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Mar 3, 2008 04:03 AM

"Highbrow" vs. "Lowbrow"

After spending time at my 84 year old yia-yia's (grandmother's) birthday party yesterday, I started thinking along these lines. She requested donuts and hot dogs for her party, and I thought it was interesting, because some of my relatives arent at all interested in these types of food, while others can't get enough of them.

So, all other factors being equal (i.e. the "best" example of the designated food is to be eaten), are you more of the "chips and dip" type or the "caviar and creme fraiche" type? I realize how subjective this is, that there are many different reasons why, and that there are many different interpretations of these two designations, but that's part of the fun of asking the question! So which will it be? I realize that we all experience at least a bit of both at times, but remember, the question is which way you lean toward the most, and the above examples of food are of course not to be addressed literally (e.g. "I like chips and dip better").

Oh, me? Well, I think I'm on the "lowbrow" end. I definitely love to experience "common" food more. As my income increases, though, so does my penchant for the "finer" things (as I am sure is commonly the case).

On a side note, the secretary here at work says that she won't eat beef unless it's tenderloin meat. I find this very interesting, and it says a lot about her as a person (not that her opinion is necessarily bad).

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  1. To make a generalisation, my tastes probably aren't highbrow. I'd prefer a tiny Vietnamese canteen to a super-fancy michelin starred restaurant, and I'll always prefer a simple pasta dish to, say, oysters or caviar. I still love good food, prepared with care from quality ingredients, but I tend towards more rustic, peasanty food (preferably in large portions!) to haute cuisine. I think it's maybe just that, for me, an essential part of eating is being able to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family, and thinking about the 'experience' and the cleverness/skill of the chef detracts from that a bit.

    1 Reply
    1. re: babybat

      Here here!

      I love good food. I love good food if it is my family's home cooking to little ethnic hole-in-the-wall places. Good food and good company is a great time.

    2. Here's my particular angle on this...

      While I certainly enjoy highbrow food and fine cooking in general, the term "highbrow" says, "some of you are excluded", whether overt or not. I say, "good food for everybody!"

      1. I went through a phase two years ago when I couldn't get enough highbrow food. I made it a point to try great restaurants in many of the cities that I visited. I really enjoyed it but one day it just kind of hit me that I had enough of that and it was fun while it lasted. Now I'm much more into local and ethnic food than I am high end food.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Rick

          Lol-and I'm sure your pocketbook thanks you for the change!

          1. re: madgreek

            Absolutely, my wife and I ate our way through DC for a short weekend and only spent $125 on the both of us. It's very easy to spend a lot more than that on one nice dinner in DC. The great part is we don't enjoy the low brow any less than we did the high brow. Another benefit is that when you're going low a bad or average meal is less disappointing than an average expensive meal.

            1. re: Rick

              I'd have to classify my culinary tastes as lowbrow. I live in the South, and nothin' says lovin' to me like homemade buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy, fried chicken, or wood smoked pulled pork. I don't have anything against fois gras, cavier, or creme fraiche, it's just that my tastes are much simpler.

        2. Based on the definition here, definitely low brow. The only time I willingly go high brow is to impress a date, or for a really special occasion. Otherwise, I like to relax when I eat food and not worry about amusing the server with my poor wine choice, or spilling marinara sauce on my dress shirt.

          1. I love caviar and creme fraiche; and don't eat chips and dips.

            I'd love hot dogs and doughnuts; but also appreciate good French food

            I almost never eat processed or junk food; but now and then don't mind a Big Mac, Chef Boy-R-Dee canned ravioli, or instant ramen noodles.

            I enjoy eating out once in a while at a fine restaurant, but prefer street food over all other forms--but only good street food.

            I cook much more than I eat out (25 to 1); and will often try to trick you with my inexpensive substitutions for more expensive ingredients (not for the $ but for the challenge).

            I constantly bring food back with me from my travels; but am perfectly happy frying some local bologna and eating it with rice.

            I love fine wines but always act like I can't tell the difference between the best and Night Train.

            I always worry about my food and do pay attention to plating; but will love whatever you make for me...whatever, because you made it for me.

            High- or low brow?

            4 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Ditto for me. Except that I probably couldn't tell the difference between the best wine and Night Train.

                I like food that I like. Whether it's cheap or expensive, "highbrow" or "lowbrow" doesn't really factor into it.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Perfectly said.

                  I keep aleppo pepper, assorted vinegar and Spanish sausages on hand. And then fry up spam and garlic for lunch. At one dinner a couple weeks back I delighted over black truffles, rabbit and pancetta. And then gleefully munched on Pepperoni Combos on my commute home.

                  I like chateaubriand and chicken-fried steak; white truffles and White Castle; mozzarella in carozza and mozzarella sticks.

                  My preference in the kitchen is for the rustic Spanish, Filipino, Cajun and Central European I knew from my youth so my tastes generally skew towards richness and savoriness. But whatever the dish, so long as the taste is pleasing, why bother with the pretense of category: high/low, strange/familiar; so long as the taste is there I will be a happy camper.

                  But for when the pleasure is not there --- well I need to work on achieving the same graciousness as you, Sam!

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    "....but will love whatever you make for me..because you made it for me."
                    I *LOVE* this reply, Sam! It's what is in my heart also...