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Jan 4, 2013 02:38 PM

provocative post re food world

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  1. So that's what Foster Kamer's up to these days. Shine on, you crazy aggregating diamond. It's pretty gutsy to title the post "20 Things Everyone Thinks About the Food World (But Nobody Will Say)," since I've seen many of the 20 discussed on Chowhound over the past year. Not to imply that these topics aren't worthy of discussion, but this ain't exactly firstfirstfirst material.

    Thanks for the link. It brought back fond memories of Gawker's glory days. Such as they were.

    1. "The sustainable food movement is only relevant to rich white people."

      "all wine mostly tastes the same."

      Yup and yup.

      4 Replies
      1. re: FoodPopulist

        You need to drink more wine. Happily, this is not going to be an onerous experience for you.

        1. This article was all over my FB page, so many of my friends were posting it, so I read it...and agreed with about half his list.

          I don't think these topics are as much about people not wanting to talk about them for fear of not being considered hip, with-it, or au coutrant as much as it is a case of the emperor has no clothes and some finally got tired of all the posturing and revealed the naked truth ;-)

          1. I thought a number of the posts were very New York-centric - but I could really relate to #1, even while being outside of the US.

            In Israel, traveling to India for a few months to a year as a backpacker in your 20s is quite common. As such, the pervailing attitude towards Indian food in Israel is that anything that costs more than it did in India is outrageous. So it is far too common for any Indian restaurant that does exist to be run on shoestring budgets with untrained chefs and have overwhelmingly disappointing food just to be as cheap as possible. However, "real Italian" pasta with olive oil and garic - well that's worth fine dining money.

            8 Replies
            1. re: cresyd

              I live in San Diego, that's how people think about our Mexican food. What, a taco costs more than a few INAUTHENTIC. Drives me totally nuts.

              And yes, the aritcle did seem to be a little too NY-centric

              1. re: DiningDiva

                What I find offensive is that most of the nation believes "Mexican food" IS tacos.

                It's street food. And what you eat after a night of drinking. It's certainly not dinner. In most of Mexico it's not even lunch.

              2. re: cresyd

                When something is usually sold for a dollar, and suddenly someone wants you to pay five dollars for the same thing gussied up, only a ninny won't at least blink. When you think of something as costing one thing, and someone suddenly doubles or triples that...You may be willing to try what they are selling, but if it isn't at least 2 or 3 times as good as what you can get for less than half the price, you WILL FEEL ripped off.

                And for what it's worth, my mother thinks that anyone who would pay more than five dollars for a plate of pasta with a basic sauce is an idiot.

                1. re: StrandedYankee

                  I get the gut reaction. However, I think to stick with that gut reaction - while perhaps not racist, is definitely lazy.

                  I live in Jerusalem and there is a Chinese restaurant that essentially serves a wide range of "American Chinese" style dishes. It's not "amazing Chinese" - but it is definitely very close in taste to the cheap take away Chinese that I grew up with in the States. Biggest difference is that this in no way comes with cheap Chinese prices. My gut reaction is "my lord, who'd pay this much for beef and broccoli" - but my follow up reaction is "well, it's a non-kosher restaurant, which will make the place more expensive as well as being a taste of home - so if I deduct those factors then the overall this price isn't so high."

                  Not to mention that while the restaurant isn't cheap, it's also not expensive by Jerusalem standards. It's just not what I'm used to paying for that kind of food.

                  1. re: cresyd

                    In my case, it's a combination of a few things. Using Indian and Vietnamese as examples:

                    a) It's fundamentally food of the developing world - of the poor - the ingredients and their costs typically reflect that

                    b) In a basic Western incarnation, that doesn't really change: I can't think of an example of a refined or artisanal version of Vietnamese or Indian ingredients. Nothing comes to mind when I try to think, for example, of the haute cuisine version of rice noodles or basmati rice. In contrast, I can think of analogues in Western cuisines, such as artisanal ingredients, that (whether or not they ultimately justify the price) do inflate costs. I can understand that a rustic Italian dish can be expensive, after it has been prepared using heirloom tomatoes, hand-made pasta, etc.

                    c) These cuisines are almost invariably done very badly in the West. Disregarding cost, I never order Indian or Vietnamese anymore, because I've tried all of the best and most authentic that there is supposed to be had, and it isn't remotely comparable to what is prepared by the average street vendor or dhaba. Insipid simulacra is a generous description of ethnic cooking in the West, and I'm in Australia, which generally claims to do it far better than most Western countries. I'm not willing to pay much for something like butter chicken or rice paper rolls - it's essentially poor quality food.

                    d) Incorporating cost, the whole experience becomes frustrating and dissatisfying. If an (expensive) dhaba in Delhi can turn out a delicious, satisfying curry of mutton on the bone for 500 Rs, to be charged $25 for a miserly portion of cubed lamb in a vapid sauce is an affront.

                    e) Fusion might legitimately be able to claim high prices in the same way that Western restaurants do, but it invariably has almost nothing to do with the original cuisine, and that's not really what we're talking about here anyway.

                    I think in most cases, it's really a combination of a) and c). Most ethnic food is simple food that has been mangled by the West into a homogeneous experience of cheap, fast food. I'd pay for David Thompson's Thai, but Thai - as conceived by the average punter and prepared by the average Thai restauranteur - isn't worth more $15 or whatever.

                    1. re: mugen

                      I believe that if you bring the attitude of C - then fair enough, don't go to such restaurants. Prepare what you can at home, and otherwise forgo the other options that are subpar until you can travel to where the cuisine is done well.

                      However I think that attiude A combined with attitude D is where I start to disagree. The assumption that all Indian food is poor people's food rules out any value or consideration to a "royal cuisine". Coq au vin is not royal French food, and yet should one find it in a restaurant I doubt it's going to be served at "poor people's prices". And while perhaps an heirloom tomato is worthy of an increased restaurant price, cacio e pepe and aglio e olio appear on a number of high priced restaurant menus. Whether or not the additional cost of hand made pasta has made it worthy or not of the price is a value placed on Italian pasta over other cuisines that do handmade dumplings/noodles/etc. Should you choose to value that fine, but I don't see any technical skill difference other than personal preference or prejudice.

                      My other issue is when talking about the cost there is a mental distance between what the local price means for local people, and what the local price means for the European/American/wealthier traveler. Yes, the street meal may be dirt cheap if you're in price category #2, but if you're in price category #1 - it's affordable. Not cheap. I live in Jerusalem on a "local" salary, and so while I recognize various local street vendors or cafes as cheap - it's not cheap in a way where if I buy lunch every day it's no big deal for my budget. This also applies to ingredients where just because those are cheap ingredients in location 0 doesn't mean in various diaspora locations they won't vary.

                      In Jerusalem, there's a Korean restaurant that regularly makes kohlrabi kimchi - as kohlrabi is highly available and a cheap product. Whereas Napa cabbage is very hard to find/pricier. To be "authentic" some places will pay more in order to accurately replicate "poor people's food". Others will just go with a similar and/or other local/cheaper ingredient. I don't think either approach is wrong or flawed, but it will result in different prices.

                      If you don't think you are getting value for money, then by all means don't bother with the food. However, the article's point was more about people in the West only wanting to go to Thai/Indian/Chinese/Mexian restaurants that are cheap and snubbing pricier places that feature non-Western cuisines.

                    2. re: cresyd

                      When you're literally on the other side of the planet, it's hard to argue with things costing more than they would in your hometown if you want a similar taste experience. When the main differences are two or three miles as the crow flies, an interior design budget, and stuff that usually doesn't really taste quite as good/exotic/unique as what you can get in the ethnic enclaves of your town, the increased price just feels like you're being ripped off.

                      Now, if I take a bite of your food and find it to be a revelation in ideas, in creativity, in aroma and flavor, I will pay through the nose, and thank you for the privilege of being allowed to do so. If I bite into your seven dollar taco and think that the buck-fifty ones I get in the barrio are better, you will never see me again, and I will advise my friends accordingly. I don't think that's lazy, to be honest. I think that's fair.

                      1. re: StrandedYankee

                        It's completely fair if you go into the seven dollar taco restaurant, take the bite, and evaluate. That's not lazy. The problem is the people who automatically snub the seven dollar taco as it is a seven dollar taco. And even worse, the assumption that because it's a seven dollar taco that it's even "offensive", as though someone's trying to rip them off.

                        Such places do have a higher hill to climb where there are the buck fifty locations lurking around the corner. And if they don't live up to the cost, they risk finding a much less sympathetic public. But it's not because there's no (potential) reason for a taco to cost seven dollars.

                2. They're mostly fairly stupid, such as 'Anthony Bourdain has gone pop' - missed that observational boat by, oh, about 10 years.