If there were any indication that some people might take Brooklyn a little too seriously, it would be this: Moscow-based burger-makers Ferma & Williamsburg—wait for it—are set to make their Brooklyn debut at Smorgasburg this Saturday.
Chefs Tadatyan and Livsi joined forces to start the company “amid a wave of Brooklyn lovers and copycats,” Eater reports, and started as a “catering company that featured bearded, flannel-clad waitstaff serving food cooked on a grill and plated on distressed wooden planks.” This turned into a burger stand in Moscow’s Gorky Park, where the two sling burgers and other Brooklyn (or just American?) fare.
Ferma & Williamsburg also operate a “back alley social club” that serves “Brooklyn-esque” food like “burgers and Cafe Habana-inspired grilled corn.” Both restaurants are decorated with objects found at, yes, the Brooklyn Flea. The two also told Eater that they’re modifying their name to simply “Ferma Corporation” because, well, they’ll be in Brooklyn.
I should remind you that Cafe Habana’s corn is not specific to them. It is—gasp—home style Mexican food. Anyway, I don’t mean to talk shit on appropriating food per se, I’m just a little concerned about the levels of remove happening here. In one light, this is another example of how New Brooklyn’s effects continue to spiral further and further into the Ironic Galaxy. I can’t keep track.
But in another light, Ferma & Williamsburg is another sign of the commodified neighborhood aesthetic. We all love Brooklyn, and we are very proud to live here, but it’s starting to feel less like a neighborhood and more like a badge, a brooch on your lapel. Since when did beards and flannel become a Brooklyn thing? I hear it’s been a pretty common sight in, uh, you know, the Midwest. You want to use Williamsburg’s name as a brand, fine, but don’t pretend it’s any different from another chef out in the world making elderflower lemonade just because you know what 11211 means. I was about to type something snarkier like, “rosemary aioli isn’t anything new,” but I stopped myself because I’d have fallen into that trap of “Brooklyn” thinking. Namely, that sentence would have suggested that Brooklyn food means a) innovation or b) new takes on classics, but “newness” is not the issue here. It’s that we—and now people everywhere else—have become accustomed to thinking that Brooklyn is something beyond itself, something that can be bundled, transported, and sold.
You travel so you can visit another culture and world, but you actually have to leave your home to get that experience. Otherwise, it’s all lost in translation.