The word “snob” usually has a bad connotation. The snob is the bad guy and the snubbed is the victim. However, it can be a two-way street. Social ignorance plays a role here. The realm of snobbery is fraught with misconceptions.
Food snobs are caught up in this realm. Insisting on fresh ingredients, organically grown local produce, and humanely raised livestock can get you labeled as one.
Growing up in Ohio, then living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 35 years, and moving back to the Midwest made me into a food snob. It was unavoidable. You can’t spend that much time around great restaurants, great cooks, and great markets without gaining a picky palate.
My palate started going down that picky path soon after I arrived in California. I had two neighbors who were foodies before the term was coined. Every time I think of Lauren or Dorothy, I smile. Great food always creates great memories.
Lauren was a fellow art student who lived in the apartment next door. It was in her kitchen that I tasted my first artichoke, first avocado, first cheese blintz, and first baklava. Early awakenings for my palate.
The artichoke was my favorite. It awakened new taste buds, for sure, but it also added a social dimension that defined the art of dining. Maybe that’s why the word, “art”, is at the front of “artichoke.” Just peeling off each leaf and dipping it into a smooth lemon butter sauce, then letting the leaf touch your tongue with a certain grace before sucking off the small morsel of flesh is art in motion.
There’s the slow food movement. There should be a slow eating movement.
Then there’s the social part of it. I cannot eat an artichoke without sharing the experience. Languishing in Lauren’s kitchen laughing about nothing while piling up artichoke leaves on plates in front of us left me with the resolve to never eat an artichoke alone and I never have.
Dorothy lived in the house next door with her husband and grown son. A nice Italian family. If it weren’t for Dorothy, my hospitality skills would be several notches below acceptable. On hungry evenings when I would be working non-stop in the back studio on a pottery project, Dorothy would come walking down the driveway to my back door with a big pot of spaghetti and a bottle of wine tucked under her arm. Usually a good chianti. She’d say, “Here’s dinner for you and your roommates. You got to eat something to feed your brain.”
Toward the end of my first semester, Dorothy came over one day with a pan of tiramisu and the usual bottle of wine tucked under her arm. She also had two mini-wine glasses hanging between her fingers. She had a steady smile on her face. “I brought you a little something to pick you up, ” she announced, “tiramisu and port wine.” Of course, I had never heard of either. She knew that. That’s why Dorothy will always take the prize as the all-time best crusader for eradicating food ignorance.
Insist on great food in your life. Be sure to share it with friends whenever you can. I have a friend in Oakland whose neighborhood has a regular Wednesday night dinner together. They rotate from house-to-house. They’ve been doing this for over 20 years. What a great way to keep the neighborhood connected!
Any food snobs out there? Please send me your stories!