Oui, "Très Brooklyn!" est de retour. This horrible, supposed culinary superlative first introduced by The New York Times has reared its questionable but perfectly pomaded and fedora-topped head again, this time in USA Today, which somehow makes it worse. This is not your grandparents' Brooklyn! It is also not France's Brooklyn, given that, according to Parisians supposed to have started this whole thing, "Très Brooklyn!" is not actually a thing at all. Can we stop trying to make "Très Brooklyn!" happen, s'il vous plaît?
Apparently not. In USA Today, we get this new entry from Rick Hampson. It's a meandering piece about how Brooklyn—or parts of it at least—have become so gosh darn cool, despite the "tradition" of Brooklyn being crime-ridden and dangerous and rough not just around the edges but in general. Plus, in the old days, it was full of Dodgers fans:
The arrival of the NBA Nets gives Brooklyn its first major league team since the Dodgers' departure for Los Angeles in 1957, and something else: more evidence that, as its denizens claim, the borough that was once a punch line is now the coolest place in America, a land of rooftop farms and pop-up art galleries, of haircuts, eyeglasses, hats and body piercings so chic that even Parisians utter, "Très Brooklyn!"
Sound familiar? Remember Julia Moskin's contribution to the current trend piece zeitgeist, when she wrote in the New York Times in early June, "Among young Parisians, there is currently no greater praise for cuisine than 'très Brooklyn,' a term that signifies a particularly cool combination of informality, creativity and quality." How could we forget? It had seemed that we'd pushed it from our brains; after all, it doesn't appear that the French are using the term all that much, and the most common Google results for the phrase look like they begin and mostly end in Brooklyn itself, or maybe Manhattan—possibly with the New York Times piece that started it all. But now that the term has now spread to the paper your parents and grandparents read (prepare for a wave of questions and commentary on how "cool" Brooklyn is!), we're getting worried. Hampson take a page from the Brooklyn/Manhattan PR war saga and writes,
"People I know from London don't want to go to Manhattan," says Kari Browne, 33, a former broadcast news producer who last month opened a cafe in the up-and-coming Victorian neighborhood of Ditmas Park. "They want to come to Brooklyn."
As do art students from Iowa and tourists from Helsinki, urban farmers and suburban shoppers, Swarthmore and Oberlin seniors, do-it-yourselfers and indie rockers, German graffiti writers, vegans, surfers, Manhattan writers, NBA stars.
Partway through Hampson's piece we get a brief reminder of what Brooklyn used to be: "unsophisticated and unfashionable, the butt of the kind of jokes now directed at New Jersey." Also, "synonymous with crime, drugs and welfare." But flash forward to 2012 and now it's a "brand," according to one Brooklynite quoted. Even if there are still murders, poverty, crime, and so on. Even if there are many, many different parts of Brooklyn, in which many, many different things happen, things other than artisanal pickle-making. Nonetheless, Hampson writes,
That said, Brooklyn at its best is Sesame Street: integrated playgrounds; small shops on tree-lined streets; artisanal pickles and home-made granola; bike lanes and occasional valet bike parking. Spike-haired, tattooed skateboarders zip past bearded Hassidic Jews in long black coats. Houseboats ply the once-fetid Gowanus Canal.
What is the meaning of this "très"? In Brooklyn people do things! They bike! They kayak! They participate in "art scenes and events and parties," according the USA Today piece. There are even bus tours so unfortunate Manhattan-dwelling tourists can come and gawk at all the "très Brooklynness! A store—on the outskirts of Toronto, no less—has taken the name "très Brooklyn." Why? It's "a recently coined phrase that provoked turmoil and tempest from those on both sides of the pond when it came to culinary comparisons, however, it created a very visual experience for us of cultural diversity, casual informality, blended families, creativity, quality and just a simple cool lifestyle... the working class with class!"
Then there's the piece in the New York Post today on how Brooklyn restaurants have finally trumped their Manhattan brethren in the eyes of Bon Appetit reviewers: “'Everybody loves Brooklyn,' sighs one restaurant publicist." Alas, the other side of all this Brooklyn branding, the très worrisome part, mon chéri, is that some of the people who have lived in Brooklyn the longest can no longer afford it and are getting pushed out of Brooklyn. Where will they go? Let them eat cake! Or French food. It's très Brooklyn.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.