Regarding Strange Fruit
We want to apologize for the drink “Strange Fruit” on our menu, and offer a little by way of explanation.
“Strange Fruit” had actually been on our menu for some time. When the Friendly Toast changed ownership in October of 2013, our new management inherited this recipe and title from the previous owners. We don’t know how long it had been there before that, although now we understand that it was a holdover from when many of our drinks were named after banned books.
When we reprinted the menus and reorganized our restaurants, we kept the recipe and the name only because the recipe seemed to work. At the time we were not aware of the Billie Holiday song or the banned book Strange Fruit after which the drink was named. We should have been, but we weren’t, and we’re sorry.
We agree with Mita Shah Hoppenfeld, who originally wrote about Strange Fruit in Cambridge Day, in that “racism can exist even without racial animosity.” We certainly don’t have animosity towards any of our guests. We take the “Friendly” part of our name seriously. It makes us sad to know that, perhaps for years, patrons have been made to feel an entire spectrum of negative feelings about race that we did not intend because we named a drink insensitively. We wish we had figured it out sooner.
The drink is no longer on the menu, and the person who originally devised the name has been gone for a long time now. We can’t speak for their intentions when naming the drink. We don’t know if they were trying to be edgy or in-your-face or flat-out racist. We think they were just going off of a list of banned books, but we don’t know. We can speak for our intentions, though.
We apologize that our staff defended the drink to Ms. Hoppenfeld. I’m sure they never expected to have to address the implications of the name of anything on the menu. We’re sure that people will understand that they were caught flat-footed in a situation where they had to defend something they had no say in and very little knowledge of. We should not have put them in that position. The fault is with us, not with them.
We feel that to be friendly you have to be inclusive and sensitive, and that you have to listen. Thank you to Mita Shah Hoppenfeld for bringing this to our attention. We understand that as we tackle ongoing problems of race and privilege, that things like this are important. We apologize, we’re listening, and we intend to continue to listen, so this is the last statement we will be making in our defense.
Eric Goodwin Scott Pulver