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Where do you draw the line between loving good food and being an elitist or a food snob?

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An increasingly pervasive stereotype of food lovers is that they're all elitists and snobs that turn their noses at anything not the most expensive. "Foodie" is a perjorative term (in some senses), and "organic" and "local" have some unsavory connotations. I feel uncomfortable talking with family or non-food lover friends about food and cooking, because most likely, they will think of me as elitist. I think the problem is that bad food has become so ubiquitous that having a different (though not unreasonable) standard isolates you from the rest of society.

For instance, my friends and family criticize me because I...

- keep a selection of herbs and spices in the pantry. (thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cassia leaves, fennel, fenugreek, black pepper....and I've only used saffron once in my life)
- use olive oil. (Not the top-notch quality extra-virgin ones though, just a decent one for cooking and vinaigrettes.)
- prefer Dijon mustard over the yellow-turmeric-hot dog version that most people hate.
- prefer wine or balsamic vinegar (not the expensive aged ones) in vinaigrettes over distilled white vinegar or bottled dressing. (My dad once scoffed, "Vinegar is vinegar!")
- value thick-bottomed pots and pans (I have a few) and a sharp knife (which I don't have).
- like good French bread from a bakery and criticize Subway and Quiznos for using soft, yeasty-smelling bread.
- use decent cheese (usually <$10/lb...I've never bought luxuries like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Sottocenere, etc.) over processed, sliced cheese like Kraft

I think these are all basic, reasonable standards for producing decent food, but my friends and family think that you can produce good food with cheap, bad ingredients. And ironically, a lot of the bad ingredients you find at major grocery chains are actually MORE expensive than the good ones. In my opinion, one is an elitist or a snob only when one's standard's are based more on price than quality, though this isn't a perfect definition. For example, Strauss dairy products are pricey, but of top-notch quality. I don't have Strauss milk with my cereal, but if I need to make a very good yogurt, I will look for Strauss.

  1. I'd modify that slightly.
    One is an elitist or a snob when one's definition of good food is based more on what's supposed to be good (fresh, organic, local, expensive, "authentic," "traditional," etc.) than on what actually tastes good.

    4 Replies
    1. re: racer x

      I like this. Not only well said, but well thought.

      I would add however, that I have no problem with people being very opinionated about their preferences and antipathies. But some people--ironically enough--get mighty condescending and condemnatory when one criticizes a particular dish, ingredient, type of food or method of preparation. Personally, I find the abdication of one's critical faculties in an attempt to be more tolerant than thou borderline farcical.

      1. re: Perilagu Khan

        "Personally, I find the abdication of one's critical faculties in an attempt to be more tolerant than thou borderline farcical."

        Well said.

      2. re: racer x

        this was in the comments section recently when a noted west coast critic revisited his old home town for some fried chicken:

        "I find it amazing that, despite the Bay Area's progressiveness, it allows this "food critic" to write articles on greasy deep-fried chicken places without once mentioning whether the chickens were raised organically or free-range, 2 conditions I think should be "de rigeur" these days, given the exposes of factory-farming. But apparently all that matters to Mr. Bauer is how good things taste. To me, animals taste surprisingly better when I know they've been killed humanely and not injected with hormones, not to mentioned deep-fried in artery-clogging oils. But what do I know? I 'm not the paid food critic here."
        :)

        1. re: bbqboy

          And here I thought so-called "progressiveism" was all about standing firm with the podunk little guys. lol

      3. Where do I draw the line? I don't criticize other people's taste in food. I eat what is put in front of me when others are cooking and compliment it. I keep in mind that while I know the differences in vinegars, coffee, cheese, etc, I don't know a good truffle from a bad one. Good food is quality ingredients, technique and a sense of what goes together but it is served with a graciousness and wanting your guest to have a pleasant experience. Yes I will give a guest ketchup with his steak if it will make him happy. While I like red leaf lettuce or mixed greens, there are applications more suited to the maligned iceberg lettuce. I use many oils-olive,peanut,corn oil,sesame. All vinegars have characteristics that make them useful- even white vinegar- for various applications. I even like yellow mustard sometimes. It is actually mostly mustard seed with very little tumeric in it. Check the label for the list of ingredients. I am a total snob about chocolate-but I would not let anyone know this except my hubby and I have evangelized him. Patric and Askinosie are my favorites.
        You are right in that often good quality food is cheaper than the processed stuff. One of the best meals I've had this year was eggs from the Amish. It was bitterly cold and we stopped to get eggs. The lady said, I don't have any in the house and went out and gathered the eggs from under the hens-they were still warm. We went home and fried them with some local bacon and made toast from home made bread. I think you would be in danger of being a food snob when you quit learning-because you know it all!

        1. On the one hand, you're certainly entitled to your culinary opinion, and you make some good observations. Your preferences are your preferences, and everybody has them.

          On the other hand, you (forgive me for making presumptions but i have to go on what you wrote), it appears that you pass a LOT of judgement on things you don't like, which may tip you into the food snob category. Why criticize (your word) the Subways and Quiznos because you don't like their bread? You don't like it, Fine, but that doesn't make it bad or invalid, because a lot of people do like that fluffy yeasty bread, another notch on the food snob scale. I'm going to say that a true gourmet (or fill in your preferred term) doesn't proselytize or refuse to eat certain things that they feel is beneath them, especially when somebody is serving it to you. You certainly have the right to buy whatever you want and eat whatever you want, or not.
          I can't understand why anybody would criticize you for having a lot of herbs, spices, vinegars, oils, etc, I have way more than I need of all those things, but nobody criticizes me (to my knowledge), they just consider me a pretty good cook, and even if they try to passive-aggressive their way into having me make thanksgiving dinner, I know it's because they think I'm a rockin' good cook, and I don't care if they have the best palates in the world.
          One last thing- I have a friend at work who likes to think of himself as a foodie (or whatever), but his food snobbery as evolved via his descriptions of what he likes and what "he'll never go to again" is based on price, and he has unrealistic expectations. He loves Japanese food but is a real skinflint (my words) and if he pays $9 for an all you can eat Sushi Garden lunch buffet he comes away disappointed- no, actually pissed off, because the sushi wasn't the kind you pay $3-6 per serving for. I like the guy, but he declared himself a goober when he told me that story. He's routinely critiquing the lunches at work, also- by the way, we work at a hospital and eat at the cafeteria. He just makes himself look silly a lot of the time.

          But I don't say anything to him about it, because he's entitled to his opinion. And I'm entitled to mine. I learned a long time ago that knocking other peoples' food preferences out loud doesn't make you a shining star.

          3 Replies
          1. re: EWSflash

            I do pass a lot of judgment on things I don't like, but I never scoff at people for eating things I find disgusting. To my friends who visit Quiznos or Subway occasionally, I've said that the breads have a disgusting yeasty smell, but I never said or implied that they're ignorant people for eating there. I have suggested them to try the breads at the local French bakery, which is cheaper and better, but I certainly don't tell them to give up their existing food preferences. I don't see it as proselytizing, but it may come across that way, I guess. I'm sure we've all had that desire to share something good when we've come across it. My friends have always been eating the sliced, yeasty breads, and I just wanted them to know about something better out there, get them to try something new. They can choose to like or hate it.

            About the herbs and spices, it's sort of funny actually. One of my friends is a complete cooking-phobe, and his cooking is limited to reheating frozen foods and boiling vegetables. So one day when he opened the pantry cabinet and saw my jars of herbs and spices (things he obviously doesn't use), he commented half-jokingly, "Wow, all these elitist herbs and spices." I think it's more of a misunderstanding than anything. He must've thought, "If I'm to learn to cook, I'll seriously need ALL OF THIS?!!" I guess I should've just told him then, that you don't need all that to cook, and that you can have as little or as many spices as you want. Every cook has his own combo of spices in the pantry.

            1. re: michaelnrdx

              Personally, I agree with you about the strange-smelling breads at Quizons and Subway, but I would never say that to people who frequent both places. Because just saying so implies a certain snobbism and judgment--"how in the hell can you eat that?"--that doesn't go over too well.

              You may want your friends to know there is something better out there, but I think this is one of those situations where, unless your friends actually ask for your advice, it's better to not say anything.

              Problematic too is the term "good" food. "Good" is a totally subjective word. What's good for you may be crap to others, and vice versa.

              In the end, I think it's better to just eat and let eat. And even though I am no fan of Anthony Bourdain, I agree 100% with his comment (see Davwud's post below). There is no need to analyze everything we eat to death and to think that fresh and organic are always better than the alternative, or to distill what's "good" or not into those cute, annyoing soundbites (a la Michael Pollan).

              1. re: michaelnrdx

                No man is an island. Humans are social animals and we define ourselves not just by our likes and dislikes, but in our relationship to others. There's a human need to create identity based on affection and similarity, as well as opposition to those who don't agree with our perspective. We gravitate towards those with similar interests and seek to distance ourselves from those whose views stand opposed to ours. How boring it would be if everyone agreed on everything!

                As to the crack about "elitist herbs," that sounds like a sort of reverse snobbishness. I think there's a valid point in that some people seem to cultivate a level of sophistication that approaches snobbishness; this isn't just limited to food. I think so long as you can appreciate something for it's tastefulness (be it expensive/exclusive or cheap/readily available) snobbishness won't really become an issue.

                I'm reminded of a book about last meals, where the author asked chefs from all around the world what would be their last meal. Almost all of them chose something simple from their childhood: a roast bird, a simple soup, fresh fish. It's telling that most of these experienced chefs, given the choice, would choose something unsophisticated over some exotic, expensive meal.

            2. Well let's see I:

              -only buy good cheese, not supermarket brands and NOT kraft but the pricey stuff.

              -Check the back of my Balsamic to make sure it's real balsamic not the stuff with caramel added.

              -order spices online from a company in Brooklyn

              -Go to the farmer's market.

              -buy at least three type of vinegar

              -make sauces from scratch, like teriyaki and bbq sauce

              -Am contemplating buying d'artagnan meats for fun

              -ALWAYS buy duck when I have the money

              -Don't use MOST canned veggies

              -Have black truffle oil on hand.

              However despite my love of all things D'artagnan, I will not a regular basis buy organic free range meats. I just can't afford. Also I don't want to be locavore because I enjoy to many things and flavors from other countries. My Grandmother who grew up during the depression doesn't get it. She says I'm pauper with gourmet tastes. She's right. Luckily my family is passionate about food and mostly gets me. So do my friends, they ask me to cook for them. Sadly, a friend I like had a short breif affair with cooking foods and is now buying frozen foods from the dollar store ugh. I feel sorry for him. I try to open my co-workers eyes to things like goat cheese and gazpacho but well no. And they don't think I can cook. I work with children. I try to get them to try new foods and encourage them to talk abbout veggies and strange (non-kiddY) foods they like.

              1. Boy, you've opened a can of worms here.

                I guess for me you stop being a foodie (or whatever term we can all agree on) and start becoming a food snob when you stop enjoying the simple things in life. Or, when EVERYTHING has to be a high quality ingredient. It's also about casting judgement on those who don't agree with your ideals.

                I've always remembered a quote from Anthony Bourdain. "It's good because it's good. Not because of how much it costs or what it's called." I think a true foodie believes this.

                DT

                40 Replies
                1. re: Davwud

                  Some of the best cooks and diners on CH (jfood and MMRuth first spring to my mind) proudly admit to chowing down on a White Castle burger or an Egg McMuffin or whatever.

                  And describing bread as having a "disgusting" smell sure sounds judgmental and snobbish to me.

                  I have a Chow-buddy who has 30-something vinegars but will eat those cheese biscuits at Red Lobster with great joy.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I'm inclined to agree that describing Subway's bread smell as "disgusting" sounds snobbish. But don't most people find tripe and offal "disgusting?" I'm not one, but I can understand how the average person's reaction to eating organs, intestines, brains, etc would be disgust. That's not necessarily a judgemental reaction, though.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      There's a difference between thinking it and saying it to the friends who like it. I read once (and fail regularly) that one should offer unsolicited advice only if someone's in physical danger, i.e., "look out, the roof is collapsing!"

                      1. re: c oliver

                        all of this could be avoided with the simple phrase "seems to me"

                        as in "seems to me that subway bread smells disgusting"

                        simple

                        1. re: thew

                          Seems to me that doesn't quite work when you say something like, "Seems to me that Subway sandwiches are worse than Hitler" as I am wont to do.

                        2. re: c oliver

                          I think that people should be able to discuss differing opinions without taking offense. You should be able to say, "I like Subway!" and I should be able to say "Subway sucks!" without any harsh feelings of judgment. After all, we're discussing Subway here, not the person who likes Subway. It would be a little different if I had said, "You like Subway? I can't believe you! You should be ashamed of yourself!"

                          My reaction to the smell of Subway's bread is somewhat judgmental, somewhat visceral. There is a Subway that I pass every day, and I always smell a strong sweet, yeasty odor outside the door. It's sort of like fermentation or something. That's a huge turn-off.

                          1. re: michaelnrdx

                            good grief, I had no idea so many people gagged upon passing a Subway. I drive right by one on the way to work every day- never noticed.

                            If you think something smells or tastes disgusting, or putrid, or sickening, what possible joy could you get out of telling somebody who happens to like something that you find it disgusting? My mother appeared to think it made her appear more knowledgeable or superior somehow, but in fact she was very rude a lot of the time. It's a hot button with me for that reason. I associate that behavior with people who have no class, so beware, I'm probably not the lone ranger.

                            You could get your point across by saying "not a big fan" or I don't care for it" when asked, which doesn't mean it should be the first thing out of your mouth when somebody says they like an offending substance. You're trying to one-up everybody, aren't you?

                            Everbody here has strong opinions about food. I spent too many years up close and personal in operating rooms and at autopsies, and except for chicken gizzards and menudo (white menudo being my favorite), I can't picture myself ever deliberately eating offal- human organs don't smell any different than animal organs, and the thought of eating heart at a Korean barbecue is way, way down there on my to-do list. But if you want to, go right ahead I do hope I'm upwind from you, though. But I wouldn't tell you it was disgusting,because it's rude.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              Agreed, EWSflash. Declaring something someone is eating to be disgusting in one's opinion is not exactly launching a debate, or expressing a difference of opinion, even if that's what one wishes to believe. It's rude and belittling. What you suggest as alternatives are ways of expressing a difference of opinion that does not levy judgement on the person with whom one speaks.
                              I don't know if I'm making sense. Perhaps I should have just left it at +1.

                            2. re: michaelnrdx

                              So I take it you don't like the smell or taste of fresh made beer. Most smells evoke wonderful memories for me.

                              I never would tell anyone that their choice or preparation of food was wrong, stupid or disgusting. They, and I, eat what we like and none of us is starving. To this day, I crave Spam and my brother won't touch it. Other people were brought up differently than I was and may crave certain foods.

                              If I am in a situation where the choices are limited, I will find something that is edible, or will take what is offered, eat some and ask to take the rest home. (You can get a salad, no bread, from Subway). When I prepare food for others, I will use the ingredients I like to use. If questioned as to how I made it, I will tell the ingredients used and leave it at that. I don't brag about what I purchase. In fact, I may even see that as an opportunity to mentally note a Christmas or birthday gift I can give to that person or family, if they seemed to enjoy a certain, pricy ingredient.

                              1. re: Cathy

                                And by my family's code, you would be described as "gracious."

                              2. re: michaelnrdx

                                I agree. It seems like life gets to be awfully bland if you can't ever have conversations like this with people. I guess the trick is you need to know that the people you are having the conversation aren't the kind to be easily offended - and SO many people are too easily offended these days.

                                1. re: flourgirl

                                  SO many people are too easily offended these days - and in the past days too - and will be in the future.

                                  societies and cultured may change, human nature - not so much

                            3. re: monkeyrotica

                              I can sympathize with the posters talking about Subway bread being "disgusting." I find the scent of Subway's bread completely nauseating. Even walking past a Subway when that scent is billowing out the door can induce a slight gag reflex. But I swear I'm not trying to be a snob! :-D It's just super gross to me for some reason.

                              1. re: antennastoheaven

                                I like Subway and I fully support your right to tell me to my face that their bread is funky. And I promise not to call you an elitist--forfend!--or even to think it. ;)

                                1. re: antennastoheaven

                                  But I bet you don't walk in there and shout that out to the people eating it, do you?

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Thanks Perilagu. :) And you are correct, c oliver, that I do not walk in there and make a "stink" about it (hehe) to those who are eating it. But if my friends want to go, they are going without me. :-)

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Taste is such an individual thing. It can be affected by so many things including, genetics, medication, illness, other things you have had to eat, what you've been breathing etc,etc. Add to that preferences in variation in texture and color and emotional connections and that is why there is such wide variation of what people like. I never think twice about it if someone doesn't have my same taste. Some people just look at food as something to satiate hunger and nothing more. You are wasting time even trying to educate them because they just don't care. I had to laugh at myself last year because my SIL was cooking something with what I thought was all the "wrong" technique-It was delicious! Another thing will happen if you come off as a food snob is no one will invite you for dinner because they will be intimidated.

                                  2. re: monkeyrotica

                                    I'm going to second "disgusting," as in the guttural reaction one has to maggots and rotting flesh. I cannot walk into a Subway at all. To describe the smell as "yeasty" sounds like a euphemism to me. I'm not going to elaborate, it is probably inappropriate.

                                    I actually don't mind their subs all that much, but I have to send someone else in to pick up lunch while I wait outside.

                                    1. re: lunafish

                                      @lunafish, it's not a euphemism. baker's yeast has a very distinct aroma, and it's sometimes quite noticeable in the type of doughy, spongy bread served at places like Subway.

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        I bake all the time, using yeast, and my kitchen does not smell like Subway.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          i don't imagine it would, and that wasn't my point.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            What was?

                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              that those of us who describe the bread from Subway as having a "yeasty" odor actually think it smells like yeast.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                To me, a "yeasty" odor is a good thing. A Subway odor is not.

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  well, much like taste, sense of smell is subjective ;)

                                                  i like the aroma of properly baked yeasty bread too. what i don't like is the overpowering, fermented, almost sour odor of excess or under-baked yeast. it actually makes me sneeze.

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    Funny, but I cannot connect w/ the smell of Subway, since I've never been, but prefer the smell of beer yeast over bread. Wasn't bread invented when a guy spilled his Brewski into some flour lying around?

                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                      Does this mean that you don't like the aroma of sourdough bread? I know people who don't like the taste of sourdough, but don't know any who object to the smell.

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        Due to dietary restrictions, I can only take my carbs in liquid form.
                                                        Come on, I love homemade breads. Male humor.

                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                          actually, i'm not crazy about the smell because it's another one that makes me sneeze! i used to love sourdough as a kid, but i stopped eating it even long before i gave up all gluten because it's no fun to endure random sneezing fits throughout the entire eating experience. bizarre, i know. something about that particular sour yeast aroma gets me every time. really yeasty champagne does it to me too.

                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            That's really interesting. I hope someone's lurking who might know what's going on here. I'm not particularly interested in food preferences, but I'm intrigued by people who simply cannot eat something (allergies aside), that most people eat with abandon.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              i'm guessing it's a mild allergy to Saccharomyces - the strain of yeast used in baking and brewing. maybe there's some immunological connection to the Celiac disease. i honestly haven't thought about it in a long time. yeast, gluten, soy...at this point i'm just thankful there are still foods i can actually eat!

                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                Have you seen Kim Boyce's "Good to the Grain?" Many great recipes for folks who cannot eat gluten. the author was pastry chef at Spago, and worked with Nancy Silverton. Serious chops, and serious recipes.

                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                  thanks for the rec - i just did a little Google sleuthing, and i can't seem to find a recipe index or details about how many of the recipes call for some proportion of gluten-containing flour. i have a pretty solid arsenal of GF resources, but i'll take a look the next time i'm at the bookstore.

                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                    The recipes in Good to the Grain as written are not appropriate for gluten avoiders, as almost all of them call for whole-wheat and/or AP flour in addition to the various specialty flours, presumably *because* of its gluten content. I recommend you take a look at it anyway, because I'm sure some of her flavor ideas will appeal to you, for inspiration if nothing more (as will the general restraint in sweeteners), as I know we have similar tastes in this area.

                                                                    I started a thread on it recently, which will give you some idea: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/702840

                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                      Caitlin, thanks so much for confirming my suspicion. and as you suggested, i'll still take a look for inspiration :)

                                            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              I guess I meant that there are other things that smell "yeasty," the discussion of which does not belong on a food forum. That is what a Subway store smells like to me. Yechh.

                                              I bake bread, have been around plenty of homebrew operations... and I've endured brewers-yeast-on-top-of-everything cooking of hippie housemates, and, well, none of those things smell quite like a Subway store.

                                              1. re: lunafish

                                                It seems to me that the smell in a Subway store is more attributable to the sliced onions than to bread or yeast. Sort of the body odor aspect of onilon smell.

                                      2. re: Davwud

                                        i love that Bourdain quote...and i absolutely agree with Davwud's statement about passing judgment.

                                        i think there are a couple of additional important distinctions to make here...
                                        - it usually seems to me that while many of us quietly appreciate some of the finer elements of cuisine, snobs/elitists are boastful about it and want everyone to know where they stand.
                                        - there's a difference between being diplomatic/helpful and critical. when asked to recommend a brand of pasta sauce, a snob or elitist would typically respond with a horrified "Ugh, I would NEVER buy jarred pasta sauce. You don't make yours from scratch?!" on the other hand, a food nerd/Chowhound who also makes their own sauce would likely say something more along the lines of "I generally like to make it from scratch when I have the time, but in a pinch I'll use/my mom likes/i've seen other CHers recommend Brand X."

                                        do i wonder why others eat certain things? of course! but i'll only comment or ask them about it out of genuine curiosity or a desire to understand where their affinity for a certain food comes from. i'm also thoroughly aware that some people question certain food choices i make, and knowing that doesn't bother me at all. what DOES irk me is the tendency for some to JUDGE my choices.

                                        we all have the right to *think* whatever we want to, but it becomes an issue when we start to communicate these thoughts in a critical manner, or think "less" of someone based on their choices. i think it really boils down to respect, and snobs & elitists reserve it only for those who agree with them and share their tastes & opinions.

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          This.

                                          I bake all my bread, try to use as many whole ingredients as possible, shop at the farmers' market, buy meat from local farmers, etc. My students, 8th and 9th graders (some of the most judgmental creatures alive, bless 'em), immediately assumed I was a snob for those things. Until I told them that I value courtesy and good manners MORE than all my food preferences, and that if someone put a casserole in front of me with non-local meat, cream of mushroom soup, canned green beans, and tater tots in it, I'd eat it and thank them for going to the trouble! Since then, they've asked me a lot of non-confrontational questions about why I make the food choices I do, and I've had several opportunities to "proselytize" -- or, hopefully, just get them to think a bit more about what goes in their mouths.

                                          The key is, I think, to make sure that you have just as high an opinion of courtesy as you do of your own taste! :)

                                          1. re: LauraGrace

                                            What you said :)

                                      3. It sounds like your family and friends seem to have a LOT more hang-ups about food than you do. Criticizing someone (a friend or family member at that) for having a decent variety of herbs and spices in their pantry?

                                        Do they also think you have too many books in your house? I am aware of the fact that anything 'elite', perceived or real, is subject to heavy criticism in this country, because hey -- why can't we all keep things simple and mainstreet and blahdiblablabla....

                                        but I'd suggest enjoy your likes and dislikes in food, don't be judgmental of your friends and family, and if they continue to be amused about those preferences, ignore it. Who effing cares.

                                        1. I love good food. If others want to define that by suggesting that this means I'm elitist or a food snob, that's entirely a matter for them. They're as much entitled to their opinion as I am to mine and may draw their lines where they wish.

                                          1. For me the line seems to get drawn when people start speaking in absolutes: "I only eat this" or "I never eat that." Those statements, to me, don't exhibit a person's refined tastes or palette, but instead their closed mind. It’s ridiculous to even say “I only”. The world doesn’t work that way and sometimes circumstances simply do not give one the option.
                                            I cannot count how many times I've read someone on these boards say "I NEVER eat McDonalds." Who are you kidding? Everyone eats McDs at least a few times in their lives, and those fries are legitimately delicious. And if you've never even tried it, your opinion has no validity.
                                            Likewise, saying “I only use organic produce and make all my sauces from scratch” is great in theory, and if you can pull it off, good for you, but most people don’t have the time or budget to live like that. I don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart, but if a single parent making $30k a year has to do their grocery shopping there, I’m not going to judge that person.
                                            The worst, for me, is someone who simply refuses to try things. I have a co-worker who by her own admission does not eat fruit, veggies, fish, or anything “ethnic”. Her diet consists almost solely of processed food. I offered her a piece of my orange once and she said she doesn’t eat oranges because she tried one once when she was a kid and didn’t like it. She’s almost 30 now. She’s disgusting, and I get so frustrated talking to her I want to pull my hair out.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: ajs228

                                              OK, I hate to answer this because goodness knows I'm not opposed on any principle to fast food but I could assure you that not only have I not eaten McDonalds in over 10 years, but where I live I have no option to do so. I mean, when I move to a major city, I could, but given that I have better choices, I'll go with those. Again, nothing against McDs, but I do have a problem when Americans map out the culinary landscape for the rest of us.

                                              1. re: ajs228

                                                OK, not to get too far afield from the topic, BUT
                                                "those [McDonald's] fries are legitimately delicious" I must take issue with. When I was a kid, back in the 70s & 80s, McDonald's fries really were delicious. For some years now, however, they have been just hit or miss - much more often miss, in fact. Usually undercooked, oversalted, etc.

                                                1. re: racer x

                                                  Julia Child said that she loved McDonald's French fries when they used beef fat to fry it and that once they changed to vegetable oil, the fries have been kind of bland and limp.

                                                2. re: ajs228

                                                  ajs, I haven't eaten in a McDonald's for at least 30 years - I have very occasionally eaten at some other fast-food places when travelling (for example chile from Tim Horton's). And make a most modest income but have never bought groceries at WalMart. Certain "ethnic" shops have the best deals on real food, at least here in Montréal.

                                                  And yes, of course I make tomato sauce myself - decent bought ones that don't contain toxic HFCS are far more expensive. That isn't difficult cooking - I could do that at the age of ten.

                                                3. This article (about a book I will probably buy this weekend) is quite timely with this thread http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/f...

                                                  Personally, I consider myself a foodie, but to that means I am just as happy with a good street hotdog as I am in a Michelin starred restaurant. And that I can recognize the difference between a good hotdog and a bad one.

                                                  I've never had anyone outright call me elitist for my taste in foods, restaurants and wine, but some of my friends pretty much apologize for not being foodies. My wife and I, twice this month, dined at friends homes (very good friends) where the people actually mention their nervousness about their cooking and the choice of wines! We always reassure them that it's the company we are there for (and the food is always good anyway!). I'm sure most of my friends to whom I have served amazing meals would be shocked by how many times dinner for my wife and I is cereal or peanut butter sandwiches. And dismayed at how many of our meals are verging on horrible because of my attempts to get creative beyond my true ability.

                                                  The oddest reaction I ever get is from my inlaws, who visit every second summer from across the country. We tone down our cooking when they are here, they seem to like most things we make for them but still find it to exotic and wierd. My mother-in-law picks at her plate as though she is scared of it - some sort of fear of trying new things. At home, they eat a very small range of foods, and anything outside of that makes them uncomfortable. Last time they were here, we served them asparagus risotto - their first time eating risotto - and they loved it. My wife tried to give them the recipe...and they didn't want it because "we'd never cook something like that."

                                                  I don't look down on anyone who doesn't like food in the way that I do, but I do wonder why or how people can not have an interest in different things (of course, I feel the same way about people who don't have interest in travel, etc...)

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Dan G

                                                    I think some folks goal as they get older is to whittle down their lives
                                                    to a few enjoyable things,
                                                    while others seem to expand their horizons to new possibilities as they advance in years.

                                                    1. re: bbqboy

                                                      There is something to be said for sticking to what you know you love. Many is the time that I've branched out only to be disappointed at best, repelled at worst. And there aren't many feelings worse than partaking of a meal (home-cooked or restaurant prepared) that you dislike. Such a waste of time and money.

                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                        Agreed.
                                                        I was sort of channeling my recently departed 91 year old mother, who embraced new trends and foods, and healthier eating and felt it kept her alive longer.
                                                        Sort of an immersion technique, plopping her down in hippie/locavore Southern Oregon for her last 20 years after a lifetime of Southern/Midwestern hearty cooking. :)

                                                  2. It depends on the sin involved.

                                                    Lust/gluttony = loving good food
                                                    Pride = elitist/food snob

                                                    1. I think it boils down to attitude and how it's communicated to others. If I prefer one thing over another and that's how I choose what I eat, fine. If I only make my own pasta sauces and spend my spare time putting up homemade ginger and blueberry syrups for special sodas because I enjoy them, also fine. That's my time, my taste, and my decision. If I want to throw caution and foodie 'street cred' to the winds and have a meal at a chain restaurant with good friends, still fine.

                                                      However, if I'm a 'broken record' to those who don't share my tastes and I'm constantly belaboring the phrases "Oh, I *only* eat...", "Ohmigod, I *never* touch...", or what I think is the worst: "*How* can you *eat* that?" while judging others (silently or not) by what they eat, then not so fine. Then I'm a food snob, an elitist, and deserving of scorn.

                                                      The elitist or food snob has forgotten the most basic tenet: chacun à son goût (each to his own taste...and these days, their food budget.)

                                                      It's a mistake to judge so-called "two-star" restaurants by "four-star" standards, whether it's for service, selection or execution; yet I've heard some run down a good two-star place by comparing against what they call "truly great" establishments. A really good meal in a mom-and-pop shop is still a really good meal, and only a snob would look down on anyone sharing that opinion. It's never about price or the latest trendy label/brand, but about quality and value for the money at every level.

                                                      Just my humble opinion; your mileage may vary. :)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: mcsheridan

                                                        Absolutely. Well put.

                                                      2. Money. We're poor.

                                                        1. enjoying what you enjoy, and let others do the same. If you judge the worth of another based on what they eat, you're a food snob

                                                          1. Well, a lot of this is a matter of politeness and respect for others, but that runs both ways. There is a lot of "reverse snobbery" (I believe particularly in the US) about wanting to eat food based on natural ingredients. It isn't necessarily expensive to eat thus, but it does take time and care, in particular if your budget is limited.

                                                            And Michael, please treat yourself to at least one sharp knife!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: lagatta

                                                              Yes, I will one day, when I am sure that it will be safe! I share the kitchen with friends and family, and I am sometimes just appalled at how they treat the equipment. One time, my friend was having trouble opening a can with the can opener, so he took my crappy chef's knife and punched a hole in the can with the tip of the blade! I don't even want to think what they will do to a good knife!

                                                              1. re: michaelnrdx

                                                                Oh, at least pick up a Kuhn-Rihon Colori - not expensive, very sharp and comes in a matching hard plastic sheath. I take one of those travelling - it isn't a proper chef's knife, but at least it is sharp. A lot of my cooking involves fine cutting of vegetables, so I can't cook without a sharp knife. Guess I'm a cutting snob.

                                                            2. A couple weeks ago, I posted on Facebook that I had an odd craving for a braunschweiger sandwich. Now mind you, I don't post often about food, and much of my friend base is composed of childhood friends I haven't seen in years, but I was a little baffled when I had several responses saying that they never thought I'd be one to eat such a thing. Now granted, I probably came across as a little snot when I was a child, as our family ate at fine-dining restaurants regularly, but I guess I never considered myself a food snob. Sure, I appreciate a fancy meal, but I also appreciate a Big Mac, a vendor hot dog or even (God help me) a bowl of Spaghetti-O's when the mood strikes. If you open my cheese drawer, you'll find a wide variety of cheeses that cost upwards of $20 a pound (small chunks because of our budget), but they're sitting proudly next to a big block of Velveeta because sometimes nothing hits the spot like melting that in the microwave and mixing it with salsa.

                                                              I thought I had a point, but I don't really think I do, except perhaps that you can't really worry about what other people think of you as they'll inevitably be wrong. Eat what you like and don't disparage others for what they like because at the end of the day, life's too short to do otherwise.

                                                              1. Eh, there's nothing wrong with putting down the food someone else likes if there is a good reason. People do it with politics or just about anything else you could argue about, so why not food?

                                                                I don't mind putting down Taco Bell if it gives people the impression that's what Mexican food is all about. Salty ground beef, old hard tortillas, yeah people can get used to anything, but that stuff is an insult. We can't stop the world from eating it, but if enough people encourage the alternatives, yes, you can and will make a difference.

                                                                I don't know too many food snobs. There used to be a site on the internet where everybody would continually post about "What are the two or three best restaurants?" And all they would talk about is Alinea vs the Food Laundry, as if that were the extent of deliciousness in the world. Those are the only ones that are being snobby, I think. the rest of us are just trying to promote better made food. Subway IS disgusting, but not really because of the bread (which is lame) but becuase of the food service tomatoes, industrial grade tuna-mayo glop, and the smell of everything else. All of those people could be eating delicious banh mi (just one example) on beautiful crusty bread with freshly grilled and expertly marinated meats for cheaper.

                                                                It's a question of knowledge, openness, and inquisitiveness.

                                                                18 Replies
                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  To some of us, banh mi tastes like soap, courtesy cilantro.

                                                                  One person's delicious is another person's soap. Or something.

                                                                  You seem to be making the "more authentic = good" argument which isn't necessarily the case. I've had plenty of authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex; some of it was excellent and some of it was horrible. Some of it sloppily prepared, underseasoned, or overcooked. Just because it was more authentic than Taco Bell didn't stop it from sucking. Conversely, I love me a nice Taco Bell Chili Cheese Burrito. Nothing "Mexican" about it, but to me it tastes pretty damned good.

                                                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                    You can ask for it without cilantro. Problem solved.

                                                                    I didn't compare Taco Bell to any specific place. If that is the best you have, then I advise giving up burritos.

                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                      The problem with your last sentence, though, apart from being condescending, is the fact that sometimes I (and presumably monkeyrotica and many other Hounds) just want to eat something without thinking about whether it's the superlative version of ___. Authentic, best, expertly marinated -- all those are fine, even great, but that's not always what eating is about.

                                                                      If asked for my opinion, I might tell someone why I don't eat Taco Bell or McDonald's... or veal or offal or whatever. But insulting someone for making a different food choice that you would make... I kind of think that's the definition of a food snob.

                                                                      1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                        Let's all take a step back and agree to disagree in a friendly and non-judgmental way. Everyone has a different taste, philosophy and approach to food. That's great. No one should have to be superior to another.

                                                                        But a comment or two about the statement:

                                                                        >>>"the fact that sometimes I (and presumably monkeyrotica and many other Hounds) just want to eat something without thinking about whether it's the superlative version of ___. Authentic, best, expertly marinated -- all those are fine, even great, but that's not always what eating is about."

                                                                        This is not a fact that applies to everyone. Some chowhounds really do want to eat something that is superlative all the time. In real life they probably can't do that given their resources (finding one's favourite taco takes a lot of time, it might mean eating at hundreds of taco trucks over the years, and some hounds do that, while simultaneously trying to find the best bagel), but the desire and obssesion is genuine. To them that's what eating is all about. It's a different view from yours, and it's neither better nor worse, but it an obsession that exists.

                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                          Although the OP didn't ask a question, MY impression is that he wants to know if it's all right to "call out" his friends and family on this topic? Obsess all he wants, I say, but keep his opinions to himself. Common (or uncommon) courtesy.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            Well, what the OP thinks is a separate issue from the point I was making, which was on the types of personalities we have.

                                                                            As for the OP, I would say that since it's very hard to guess intent from just text, and given how often misinterpretations occur, that it's probably best not judge someone based on what they didn't type out. Impressions are difficult to make when the information is limited.

                                                                          2. re: limster

                                                                            Hi limster -- that was precisely my point: that some Hounds are always in search of the most authentic, the best. Some aren't. Most of us, it seems, have a few things we focus on finding the best version of, while secretly (or not secretly!) enjoying Ho-Hos or Big Macs or spray cheez or cream-of-alligator soup casseroles.

                                                                            All those are valid ways of eating. :)

                                                                            1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                              Yes -- even though chowhounds are a minority in mainstream food culture, they're incredibly diverse. Some are focused on finding the best of a few things, while others look out for the best of all things, with all intermediates in between. Some chowhounds might secretly or openly love Big Macs (and will tell you which franchise location makes the best because they've obsessively compared all of them) while others won't have any "guilty pleasures." It's this type of diversity that really makes the boards a valuable resource. What chowhounds have in common is thinking and eating critically, and deciding for themselves what's delicious and what's not.

                                                                          3. re: LauraGrace

                                                                            Getting back to my original statement... why can't we disagree about food? This whole "making a different food choice" misses some very important ideas, some of which I delineated in my previous post.

                                                                            Instead of taking my ideas seriously, monkeyerotica mentioned cilantro - which is beside the point- ignores the idea that there is usually good cheap other food around (this is hardly snobbish of me), and then he is putting words into my mouth about how I am saying all 'authentic' food is good. This was just plain bizarre.

                                                                            But instead of addressing that, you are going on a food website worrying about someone's feelings about a Taco Bell Chili Cheese Burrito?

                                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                                              Hi Steve, I'm not worried about someone's feelings about any kind of food. I don't care what people eat. My concern is that you said that "there's nothing wrong with putting down the food someone else likes if there is a good reason". Who gets to define the "good reason"? Presumably you do, since you're the one making the criticism. But why does your taste rule the conversation?

                                                                              I happen to hate Taco Bell and Subway (and foie gras, and raw oysters, and caviar). I also happen to think that even people on a food website are allowed to enjoy things I don't enjoy, and that I don't have a "right" to put down the food they eat, or to give my opinion at all unless asked.

                                                                              Now, if someone offered me a bite of their Subway sandwich or chili cheese burrito, I'd probably politely decline, perhaps explaining that I just don't care for fast food all that much. My question is, why ruin someone else's enjoyment of their food because that food doesn't meet your standards?

                                                                              1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                LauraGrace, the whole point is, if somebody offers you something you don't want to eat, here's the thing- ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY IS NO THANK YOU, please spare them the unsolicited explanation, for both your sakes. If they ask why, repeat the no thank you until they stop asking. Politeness works both ways. If they really press you for an explanation, say you're not a big fan or something equally benign, and if they go all judgemental on YOU, the tell them you think they're a-holes and their food preferences suck or whatever, because by now it's not about culinary preferences, it's a confrontation. But try to avoid that scenario, because you'll lose. Even if you win you'll lose.

                                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                  EWS, not sure why I'm getting yelled at. I completely agree with you.

                                                                                  I have been trying to explain (poorly, I guess) that I *don't* think a person should express unsolicited opinions about the food choices of others. Saying, "No thanks," and further explaining *if asked* that "I don't care for fast food" or something similar, is simply a polite way to decline. Saying, "That's disgusting, it's hurting you, it's lowering your expectations" as Steve says below -- I'm trying to argue that that response is not ok, and that, as you say, "winning" an argument about someone else's food choices is not much of a victory.

                                                                                  :) Sorry for the misunderstanding.

                                                                                  1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                    LauraGrace, thank you, we think alike for the most part.
                                                                                    But the fact is, if you further editorialize by saying "I don't eat fast food", that throws you into snob category, by definition. Sorry, but it does. You could keep saying no thanks, or "sorry, I just can't", but if you throw their standards out there as something that's beneath you, then you're being snobbish.

                                                                      2. re: Steve

                                                                        "All of those people could be eating delicious banh mi (just one example) on beautiful crusty bread with freshly grilled and expertly marinated meats for cheaper."

                                                                        If only. Some of us have been banished to worlds where the options are not great and plentiful, and these nicer options we'll have to make ourselves, if we have the time (and energy left over from knackering days at work). Sometimes we will, sometimes we won't. I'm not saying therefore one should love subway, or greggs, or the baguette express, but that sometimes, the availability of things that are lovely are simply not there and this kind of nasty judgement seems counterproductive. Or rather, this idea of 'educating' (presuming what 'everyone' has access to) seems more about elevating one's own tastes and sense of self than actually doing anything to ensure that alternative (and yes, I agree, nicer) options are available.

                                                                        Also, a +++1 to monkeyrotica for pointing out what I was going to: Food can be 'authentic' but still crap. Consider using the term for something other than making a hierarchy of taste (and the people attached). Yes, we might (and likely do) have our own hierarchies, but imposing them is a bit unseemly in my opinion.

                                                                        1. re: Lizard

                                                                          Since this is a site established so that people can give their opinions about food, I have no problem with saying that going to Taco Bell is actually hurting everyone else, is awful, and lowers your expectations so that you accept and happily eat crummier and crummier food until anybody who actually cares about making good food moves away from you because they can't make a living making quality products, thereby creating a climate in which there is no choice like the situation you allude to when you say 'if only.'

                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                            No, Steve, you know what? Goobers is goobers and there's nothing you can do about it, Taco Bell shouldn't be allowed to say it's Mexican food, but this being a free country, they can. Folks like their stuff, they deserve to eat it. You don't have to. Those Eaters of Taco Bell clearly want crummy food.

                                                                            Or perhaps there are those that have a Taco Bell Guilty Pleasure, we all have them. Mine's not from Taco Bell, but I have them. Has to do with low-end Asian food.So sue me.

                                                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                                                              I don't sue people unless they cut in front of me in line at the 7-11.

                                                                              Anyway, you may be right, but I hope that disparaging Taco Bell ...(pun alert)... does not violate a gag order.

                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                Oh my gosh, I can't believe I just committed the etiquitte crime i've been railing about. Over Taco Bell, no less.

                                                                                Love the gag order reference, BTW :-)

                                                                      3. I am not a Foodie,Chowhound,Connoisseur,Food elitist,Food simplest. I just like to eat and fortunately or not there are so many, many good things to eat out there without wasting valuable chew time analyzing if I am any of the above or if anyone believes I fit into those categories.
                                                                        I respect the OP question and concern but if some one checks my pantry and find my bacon bits or soy with disodium inosinate in it or French smoked sea salt or black truffle oil, I could quite frankly give a damn. Just finish your Yingling, have another because the lamb chops in mint and capers are almost off the grill and next time you need a glass it's in the cabinet to your left.

                                                                        1. how would i be defined when i say how can anyone eat frozen pizzas , jarred sauce , add canned items to your recipe such as cream of x soup or when people use ground turkey in meatballs because they can't tell the diff subway's sales motto s/b changed from "SUBWAY EAT FRESH" to " SUBWAY EAT CRAP"

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: foodperv

                                                                            If you don't ever used canned items,then you'll be preparing substandard food at times (think out-of-season tomatoes). If you won't consider a turkey meatball, then you'll miss out on the Mar-A-Lago turkey burger

                                                                            http://www.chow.com/recipes/11988-mar...

                                                                            If you can't discriminate between good and bad, then *I'M* not going to try to define you. That might be rude.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              i am sorry i was not clear about my canned statement sometimes i think something but the mind don't tell the fingers to finish my thought yes i use canned tomatoes what i meant is with the use or lack of use of products likecream of x soups is i don't use prepared stuff the canned tomatoes though in a can are in their purist form (tomatoe water and maybe salt)
                                                                              sorry for the confusion C-OLIVER i hope i make more sense now thanks

                                                                            2. re: foodperv

                                                                              I understand and agree.

                                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                So, P-keg, I know you have a large garden and I'm sure you preserve alot of things. But for those of us who don't have that option, would you look down on us for using canned tomatoes? Actually I think I know you well enough to know that you don't look down on others. You see the positive rather than seeking out the possibily negative. Si?

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  Nope. I too use canned tomatoes, just not jarred sauce. I look down upon no one. I just have my own set of values. I had to go to KFC/Taco Bell lately w/ a class of HS kids. I ate nothing, said nothing except that i wasn't hungry. I can't remember, it must be way more than 30 years, since frozen pizza or cream of x soup has passed these lips. I do, however, seek out hot dog carts and taco wagons. Just keep Spam away form me. One more week and it will be 43 years since I was "in country".

                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                    See? We all have our standards AND our guilty pleasures. Guilty being a figure of speech.

                                                                                    I think those of us on the left coast have different guilty pleasures than those of us on the right coast, but I feel certain there's a lot of crossover.

                                                                                    FWIW, when i visited a girlfriend in central Florida (chain restaurant hell), we went to the Dixie Crossroads in Titusville one night, and for a very short time i was in Nirvana. Grilled rock shrimp that were the absolute best, freshest things ever, and those cornbread puff appetizers with the powdered sugar, sounds gross but tasted heavenly, as an appetizer. I would starve for two days to bargain for a meal at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville. The rest of the time my friend preferred to eat at Ruby Tuesday's when whe was eating, which took a back seat to her drinking, which fortunately she's gotten a handle on.

                                                                                    But I digress. Dixie Crossroads is kitschy and silly, but their shrimp is all-over-the-map-awesome, no matter which kind you try.

                                                                            3. There's a lot going on in this thread, but I have to say that I agree with the poster about the smell of Subway. I hold my breath whenever I walk by one. Don't know if it's the bread, or a combination of smells, but it just about makes me sick. I would never say this to someone who frequents the place, however, except for my son who really pushed me to go to one of these places when he was visiting. I finally told him the truth. Neither he, nor any other member of my family has this problem. Maybe it's like the cilantro aversion: some people have it, and some don't.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                No cilantro aversion, I grew up in New Jersey, the home of the sub, just no thanks to Subway, buy local.
                                                                                Just like I'd rather drink one quality beer, than a suitcase of lite beer. I guess I am a beer snob.
                                                                                "Life's too short to drink chap beer".

                                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                  When Subways start selling beer,
                                                                                  I fear the end is near. :)

                                                                                  1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                    No worries, it'll be lite beer, to go w/ lite subs.

                                                                              2. To go back to your OP, why talk to non-food lovers about food? Whether they "judge" you or not. I have a friend who has a wonderful coin collection but he doesn't talk to ME about it because I have no interest. He talks to other devotees.

                                                                                If you don't have top quality olive oil or a decent chef's knife, there are plenty of posters here who could look down on and criticize you but they don't. If they did, I'd label them "elitists" or "snobs."

                                                                                And while I agree it's unlikely you can produce good food with bad ingredients (it's a little fuzzy to me what constitutes "bad" in your book), really GREAT food can be produced with incredibly CHEAP ingredients.

                                                                                Finally, there's got to be some dynamic going on between you and your family/friends. Since I'm 62 y.o. and you seem VERY much younger than that, I'm willing to bet that just about everything about my kitchen exceeds yours but I've never even imagined the criticism that you are experiencing. Far from it. I have one neighbor in particular who has little interest in cooking and she just writhes with delight (okay, that's WAY exaggerating it!) when she comes to our house for dinner. So either eliminate those Debbie (or Donald) Downers from your cooking forays (go to a movie) or see if you're putting out some type of holier-than-thou vibe that is putting them off. Just my opinion, of course.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  Correction, you are 62 y.y.

                                                                                  I agree very much with the idea that if you are cooking or eating food that is affordable, then you are hardly a snob or elitist.

                                                                                2. ... I lol'ed.

                                                                                  1. My confreres consider me a gourmet cook. I consider myself a plain cook with a bit of imagination. In each meal, even when I cook in a hurry, I try to make at least one dish "special." My main concern is that everything be nutritious and that the flavors complement one another. There is so much more to life than food. All the same, on really festive occasions, I like to pull out the stops. If the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared with a banquet--it seems to me--we ought to know how to enjoy a banquet on earth. But with moderation and remembering that two thirds of humanity cannot feed properly, let alone feast. So I am more concerned that what I cook and what I eat be "real" than that it be recherche'. So I try to use fresh herbs. I look for good olive oil. I like a vinaigrette made from scratch with good ingredients. (And I love cider vinegar!) Wish I had better pots and pans to use. I bake decent bread--and have largely weaned my community away from anything else. I avoid any cheese that is not real. (And I do use Parmegiano-Reggiano from time to time.) I wish I had better access to farm-fresh food. I love pasta and hate typical American pasta with overcooked sauces. Give me a ten-minute marinara sauce any day. I dislike meals that are plated like a Jackson Pollock canvas. I always believe there is something more I can learn that will make a meal more flavorful. I treasure the moment after a meal when people linger and share in depth. (A good wine helps!) I eschew fancy presentations--like stuff molded in aspic. In fact, I am inclined to think that the best cooking in the world comes from what the Italians would call popolano roots. Hunger is the best sauce, and the hungry of the world inevitably seem to use the most imagination in the prepration of food. But I remember Babette's Feast as well. Sometimes haute cuisine serves a glorious purpose. The bottom line for me is that I eat to live and to share life. I don't live to eat.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      Gypsy Lady, I think Sam is so much larger than life that anything I might say would fall far short. I only met him once. He was tremendously alive, curious, wise, not afraid to present other views and unconsidered facts. He was funny. He took life and food as it came, but he also had his considered likes and dislikes. (I could never understand his aversion to Pilipino food.) I only met him once. What struck me then is that he cared for people. All this passion was focused on sharing life with others. I think the best honor I could do him would be to take time to read all his posts. And I would hope that people who knew him in a more professional capacity, or more personally, would tell us about him. We need a Festchrift for Sam. He made a difference in my life--in part because he was not a food snob. I don't doubt he made a bigger difference in the lives of others.

                                                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                        God bless you. Maybe the OP can get some inspiration also.

                                                                                        1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                          Father Kitchen, I'd love to hear more about how food is part of your ministry. Please feel free to email me from my profile.

                                                                                          1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                            Dear FF, I couldn't get the http from your profile to work. You can email me at fatherkitchen@gmail.com. I don't often check that account, but I will in the future.
                                                                                            I can give you the short answer here. I'm not sure if we need to start a new thread on culinary theology. My basic attitude to food is that of Robert Farrar Capon in his oft-reprinted book "The Supper of the Lamb." (Wonderful philosophy and theology but mostly indifferent recipes.) It has to do with what is real. I see my ministry as more about presence than anything else, and I am a nurturer according to my psychological prfiles. I've often been in new groups and found myself an outsider. I've learned that feeding people breaks down barriers. And for those who have a bottomless pit of neediness, sometimes a lovingly prepared meal can make a difference, if only in the short duration. I've never been able to turn food into a formal ministry toward the world outside. But it has become an important way in which I minister to my own community. Thirty years ago I had fantasies of a house of prayer with an organic garden attached that would supply food to an organic restaurant. (Maybe Alice Waters was hearing the same inspirations.) Fifteen years ago, I realized I could honestly contribute to a monastery by baking my sourdough bread. Instead, here I am in D.C. mostly ministering by the written word. Sometimes the food theme shows up in articles I write for Catholic magazines--as an article in "Carmelite Digest" a few years ago. I have one "under construction" for "Spiritual Life," and I keep wanting to write about food, though that is not my topic. To me "Bread of Life" is inseprable from daily bread. So I do whatever I can, whenever I can. But my contribution is really quite modest. Nothing like that of folks who run food banks and cook and serve lovingly to street folks. And along that line, an inspirational article that really affected me was something in "Jubilee" magazine in the early sixties. It was on feasting the poor. When we serve the poor, we have to make it special. We have to give them a taste of the good things of life and a reason for having hope. Crumbs from our tables are not enough.
                                                                                            I hope that makes sense.

                                                                                      2. The line is easy to draw - when you judge other people by their food choices, you are a snob. If you simply enjoy your food choices, which are different than others, then you just love good food. As long as the words "good" and "bad" don't enter the equation, you are not an elitist. The words to use are, "I enjoy/don't enjoy", not "good" or "bad". All food experiences are subjective and do not relate to status, intellect, or the possession of a highly developed sense of taste.

                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Orchid64

                                                                                          You seem to be mincing your words (instead of your meat). Sure, I think it's smart to be gentle about it, but eventually you have to let people know about little places that are better than Taco Bell (for example) - or those places will surely go out of business. In all my dealings with co-workers and even bare acquaintances, I rarely meet someone who is not open to criticism of Taco Bell and would like to know about some place that serves cheap and convenient food that's better. I don't think it's judging people.

                                                                                          Imagine the scenario- two people are in a Taco Bell and they both think the food is bad, but neither one says it's bad - they both say "eh, it's not bad, if you like it, but I don't enjoy it."
                                                                                          They could go on eating at Taco Bell for years like that! Be open about it, it's lousy, you go eat there, and I'll get carry out from somewhere else.

                                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                                            Serves them right if you ask me.

                                                                                            BTW, you could say "it's lousy, you go eat there, and I'll get carry out from somewhere else." WITHOUT the first two words. See the difference? Changes it from 'you're an a-hole for liking it' to 'I'll eat something else'. No judgement, no insinuations.

                                                                                            I just had enchiladas de queso from a local Mexican place near my house for breakfast. Not the best I ever had but local, fresh, and tasty. And there's only one of this place.

                                                                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                              My experience is that there are a whole lot of people out there who know they are eating lousy food, but they are unaware of possibilities right around the corner. They succumb to the huge advertising camapaigns, and for that I don't blame them; they are evidently effective.

                                                                                              In most cases, people want to go places where they know exactly what they are going to get. It's a form of shyness. Otherwise strong-willed and hearty people are actually too frightened to go into a place they don't know about for the first time. In some cases it is laziness and lack of inquisitiveness of walking an extra block. The last place I worked, there was a phenomenal sandwich shop a block further than a food court. People who worked there FOR YEARS did not even know it existed until I pointed it out. Then they became regulars.

                                                                                              Like I said, I try to be gentle, but I don't have to pretend either.

                                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                                How about the little places that are WORSE than Taco Bell, that co-workers keep going to year after year after year just because at least everyone can agree that there’s something (horrible) for everyone? We’ve got upscale places and Greek places and American places and Asian places near work, but they always settle for this one Mexican place. I always get picked to “find someplace to go to lunch” and I get a half-dozen websites, but always, someone doesn’t like upscale or doesn’t like Greek or doesn’t like American or doesn’t like Asian, so they always go to the Mexican place that sucks worse than Taco Bell. I’d rather there WAS a Taco Bell because at least I can get a consistent product that isn’t stale or doesn’t take 45 minutes to deliver.

                                                                                                So yeah, I agree it’s a matter of not wanting to try something new. But in this case the “small place” is worse than the “horrible” chain place.

                                                                                        2. It seems like everything there is to be said on this subject has already been said, and now the conversation is just going in circles, and growing increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock it now.