November 8, 2011

The Dos And Don’ts Of Food Snobbery

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Foodies, food-lovers, epicures, culinarians, overly enthusiastic omnivores… whatever you want to call them, they all have one thing in common: an extreme passion and appreciation for food. Whether it’s cooking food, eating food, or simply discussing food, they get lost in the multi-sensory experience and start speaking in tongues that are usually indecipherable to others. If you are one of these people (like myself), you know how often you straddle that line between adorable food-geek and pretentious food-snob. I slipped over to the dark side a week or so ago when I caught myself uttering the phrase “I am SO into heirloom tomatoes right now…” and then proceeded to give a recipe for my heirloom tomato, feta, bacon and watermelon salad without being prompted to. Even though my recipe might be delicious, I immediately thought to myself “wow, I sound like an ass.”

Here’s the thing most of us food-people don’t realize: nobody cares. Unless the subject in question is a food-person too (or a non-food person with a potluck to go to), no one wants to hear about the flavor profiles of the “sinfully decadent” soufflé you made or the ideal cacao percentage to use for baking. We assume that since it’s food and it’s something we all partake in every day, that it’s ok to wax on and on about… wax beans. Well, it’s not. It’s the same as a computer-geek talking to you about the new operating system for the iPhone when all you know about the iPhone is that it has Angry Birds and Words with Friends. Most people just eat to live, and we live to eat; significant difference, for sure, but there has to be a way the two worlds can coexist peaceably without pretention.

We always see food blogs and magazines teaching us how to pronounce things correctly and how to expertly pair wines with cheeses and that’s all well and good… but what about us? Shouldn’t there be some guidelines to keep us humble and in the adorable food-geek zone? I give you: The Do’s and Don’ts of Food Snobbery.

NEVER correct pronunciations unless it’s absolutely necessary. If Italians can get away with dropping vowels, you can let your friends pick them up. “Moozarell” and “Mozzarella” mean the same thing to waiters. I promise.

DO take it upon yourself to be the designated cook/ host when your friends or family are having a party. You know you love to cook, they know you love to cook, and hey, you’re good at it! So why not let everyone else take a break while you put those foodie talents to good use? And if you can’t cook everything, at the very least you should make ONE dish. Everyone will enjoy themselves, and no one will suffer food poisoning from Aunt Gail’s chicken marsala again.

DON’T push your friends into trying foods outside of their comfort zone. It’s fine to ask and give some reasons why they should — go ahead, foodie, give your pitch! If they still don’t budge, give up. Not everyone is going to enjoy quinoa-crusted, deep fried oysters on the half shell with a creamy pisco pepper and garlic sauce. Those are to die for, by the way. Sorry couldn’t help myself. #foodsnobproblems

AVOID over-explaining the taste of something. This isn’t Top Chef. If someone asks you how your salmon/steak/chicken was, say, “it’s okay… a little overcooked but not bad.” DON’T say, “underwhelming. I expected more of this place. I mean, is it SO hard to pan-sear a steak in a cast iron skillet and finish it off in the oven to a nice medium rare? The juices have hardly been retained. They must have not let it rest long enough. Way to ruin a perfectly good piece of meat. Do two Michelin stars mean the meat tastes like tires? Ugh. OH you know who makes a GREAT steak? That little hole in the wall place on West… something… do you know what I’m talking about? No? Well whatever. Yeah. THEIR steak is ahhhmaaazzzinnggg.” Food. Snob.

DON’T pan a place simply because everyone else loves it and you want to be different. People often think this makes them seem like they have a more refined palate than the masses. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but generally speaking, this doesn’t make you sound knowledgeable; it makes you sound like an ass. “Shake Shack? Please. It’s garbage. I’ve had better burgers in gas stations.” No you haven’t and you know it. Shut up.

REMAIN open for advice and food discussion. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a 15-minute conversation about kitchen gadgets, if the other person is willingly continuing it. Some people are closet food-geeks, and this is the perfect opportunity to bond with coworkers or that cute guy/ girl in the office. “Oh, you need help selecting a cheese grater, you say? Well, I happen to have to go to Sur La Table anyway to buy a new microplane. Why don’t we go together? And perhaps grab some artisan cheese samples and wine afterward?” Foodie dates rule.

ALWAYS steer clear of high prices when giving restaurant recommendations to friends. Unless the friend specifically said “money is not an object,” most people don’t want to pay $28 for five pieces of butternut squash ravioli lightly sautéed in sage butter. No matter how good it might be. As my mom so delicately put it, “unless there’s money inside the ravioli, that’s f$%&ing insane.”

Thanks, Mom. You keep me grounded. TC mark

image – Javier Lastras

Dara Pollak

Dara is a proud and semi-angry New Yorker. Born and raised in Queens, dabbled in Manhattan, currently residing …

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