoms) on a recent trip to Orange County. When no one in particular piped up with a particular location, Zukin (@extramsg) lamented that the item was easier to find in Oregon than in Southern California.
That statement attracted the attention of food blogger Bill Esparza (@streetgourmetla) and O.C. Weekly food editor Gustavo Arellano (@gustavoarellano), who responded that the statement was patently false, and that Zukin wasn't looking hard enough. Food-based barbs were traded, words like pendejo and gabacho were thrown around, and Zukin was compared unfavorably to a character in a Portlandia sketch. Zukin then pulled out the Rick Bayless card by suggesting L.A. was lacking a Mexican food expert on the level of the Chicago chef, a statement that definitely touched a nerve with two of our city's foremost authorities on the cuisine. The back and forth battle continued for a couple hours, like a electronic version of this year's Australian Open finals.
Today, even L.A. Times critic Jonathan Gold chimed in on the action, albeit from the viewpoint of a popcorn-munching spectator. As of Thursday afternoon, though, it seems that hatchet has been mostly buried between Zurkin and Arellano -- Zurkin even offered to fly the author of Tacos U.S.A. up to Portland for a book signing, where we imagine would settle their differences over a few quesadillas stuffed with flor de calabaza and huitlacoche.
Our take on the whole matter? Since flor de calabazas are the same thing as squash blossoms, an item that you'll find in almost every chef's 100%-hemp shopping bag this time of year, it probably isn't hard to find fresh (or jarred) versions in either Los Angeles or Portland. (Just go check a farmers market.) The bulk of the hub-bub wasn't really about veggies at all, but a signal that if you question the merits of Los Angeles Mexican cuisine on Twitter, you're cruising for an earful from its biggest advocates. See some selected tweets from the week-long saga: