Finally joining the fray in a debate about whether the North Shattuck neighborhood of Berkeley — longtime home of Chez Panisse and the Cheese Board Collective — should continue to be nicknamed the "Gourmet Ghetto," Alice Waters agrees with the young folk: the name needs to go.
"I have never liked it from the very beginning, either word," Waters says to the Chronicle, and she goes on to kind of misinterpret the current conversation about the problematic term "ghetto," but she does say that it's simply "off-putting."
The neighborhood, which is also home to the flagship location of Peet's Coffee & Tea, has informally had the nickname for several decades, despite the fact that Waters and others have bristled at it over the years. And the latest dustup arose after an interview on Berkeleyside with newcomer to the 'hood Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters. Pointing to the ways in which the word "ghetto" has come to "denigrate and marginalize black people in particular," he encouraged the local merchants' association to drop the term. (The North Berkeley merchants' association actually uses gourmetghetto.org as their URL.)
Waters seemed to have the same older connotation with the word "ghetto" as Berkeley food writer L. John Harris did in this op-ed, in which he referred to the Jewish ghettos of Europe — which took their name from "the Venetian word getto that references the area of 16th-century Venice associated with the slag bi-products from iron smelting factories" where Jews were forced to live. He still sees the term "Gourmet Ghetto" as being full of "playful irony and pleasant alliteration" — and it caught on in the 1990s more than an earlier term, "Gourmet Gulch," he said, because "gulch" is an even less attractive word.
The debate is far from over! And while the City of Berkeley has nothing to do with this neighborhood designation, they do informally recognize it, and that seems awfully un-PC for a city that recently changed its municipal code to do away with the term "manhole" because it's too gendered.