They (the infamous they) say that the first step in dealing with a problem is to admit that you have one. So, this entry.
“My God!” you must be thinking, “what problem is this that Jeremy feels the need to announce on his blog for all the world to see?” It must be horrible; I might be traumatized; Maybe I should get a hanky, just in case. Could it have something to do with the bursty nature of his blog posts? (hat tip, Marcia.) So, here we go, deep breath.
I have become a food snob.
Yes, I know, horrifying. What does this mean? How can I live with it? Can I only eat expensive food produced by pompous chefs wearing funny hats? Must I speak with a bad french accent? No. But it does mean I want my food to be, put simply, good. With very specific definitions of good. I’ve developed a set of guidelines or maybe inequalities that I try to follow:
- Local is better than trucked in from half way around the world
- Things I could (in theory) grow/produce myself is better than something that requires a chemistry set. (Not sure how Wylie Dufresne fits in here)
- Single instance restaurants are better than chains
- Passion for food matters
- Presentation matters
- Taste matters
- Outstanding service matters
- Respect your food, it is more than just what gets shoved into your pie whole
So, what brought me to this point? I blame many things. First of all, experiencing food by great chefs who also live by those standards: Chef Everett at The Blue Talon, Chef Power at The Fat Canary, Chef Kennedy at Dudley’s Farmhouse Grill in Williamsburg; Mas Tapas in Charlottesville; Craft in New York City; Marmalade in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Visiting great local restaurants everywhere: Pierce’s Pit BBQ here in town, The Shake Shack in New York City, cubbyhole pizza places in Florence. Food television and books (aka food porn) have certainly contributed; Alton Brown, Anthony Bourdain, Iron Chef, Top Chef. Tiffany certainly gets some credit too; it is invaluable to have someone who shares the same passions with you. It would be very hard to do this by myself, and would look more like an addiction than a healthy passion.
What does it mean for daily life? Chain restaurants are basically out, certainly for dinner. I try to buy “real” foods as much a possible. I savor food for foods sake when I eat; I try to taste food the same way I taste wine. When travel opportunities present themselves, I almost always start by searching for great local restaurants if the destination is fixed, or I look for a great new restaurant I want to try and use that to pick a destination. Restaurants with tasting menus get first billing. What is that I hear? Tasting menu? You don’t know what that is? Oh, sweet goodness.
Tasting menus are the chef’s equivalent of saying “mine is bigger than his.” They are multicourse meals (6-17, yes 17) where the chef and kitchen shows you, the diner, why they are the shit. Each course is rarely larger than a single bite (maybe two) that have been created to be a perfect bite of flavor, texture, presentation, smell, everything. Very often paired per course by just the right wine, it is, well, about the most decadent way to experience food. You almost always get very attentive service with explanations of each item and ingredient and why they should go perfectly with each other and the chosen wine. Often times the chef will come out and say hi and thank you. I can explain it in no other way than it is an amazing experience.
It filters into cooking at home as well. I don’t do it nearly as often I should, but when I do, I try to pay special attention to the food I buy, the food I cook, how I prepare it. I don’t have to be fancy in my food, but I try to put the same love and caring into it that I want when I eat a chef-prepared meal. And on occasion, cooking something fancy is just plain fun.
So, there you have it. I’m a food snob. I have a “problem” and I love it. It is a problem I would wish on everyone I know; you will enjoy life more. (And probably be healthier for it.)
Now if only I could could get a gig as a travel food photographer…