by Max Brantley
I wrote a while back on the Arkansas Blog about my mystification at D-G restaurant reviewer Eric Harrison's putdown Feb. 11 of Sims Bar-B-Que's nonpareil barbecue sauce. "Thin, mustardy and vinegary," he sniffed in a negative comment about a style of sauce that has served Sims well for 73 years. Harrison also, despite 30 years in residence here, appeared not to have understood about the bottled hot sauce served separately on request at Sims.
Well. In Lindsey Millar's review of The House last week, he made a jocular reference to Harrison's disapproval of Sims' elixir of the gods. Comes today a saucy response:
In reference to your description of me in your review of The House in the Feb. 18 edition as "The Democrat-Gazette's Eric Harrison (of Sims sauce-hating infamy)," I really don't mind your taking a swipe at me, even an anonymous and underhanded one. And if you feel that attempted put-downs improves the quality of your restaurant writing, by all means, go for it.
But at least have the decency not to misquote, or at least to misinterpret, my opinion.
Semantics aside, there is a world of difference between "Sims' sauce is not our favorite," which is what my review of Sims actually said, and "I hate Sims' sauce." Or perhaps your writer only sees things in absolutes and is incapable of distinguishing shades of gray.
And by the way, at least my readers know that it's my opinion they're looking at because I put my name on my reviews. For more than 30 years I have put my byline on every review I've written, and I intend to always do so. I believe a reviewer, any reviewer, establishes a relationship over time with his readers based on the percentage of time the reader agrees or disagrees with him. Why the Times expects its readers to trust the opinion of a writer who doesn't identify himself, I'm sure I don't know.
Eric E. Harrison
Since he brought it up: The Times has conducted reviews anonymously for 35 years. We believe, in a relatively small town, that the practice lessens the potential for undue influence. I"ve always felt you could argue it both ways, but accepted the policy when I came here 18 years ago after writing reviews under my byline for several years at the Arkansas Gazette. However, when questions are raised, we readily identify writers to address any disagreements on content. My judgment on the barbecue sauce case in question: Once a Yankee, always a Yankee.