GTPulse: Why Is Everyone In Traverse City Talking About Sour Cream?

Do you eat your pasty with ketchup, gravy, or missing sour cream?

The condiment discourse was hot over the weekend after a woman, who will remain unnamed, aired a complaint on a local Facebook group after not receiving sides of sour cream with her takeout order from Cousin Jenny’s Cornish Pasties. The complaint was posted to the community Facebook group ‘Overheard in Traverse City’ where she wasn’t met with support, but rather, a string of comments, jokes, and memes playfully poking fun at what some have deemed ‘Karen’ like behavior. After a year of everyone being divided by COVID-19 and political theatre, unity has been briefly restored in the name of sour cream, and everyone in desperate need of a laugh.

Jenny’s has been serving up delicious pasties since 1979 in downtown Traverse City. Jerilyn de Boer, a Yooper, founded the pasty shop. However, the hearty, handheld meat pie has long been a part of Michigan’s history. When Cornish immigrants came to the U.P. during the 1840s, they brought their meat and veggie hand pies with them. The thick dough surrounding the savory filling meets at a pinched seam that makes them perfect for forgoing utensils. The rope-like handle made them great for miners, as they could discard the last piece of small crust that was befouled by their soot-covered hands.

Typically eaten with ketchup or gravy, folks of TC not only questioned the choice of sour cream as a condiment but also the scathing complaint that was posted in the group. After coming to the realization that the people were not on her side, she removed the post. But it was too late. The people about town had ammo and plenty to say.

Posts steadily rolled in all weekend. From pictures of delicious-looking takeout food accompanied by sour cream of their own to hilariously crafted memes, we were all kept thoroughly entertained. After wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, though, I couldn’t help but wonder why this post, in particular, had elicited so much opinion and attention. As most members who engage in the Facebook group know, it’s filled with controversy and complaining regularly. So why had we fixated on this particular post? Yes, we’re all tired from the strife that 2020 has bestowed upon us, and yes sour cream as a condiment for pasties is certainly controversial, but I think the answer lies within something deeper.

More than 100,000 restaurants nationwide have shuttered due to the pandemic. Traverse City, well regarded as a foodie town, has felt the devastation. With many hospitality and service industry employees now out of work, the small community has felt a sense of duty to the restaurants and other small businesses that are fighting every day to keep the lights on. As a restaurant worker myself, my allegiance is with them.

Our local businesses and restaurants still have a long, tough road ahead of them. The typically slow, upcoming winter months that are mostly devoid of tourism traffic in a normal year will only face more hardship with safety restrictions due to COVID-19. According to the National Restaurant Association, thirty-seven percent of restaurant operators say that it’s unlikely their businesses will survive the next six months without additional government relief. Restaurants will have to heavily rely on takeout business to help float them through the winter.

If I’ve noticed anything during my time living in Traverse City, it’s that the locals here treat the community as an extension of their own family. Folks exclusively grocery shop at Tom’s or Oryana because their family has been doing so for generations. A friend and his wife go to the U&I every New Year’s Eve because it’s where they shared their first kiss. A dad I know buys his son the same chocolate birthday cake from Potter’s every year. My point being, people are protective of this place, and rightfully so. It’s special.

With so many of our local restaurants fighting to stay open, showing them a little empathy in these grueling times is not only the graceful thing to do but the moral one as well. If there were ever a time to show kindness in the face of adversity (if you want to call a missing condiment ‘adversity’) this is it.

Regardless of all the difficulties we’ll endure over the course of the next few months, remember to keep your hearts full of kindness, and your fridges stocked with sour cream. And while we’re at it, maybe grab a couple of pasties from Jenny’s too.

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Categories: GTPulse