The idea for this month’s main service package began with a simple question: How can I justify putting a big doughnut on the cover of this magazine? There are those who believe you never need any justification to tout doughnuts anywhere, anytime. They are wise folk, to be sure. But still, I didn’t want us to stray too far into Homer Simpson territory. So I started thinking about what doughnuts represent here, how we’re lucky to have so many independent bakeries still operating in town, and how they are woven into the civic fabric of Cincinnati. It didn’t hurt that I was doing all this deep thinking while chomping on a chocolate glazed that I’d just procured from the mother bakery of them all, Busken. Sometimes that’s just how inspiration works.
It didn’t take long to make the leap to other people, places, and things that give the city its unique personality. Pretty soon my mind was pinging from one local icon to another. It was like word association, but with a very vague guiding principle. Butcher shops…goetta…Findlay Market…Opening Day…east side vs. west side…The Pit at Elder…cornhole…civic self-esteem issues…. You get the idea. Then it hit me: I was trying to map and sequence the city’s DNA. The list we ended up compiling was much longer, which is a good thing; this city has quite a long DNA strand. But we decided to cut it off at 50. And then we decided to rank those 50. It was a highly unscientific, gut-driven process, as a lot of magazine lists tend to be, but we stand by it. If you disagree—and we expect some of you will—then by all means, let us know. Everybody’s got a list of personal favorites; these just happen to be ours.
One of the items that made our list was goetta, our beloved hometown mystery meat. Pretty much as soon as we started discussing its place in the Queen City firmament, we realized that we’d need more space to sing its praises. All we needed was someone obsessed enough to do it. Enter Jason Cohen, former senior editor and devoted follower of quirky regional American foodstuffs—or as he calls it, “junk cuisine.” Jason’s essay about his goetta fixation is part culinary exegesis, part detective story, and all heart. Honestly, some may come away wishing they hadn’t read what really goes into the making of goetta, but no one has written a better love letter to sausage in our time.
We’ve got a number of quasi-love letters in this issue, as it turns out. Donna Covrett confesses her adoration of bacon and all things porcine, which was the downfall of her once-heady vegetarian aspirations. Kathleen Doane gets maestro James Conlon to proclaim his undying love for choral music. P.F. Wilson explains the devotional zeal behind the zoo’s incorporation of green technologies. And Steve Kissing says he still loves his mom, despite her wicked sense of humor. All that and doughnuts, too. What’s not to love about this town?