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I admit it

I am a food snob.

There, I admit it again. I don’t shun food (as my waistline sadly attests to) but I tend to feel frustrated with people who don’t live up to my expectations with regard to their culinary experience and tastes. In my defense, they’re not particularly high standards to meet. A few months ago I met a woman who rules out entire categories of food based on color- she won’t try anything orange or yellow. And she told me that her most exotic culinary tasting was…rice. Every other opinion I formed on this lady was filtered through the knowledge that she is a culinary ignoramus.

Today I had a quick and healthy lunch at the Thai restaurant down the street. A woman and a young man (her coworker I believe) sat at the next table. She remarked to her guest that she was open to trying something new as long as it had familiar ingredients and was not at all spicy. First, why do people go into a Thai, Mexican, or otherwise traditionally spicy cuisine restaurant and ask for no spice? Perhaps she has some sort of intestinal issue that prevents her from eating spicy foods (although how do native Mexicans, Thai, and Indians handle similar disorders?) and so I was willing to overlook that minor silliness.

The young man ordered Thai dumplings, calling them by their formal name (and you see, I have some culinary ignorance of my own because I cannot remember the name at this moment). She asked him what those were translated in English. No issues for me at this point because, hey, who is expected to know translations of Thai right? He replies that it means dumplings. She stares blankly at him for a good 10 seconds before asking “What is a dumpling?” This took him by surprise. “You know, a dumpling. Like ravioli” So of course she asks, “What’s ravioli?” I was ready to fall out of my chair!!! Her response prompted an entire new conversation thread between the two of them where they discussed her lack of exposure to cuisine beyond her baseline foods she was raised on. She described in earnest the first time she tried exotic food. She was 19 and accidentally tried mayo when it was put on a burger she ordered by mistake. He asked her, “What was exotic about the mayo?”, and waited for her response. Again, with the blank stare from her – “The entire concept of mayo was/is exotic to me; it always looked so strange”. Next they talked about seafood- she didn’t try shrimp until she was in her late 20s because it seemed so scary and exotic. Now she likes it, but can’t bear to strike out and try crab or lobster or any other shellfish. How can new food inspire such anxiety? I understand and can sometimes relate to hesitancy when it comes to trying foods we Americans were traditionally raised to think of as dirty or garbage- brains, intestines, feet, etc. But no one is raised to think of mayo as dirty or garbage. What’s the deal with that?

What is especially ironic to me is that most folks working in the IT industry are technology snobs and yet I am not. That’s why they’re historically lousy at customer support – the customer calls into the support line and can easily sense the seething snobbery over the fact that they don’t know how to do simple tasks on the computer. But I totally get that for a lot of people computers are not used in their job and they may not have exposure to them. Food is another matter. Everyone has to eat. And all of the foods I look down upon someone for never trying are available at most grocery stores.

Are you a food snob? Are you a snob about anything else?


Comments

shygirlj said…
I never thought of myself as necessarily a food snob - but I totally am. I mean, I seriously tend to think less of a person if they don't like certain foods. If they won't try something...well, I secretly write them off in my mind.

I'm not an excessively picky person [at least to my mind]: I don't eat mayo, mustard, or ketchup (i only eat ketchup when there is no other alternative for the hot dog; i only eat mayo/mustard in potato salad); and I view sweet pickles as an abomination. I'm a vegetarian, so some meat things gross me out [like this time on Iron Chef when I saw this guy serve pigeon brains as some kind of delicacy ::shiver::], but otherwise, I'm wide open.

I love vegetables, love foreign food [especially Indian, that's my fave], love spice. I used to really love chicken [and suppose I still do, though I don't eat it anymore.] So I totally get your post. I'm amazed by the things people haven't had and won't try.

I don't know why, but I tend to kinda take it personally when people won't try certain things. [To me, the only excusable reason for this is religious/allergy/vegetarian.] It may be because of my background, but I feel like: if someone won't try a certain kind of food because they think it's weird or different [and therefore wouldn't like it], then what do they really think about me [also being weird and different, by some standards]?

I could give numerous examples of people I've known/met who were culinarily stunted: the lady at work who didn't like mango because she thought it should taste like a peach - but it didn't; a friend's husband who won't eat any green vegetable, or beans, or condiments, or any savory sauce, or anything spicy [this guy's really nice, but I could NEVER live with him]; half of the Southerners I meet, who, when I tell them I'm a vegetarian, respond by saying, "then, what do you EAT?"

my final word on all of this? i can be friends with someone who doesn't like chocolate -- but I don't understand them. :)
Ashley said…
i'm not a food snob. in fact, i often have the experience of eating something at a catered lunch or in a restaurant, where i say, "yum, X food was so good!" and someone near me remarks about how poorly it was prepared, or the low quality of the food, or something. oh well!

i used to be a music and movie snob, though. one of the first things i'd ask people about when i first met them was what they listened to, and somehow i'd work in references to certain movies & see if they responded correctly. i didn't let on that i secretly loved popular stuff. now, though, i listen to what i want, when i want, and am not ashamed of liking top 40 stuff as well as the indie stuff i used to be so proud of. and i don't base my opinions of others on their music, either. i still love finding people who can do movie quote wars with me though.

i did end up interested in my husband by asking him what music he listened to, though. he was with a group of people, i asked them all as well -- i was very disappointed in the other responses i got, but i loved his response. so my snobbery worked out for me at least one time! :)
moveablefeast said…
I don't know.

On the one hand, it frustrates me to no end when people are fussy about even trying new things. You know, the ones who would rather go eat a hamburger than try something they've never tried...it's frustrating because it can make it really hard to cook for or eat out with them, you know?

On the other hand, I can see how this can be so very culturally bound. My mothe-rin-law has a particular cooking style that I can see is very typical of the local culture - lots of meat, potatoes, spaghetti, usually pretty basic, not a lot of spices, and lots of convenience foods. I remember that from my childhood as well - very typical of where we grew up. Hubby is, as a result, a fairly fussy eater, not dramatically so, but just enough that I have to think about what I'm cooking. His list of things he doesn't "do" is a little longer than mine. I think that's because his palate was exposed to fewer flavors than mine was.

There are some things I just don't "do". I don't do Indian food for the most part (turmeric tastes like dirt to me, literally), and I don't do organ meats (never tasted one I liked)...but not because those things are weird or exotic, but because I've tried them and not enjoyed them.

How's that for a non-answer?

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