If Leff's roll call brought his online community together, his next move would nearly drive it apart. In an impassioned response to the acts of violence against Arab-Americans being reported around the United States, Leff dispatched what came to be known as the Chowhound Call to Eat: "If I had a minute of spare time," he wrote, "I'd try to set up teams of hounds to hang around our favorite Arabic spots and help defend them against senseless bigots. But maybe everyone could just agree to try to eat exclusively Middle Eastern for a few weeks (or months) and be ready to defend." Contributors began posting accounts of trips to cherished Egyptian cafés, Lebanese grocers and Afghan kabob stands around the country. But others dissented.
"I completely disagree with Jim Leff and this crusade," someone named Walter wrote. "I intend to boycott all Afghan and Middle East restaurants...I hope they all go out of business." Under the alias Voice of Caution, someone else noted that some Afghans living in the United States support Osama bin Laden and suggested that "those of us rushing to spend money in Afghan establishments might want to try first to determine which faction a particular purchase will benefit." In Boston, Patriot Paul wrote, less articulately, "I rather support an American cuisine restaurant."
The hounds howled. A whole thread sprang up under the heading "Dumb thing to say, Patriot." Leff excoriated the idea of a litmus test that would make Arab-Americans prove their loyalty. The discussion mushroomed, with people trying to stake out positions that made sense in a political landscape that had changed shape in a single day. The legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization was debated, as was the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Inevitably, the debate took on an ad hominem toneand its connection to the quest for hyperdeliciousness became hard to discern.