As you can see over in my Blogroll, one of the message boards I have listed is chowhound.com. Although that particular site can be a valuable source of information cooking and food, there’s just one slight problem: The place is absolutely crawling with food snobs. To the sites credit, of the websites I read and participate at on a regular basis, the discussion at Chowhound is usually kept far more civil than that found virtually anywhere else I read. I haven’t ever been able to figure out whether this was the product of dilligent moderation, or the fact that most of the troublemakers on the Internet haven’t ever managed to advance their cooking skills beyond the microwave and the speed dial button on the phone for pizza delivery. Nonetheless, on a fair number of threads at Chowhound, the snobbery gets so thick there that you’re not sure why you bother with reading the boards there in the first place. Maybe it’s just because you haven’t got the refined tastes of the usual crowd there, but more often than not, you just haven’t taken the proper steps necessary to fit in. After the jump, a handy guide to joining the elite ranks of the food snobs in five easy steps.
Before you begin: Geography is a critical factor in determining what type of snobbery you will be able to sustain. Ideally, you live in a big urban area like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, each of which has their own signature food items, as well as many restaurants with superior examples of many different types of cuisines to cite when making unsolicited criticism of other people’s food choices. Other smaller major metropolitan areas such as Phoenix, Austin, New Orleans, Miami and Seattle may not have quite the variety of the places listed above, but generally have distinctive regional cuisines that you can lord over the unenlightened. On the other hand, if you live in the middle of North Dakota, you might want to just reconsider the whole thing. After establishing the suitability of your geographic location for snobbery, it’s time to move on to the actual process itself.
Step 1: Shun chain restaurants, and be vocal about it. Don’t even bother coming up with any specific reasons for doing so. After all, they’re big corporations, and that alone makes them evil, right? If pressed for further explanation, just rattle off one of the usual oft-cited evils of franchised restaurants and walk away, secure in the knowledge that you no longer have to deal with any of those pesky proletarians when you go out to dine. Be as obnoxious as you need to in order to make the point.
Step 2: Find yourself a hobby horse, and stick with it. This can take one of many different forms, but the most popular ones seem to be found in either the nutritional or ecological categories these days. Don’t let a thread go by without telling people how many calories and grams of fat some important ingredient in their recipe contains, or how much CO2 it produces to grow, harvest, package and ship the item. Do as much of your grocery shopping as possible at some sort of Co-op or farmers market type place. For the stuff you can’t get there, you can go to Whole Paycheck or another similar store, but be sure to complain as often as possible about how the place is Yet Another Huge Corporate Entity. Everything you buy should also be organic, fair trade, sustainable, locally grown, hormone free, and whatever other currently popular buzzword you can apply to it. Make note of this fact as often as necessary. Being vegan isn’t strictly necessary, but it does provide a handy cudgel with which to beat people over the proverbial head, as well as an inconvenient complication for people when you solicit their “advice” on restaurants to eat at.
Step 3: Be sure to equip your kitchen with all the best (read: most expensive) appliances and equipment you can find. Head for the nearest Williams-Sonoma or other similar store and max out the credit card, but remember that all the GE, Whirlpool and KitchenAid stuff is for normal people. You know, the ones who actually buy Hotpoint refrigerators and Frigidaire stoves, for heaven’s sake! Don’t they know ANYTHING? For your refined tastes, only the best will do. You need wall-to-wall stainless steel, with names like Viking, Sub-Zero and Miele plastered all over it. Don’t forget the granite countertops and the All-Clad cookware. Sure, you may have the actual cooking skills of a seven year old with ADHD, and what little cooking you can do could be accomplished just as well on a thirty year old Kenmore electric range, but remember: it’s the appearance that counts.
Step 4: Insist on authenticity, even if the result is something no sane person would ever eat. This is best accomplished by picking some relatively popular ethnic cuisine, finding some obscure branch of said cuisine and insisting that everyone does it wrong because they don’t follow the “traditional” recipes of that particular branch. Be sure to frequently talk about how great the food is in its native country, and bemoan the “americanization”of said cuisine. If someone asks for a recommendation for what you think is a good example, be sure to point them to some obscure hole-in-the-wall place that nobody except the health inspector has ever heard of. Also, if you live in one of the above named cities, be sure to endlessly insist on the superiority of your city’s cuisine over that of imitators. If you live in New York, insist that it is physically impossible to make a proper New York style pizza or bagel anywhere west of the Hudson River. The same goes for Southerners and barbecue.
Step 5: Be sure to nitpick every meal endlessly. Did it take a whole two minutes to get your water glass refilled when it was empty? Bug the manager about it. The Pan-Seared Tuna isn’t quite as seared as you’d like? Send it back. You’re paying a fortune for the meal (or, at least you should be if you’ve been following the guidelines above) and everything should be perfect. If you’re really dedicated, you’ll keep a running tally of everything, and calculate your tip at the end of the meal with deductions for each fault, down to the tenth of a percent. Don’t bother complimenting anyone if they’re doing their job properly, but if something goes wrong, be sure to tell everyone about it in excruciating detail.
Finally, a few handy tips for the aspiring food snob:
- If you’re spending more than $1,000 a month on wine, that means you’re a connoisseur, not an alcoholic. Be sure to explain this fact in no uncertain terms when your old friends (you know, those people you shunned back when they all wanted to go out to Cheesecake Factory for someone’s birthday) stage an intervention. I’m sure they’ll all understand.
- If you really want that extra little bit of snobbery that only a select few manage to obtain, be sure to incorporate some element of new-age hippie nonsense into your eating habits.
- Remember, offal is your friend. You might not be quite so enthusiastic about the idea of eating from the “miscellaneous” section of the meat department, but keep in mind that all the cool kids eat the stuff (at least the ones you’re trying to impress. The actual cool kids could care less about any of this stuff, but that’s beside the point…)
- Keep in mind that you’re a food snob, not a foodie. In fact, the foodie is your mortal enemy. After all, foodies go eat at all the trendy celebrity chefs’ places and probably couldn’t tell a plantain from a parsnip if their lives depended on it. Not that you could either, but that’s not the point.
Just follow these easy guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to being a culinary prima donna. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that other food snobs won’t look down their nose at you, but at least you’ll blend in with the rest of the posters on the Chowhound boards.