When University of Michigan-Flint professor Bob Barnett isn't teaching writing, he's likely to be writing. And if he's not doing either, there is a good chance he's eating. The two form the perfect ingredients for his blog Eating Flint.
"I started the blog Eating Flint because I want the world to know that Flint has an eclectic, vibrant restaurant scene that reflects the city's cultural diversity," said Barnett. "Writing for me is also a means for expressing and sharing important ideas, so combining my love of food and my passion for writing seemed logical. That's how Eating Flint was born."
What makes his blog unique is the sprinkling of memories from his childhood.
"My love of food is heavily influenced by the women in my family. My mother is an exceptional cook, as are both of my sisters. One of my grandmothers viewed cooking as a means of survival and the other saw it as a means of expression," recalled Barnett. "By telling my own stories about food and culture, and by serving up off-colored critiques of Flint's eateries, I'm inviting readers to remember and share their own culinary experiences."
Barnett's blog is focused primarily on restaurants inside the city of Flint, but on occasion he will venture into the out-county area in search of a "culinary gem."
"Flint has hundreds of restaurants to choose from and people just don't realize how much choice they have when eating out, and how good the food is in so many of our eating establishments. I have ventured out to the suburbs of Genesee County as well because you never know where you will find something worth sharing."
Whether he's writing about a restaurant that is likely to put a heavy drain on your wallet, or one of the dozens of Coney Island diners that "serve the curve" (In Flint that means a Koegel hot dog), he approaches every experience with the same critical eye.
"There are three basic components to a good dining experience, and I apply them to every critique I write: the food, the service, and the ambiance."
As you might expect not every restaurant he visits will get the blue ribbon, but instead of being super critical, he'll try to be helpful.
"I try to offer constructive criticism where I see it could help the owners improve their businesses, because when these three elements click, no matter where I'm eating, the dining experience can be phenomenal. But if even one of the three components is lacking, the whole visit can be ruined."
So what is Barnett's favorite food? You'd have to admit it's anything but fancy.
"My favorite food is Tator Tot Casserole, a dish my sister Theresa invented that I have since crowned the king of comfort foods. Aside from that I really love Indian food; in fact I made it my mission a few years ago to educate myself on the Indian kitchen, and I've gotten to a point where I actually feel competent making Indian dishes. I also love to cook Thai because the flavors and textures of those dishes are so unique and delicious."
In addition to writing the blog, Barnett is putting the finishing touches on his first cookbook, The Accidental Entrée: Discovering your inner chef. The book invites would be cooks to engage in kitchen conversations, and to test their emerging culinary skills with a full slate of his original recipes.
Be prepared to get hooked and become a regular of Eating Flint: http://eatingflint.blogspot.com/