What is foodhippo?

foodhippo.ca launched on the morning of December 6, 2016.

The first users who stumbled across the site described it as both an “odd amalgam of aimless observations and juvenile teasing” (buster84), and “a sour, simmering broth of perceived slights in which thinly-veiled threats and disturbing revenge fantasies float around like bits of gristle” (loose_moose). Most visitors to the site were singularly unimpressed, but one of them, coolkecool@me, was generous enough to concede that even if “foodhippo’s reach far exceeds its grasp”, its goal is notable nonetheless:

“It’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of the author whose work is featured on this website—his two previous literary ventures include an iPhoto book about a trip to Italy (total print run: 1), and a confusing ‘cookbook’ that didn’t sell a single copy. This time the writer’s notional subject is restaurants, but his true goal is nothing less than to explore the human condition. Why he felt compelled to forego more accessible genres such as poetry, historical fiction, screenplays, westerns and greeting cards, and instead organize his thoughts in an awkward and disjointed series of restaurant ‘reviews’ is, quite literally, beyond comprehension” (coolkecool@me)

Other web surfers who weighed in later in the day described foodhippo as “an unfiltered obsession with food and eating” (fabytmHD), and (rattsn8) “the sad case of a pundit who, too timid to say anything directly, invents other voices, to which he attaches other names, thereby allowing him to put forward the most harebrained allegations imaginable”.  Yet another commentator called the site “a Babelian mishmash of unfortunate dining-out experiences writen by people who dont’ know much about food and even less about spelling and punctuation” (killa_wat).

 

So what is foodhippo?

  • Is it a lone writer’s ambitious attempt to come to an understanding of the essential nature of human interaction (based on years of painstaking research done in kitchens and dining rooms not just in Ottawa but in other Canadian venues as well)?
  • Or is it a gathering place for misfits who can’t cook (so they have to eat out) and who can’t write (but who write anyway) passing judgement on things they don’t understand (like food)?
  • And perhaps even more pressing—Do foodhippo’s ‘Recommended Ottawa Restaurants’ and ‘Other Canadian Restaurants’ even exist?!?

A simple google search conducted on the afternoon of December 6 didn’t produce answers to any of these questions.
I had to go deeper, into the Dark Web, where if you dig deep enough into the digital murk, they don’t even use zeros and ones but instead, zeroes and minus-ones (there was even the odd minus-3 and minus-6 bouncing around).  It was there that I found a peer-to-peer portal to the foodhippo webmaster. Here’s a transcript of our conversation (recorded for training purposes):

me: ‘Hello?’
voice: ‘Hi’
me: ‘Is this the foodhippo webmaster?’
voice: ‘No, I’m the foodhippo administrator’
me: ‘I need to talk to the foodhippo webmaster’
(there was a clanking and banging that conjured up images of the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain, but it may just be that the webmaster was in his kitchen making coffee)
foodhippo webmaster (picking up phone):  ‘Hello?’
me: ‘My friends are afraid that this whole foodhippo site is part of a cyberwar being waged by the same Russian hackers who brought down Hillary Clinton and ruined my friend’s Election Night Party.  They’re afraid to open the foodhippo url you sent out’
foodhippo webmaster:  ‘What are they afraid of?’
me: ‘That the link you sent is some kind of Trojan Hippo that, the second they double-click on it will unleash a malevolent digital algorithm that will take control of their hard drives and publish all their AshleyMadison dating preferences online—’
(sound of fhw slurping something, probably coffee)
me (continuing after short pause): ‘—so they’re all at home with their lights off and blinds drawn and their computers unplugged’
foodhippo webmaster:  ‘And?’
me: ‘Well is it true?’
foodhippo webmaster:  ‘Your friends worry too much’
me: ‘Okay but, here you are publishing reviews of restaurants that in a weird way seem to belong to us but that can’t be because none of us is in the restaurant business. On top of that, most of the reviews aren’t all that good, and none of our restaurants gets more than two stars out of five, and one of them only gets a half-star—”
foodhippo webmaster (interrupting):  ‘And?’
me (weakly): ‘—and that seems harsh’
(long pause; the only sound is the sound of fingers tapping on a computer keyboard)
foodhippo webmaster (after another keyboard click followed by a ‘whoosh’ sound):  ‘There, I just posted another review about the waiter at Vive la bouffe! being argumentative’
(bang as fhw’s phone is slammed down onto base unit)
me: ‘Hello?’
(sound of dial tone)

So that’s how it all began on December 6, 2016. With more questions than answers.
With no way of knowing for sure whether we’re just an ordinary group of friends who, on occasion, like to eat at one another’s homes… or a confused group of struggling café and bistro owners who are trying to do everything possible to impress an increasingly hard-to-please customer base, always hoping for that one glowing review that will vault us into restaurant supremacy.
That review has yet to materialize on foodhippo.ca.  So far, the reviews on foodhippo have not been kind.
But maybe now that café owners and customers alike are building up their nerve and opening the link and immersing themselves in the ever-expanding assortment of Notices, Bulletins, Recipes, Exposés and yes, Restaurant Reviews, we’ll finally get a better sense of what foodhippo.ca really is.