There has been quite a debate over food snobbery. On one side, you have people who think that there’s no snobbery in loving good food. But I happen to think I am a food snob, having been fortunate to have been raised on fabulous food, and admit that I do look down on the less-than-fabulous.
Which brings up the point – what is fabulous food? Because what I find fabulous may not be to others.
Being a food snob, to me, isn’t looking down on the people who eat specific foods, or those who refuse to try certain foods, but it’s looking down on those foods that they choose as fabulous to them. It’s a very different issue. I am a snob of bad food, not of people.
I don’t think I was always this way, for there were times I know where I voiced some disgust over someone who wouldn’t try a new food, or refused a medium-rare steak, an oyster, or anything spicy. But once I had clients, I became well aware that people have their own tastes, and these must be respected. It was a humbling learning curve. Now, that doesn’t mean that the food I prepared was inferior in any way, but it was made to their liking. It had to be.
I would never have been successful at catering if I didn’t honor certain requests by my clients. If they hated mushrooms, I didn’t include them, even if I “knew” that all of the guests probably loved them. Allergic to shrimp? Of course – no shrimp. Sensitive to spicy food? Hate curry? Fine! I could work around all of that.
My biggest learning curve occurred when I got married to a man who had been raised on the typical American diet. That’s how I learned that Velveeta wasn’t something you put on fish hooks to catch trout. Fortunately, he was open enough to try everything I cooked, and I kind of created a monster! Although he still refuses offal.
I’ve occasionally referred to my dislike of Velveeta, Lipton’s onion soup mix, and canned cream of mushroom soup. Are these ingredients served at fine dining establishments? I think not.
Perhaps we can agree that there is no real “bad” food? I mean, some people love powdered potatoes, stuffing mixes, marshmallows on sweet potatoes, and even Spam.
When my second daughter was born, we’d just moved to a town in Texas one week prior. We didn’t know a soul, but a man my husband worked with happened to live two doors down. He and his wife were extraordinarily generous to keep my older daughter, 2 1/2, overnight while I labored at the hospital. I hadn’t even met her before so her actions were life saving. The following day she brought us a casserole.
It was a tuna casserole. But it gets better. It was topped with potato chips. There’s not much I don’t eat, (think brains and snails), but I couldn’t bring myself to even taste it. It even looked horrible. Of course my husband loved the casserole.
I’ve mentioned how I was raised before, with a French mother who brought with her to the U.S. all of the typical habits of a European. She shopped often, foraged, gardened, never opened a can, made everything from scratch, cooked globally, and never made casseroles. So perhaps you can understand my shock at a canned tuna casserole, topped with cream of something canned soup, and then potato chips. That is just not good food to me. And it’s not served at fine dining establishments.
In a lovely post written by my friend Stéphane Gabart, he writes that there are no food snobs, only food lovers, or foodies. It’s a delightful post about how he loves being surrounded by friends and family who love food. But I know from my conversations with Stéphane that neither of us loves absolutely every food that exists. Even as food lovers, we have our limits. I really dislike celeriac. Stéphane? He hates beets. We might think each other silly for disliking these foods, but we all have our own tastes, and these must be respected.
No one can help how they were fed by their mothers and fathers while they were growing up. Some of us might embrace the foods on which we were raised, others might rebel. But as adults we can certainly make educated choices about what we prepare, and the ingredients that go into those foods. There’s no right or wrong here. I will always hate celeriac. And Velveeta. And be snobby about them.