Food Snobs vs. Mouth Breathers

Relax, I’m kidding.
Chicagoist, with their somewhat reliable reporting, is an interesting go-to for the local food information though I tend to prefer GrubStreet a little more. They tend to not “break” news that isn’t ready to break yet. Thrillist, I’m looking at you… ahem.
Anyway, Crain’s posted this article the other day about food fans  (the other “f word” is banished, heretofore) and Chicagoist re-posted it allowing for additional comments. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.

A “War” On Foodies?

This is where we should eat, if we want to be less snobby.

As we’ve experienced in our own comments section, some people are tired of the worship of food and just want everything to return to normal. By normal, they seem to mean the Wonder bread and chain restaurant world of the suburban 1960s, where people ordered, ate, paid and didn’t think too much about things. Well, if you feel that way, you aren’t alone; the media is getting in on the act. Chow reported yesterday on what they call “the war against foodies” – newspapers mocking those of us who love food and drink a little too much.

In a “Non-Foodies Food Guide,” The Oregonian wrote, “Call them gourmands, connoisseurs, picky eaters, or just plain old snobs. Foodies blog, write and chat about pet restaurants, trends and chefs. They leave little room on their plates or in their hearts for fast food, family dining and the untrendy. And they can be pretty mean to some places we love.” Apparently, foodies hate families, mid-priced chains, blue-collar workers, coffee that isn’t denoted in Italian, large portions and anything that doesn’t involve foam. Oh, and we’re mean too.
James Norton, writing on Chow, doesn’t pull any punches. First, he reminds us that most “foodies” hate that word, since it makes them sound like idiots. More important, he argues that a real foodie is someone who loves the best of any kind of food, from hamburgers to diner milkshakes to foie gras, and that this reaction is simply a backlash of the uninformed. We are forced to agree, and to add that snobbery and expertise are not necessary qualities of the gourmet – all you need is enthusiasm, open-mindedness and a desire to experience new things.
Norton also pushes back against the ridicule of those who wish to control what they eat. As he puts it, “There’s nothing “foodie” or exclusive about recognizing that a lot of so-called family dining and fast food is just garbage. It’s an objective fact. If your diet consists principally of an industrially processed pile of affordable carbs, butter, sugar, and meats, guess what: You’ve got a lot of doctor’s visits in your future. There’s nothing “foodie” about rejecting 1,800-calorie entrées that are mostly fat and salt; it’s just good sense.”
We’ve certainly encountered these sentiments before. Chefs occasionally complain about photography and blogging in their restaurants, and lots of our friends mock our “esteemed tastes” when we dine out. While obnoxious food snobs are a pain in the neck, chefs and publications should remember who pays the bills. If everyone who cared about food stopped reading the dining sections of newspapers or blogs, they wouldn’t have much left. Similarly, if everyone who identified as a “foodie” stopped going to high-end restaurants, there would be lots of empty tables. Oh, and just a note – we’ll be having a grilled cheese sandwich on white bread for lunch, in case you were wondering.

Click here for the article on the Chicagoist website.

Ok, back? So what did you think of that? Do they have a point, is this sour grapes and if so, sour grapes about what, exactly? What is so wrong with passion when it comes to food and the enjoyment of it? Surely given today’s standards it’s not exactly Roman Empire-esuqe hedonism. With the fold of Gourmet Magazine and the rise of Rachel Ray and her followers, we’re not living in some elitist food world where the enjoyment bubble is occupied by a select few which leaves the masses outside looking in. Great food is more accessible now than ever before (relative to your town and exposure, I suppose) and it’s just waiting for you to get on the stick. It’s for everyone. 

Not all of us can go to Tru or Alinea and fork (…) over all that dosh for a huge and memorable experience – and that’s ok. That’s why prix fixe lunch menus are the cheapest, quickest ways to get to know a restaurant that is normally out of your reach. And, I suppose, Restaurant Week as well though I gotta be honest, that is a whole other post. And given that we just signed up for another one coming in February, believe you me there WILL be a post. An angry, exhausted post. 

The article hits on something important though and that is that in order to consider oneself the F word, there must be balance. Ever read interviews with chefs? Their last meals are not at the French Laundry, they’re at their mother’s tables. Or the corner burger joint. Or a Coney Island dog. Their favorites are simple, they are the things that raised them. It’s ok to get off your couch after watching Survivor and have pizza delivered. No one will flog you for grabbing a number five at BK (least of all me. Those burgers are the best of the fast food bunch, I stand by that). Something about the new wave of F word types feel like you have to eat the best of the best all the time and look down on those who don’t – or worse, can’t. That’s just not right. I’ll take a binge on KFC in my jeans and Bears t-shirt on a Friday night with Sweetie Pie, easily. 

That said, I will also pick apart a roasted beet soup with oregano, halibut and raspberry crème fraiche with the time and attention of a Michelin writer. I appreciate butter-poached anything. Mignardises of rum candies or peach pate de fruit, bring it on. The appreciation of French prep does not equal a snobby palette. Not always. When tempered with the right Happy Meal, anyway.

As an aside, this is a really interesting article about the legitimacy and interpretation of the use of jiggers in bartending (on which side I am pro-jigger). Have a read.


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