Food Snobbery

» November 19th, 2014

Isn’t the fact that foodies feel compelled to write articles advising tribe members how not to sound snobby evidence that they are ipso facto snobs? I guess you could answer this question in the negative, suggesting that foodies get a bad rap, with their zeal for revitalized soil and apples picked by virgins being mistaken for elitism rather than plain old childlike enthusiasm.

But if the most recent investigation into how to “geek out over food without sounding like a snob” is any indication, I think there’s little doubt that foodies should dismiss all egalitarian pretenses and just own it: when it comes to the rarified pleasures of the palate, they’re better than us.

The author of this piece turned to her friends in the foodie trenches and asked them how to handle the ubiquitous snob label. Here are some samples of the answers (followed by a little commentary):

Kat Kinsman: “Why would you rob someone of their joy? Even if it’s not your bag, step outside of yourself for a second and ask them what it is that makes them love this particular ingredient, dish, restaurant, cuisine. You get to learn a little something about it and the person who loves it, and you get a chance to not make the world suck a little more for them.”

Commentary: I do step outside myself all the time, and I ask: why will this person eat broccoli that’s only locally grown and heirloom? And my answer is that, “she’s just engaging in the narcissism of small differences.” In other words, being a snob. And that doesn’t make the world suck for her. Hardly. Snobs LIKE being snobs.

Helen Rosner: “The only thing worse than actually writing or saying toothsome is being that jackass who points out that the word actually means “delicious,” not “al dente.”

Commentary: Isn’t this just an indirect way of being a snob while saying that you’re not? I mean, didn’t she just write “toothsome”?

Twilight Greenaway: “I eat a lot of mediocre homemade food when it’s served to me, because I believe that the intent behind sharing and cooking food comes first, and if people are made to feel comfortable doing it in the first place, then they might eventually seek out ways to use better ingredients/make it taste delicious.”

Commentary: Got it. So in fact there’s nothing snobby about nobly supping on mediocre food with the masses with the intention of curing them of their pedestrian palates in the long run. Culinary noblesse oblige? It lives.

Twilight Greenaway (again): “We might not all be able to eat at the next big restaurant, but most of us can learn to make a really amazing fritatta at home.” Commentary: Oh, super. Maybe we could even make that fritatta with leftovers from your latest big restaurant adventure? Pretty please?

Adam Roberts: “The key to not sounding like a food snob is acknowledging that food isn’t everyone’s thing; just like fashion isn’t everyone’s thing. If you don’t judge me for wearing old white socks with holes in them, I won’t judge you for eating that cheese sandwich from the gas station—even though it has mold on it and, really, who eats a cheese sandwich from the gas station?”

Commentary: none needed, really.

Cathy Erway: Whenever a food or ingredient that sounds esoteric comes up, I like to bring it back to my experience with handling it for the first time. Something like, yeah, and sunchokes are really sweet and less starchy than potatoes, so they make a really nice, golden crust when you roast them in no time!

Commentary: what am I, 5 years-old?

It’s pretty funny, all of this. But if these folks really want to purge the snobbery from their system they should have a conference at a Marriott and eat rubber chicken, lumpy potatoes, and canned vegetables. Oh wait, Bittman already squashed that idea. Last week, as he attended a tony foodie lovefest in up-the-Hudson-somewhere New York, he was asked by a reporter about the lavish accommodations and the $1400 ticket price to attend. Bittman answered:

“So what—we all meet in a Marriott?”

2 Responses to Food Snobbery

  1. I wouldn’t hang out with “foodies.” Their patter is like fingernails on the chalk board. Can’t deal.

  2. John T. Maher says:

    What is it with the fetishization of Bittman and Texas? Tim Morton (Rice) of Ecology Without Nature blogs about Bittman and median strips in Iowa interstitial spaces of non instrumental use today (Morton’s 2012-2013 posts on going/staying vegan are great). The underlying column at the click thru is about human social inetration and only incidental about any idea or abstraction of the vegan imperative. At least EP discusses the media discussion and not human reactions, little better than gossip in the original article really, which is more interesting if slightly attenuated. So foodie is a gauche version of epicurianism bearing little semblance to any vegan ideal and instead conforms more closely to the People Magazine format. I, for one, enjoy the many hyper real abstractions EP teases out more than the labels and silliness of most vegan blogs and discussions of foodies (speaking of snobbery, most self-identifying foodies are not up to scratch on their level of sophistication and exclusion and should be embarrassed for a different reason if they are). And the foodie scene in the Hudson is great but very heritage pork oriented and so I point everyone in another direction: back to theory and black bean burritos.

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