Friday, January 24, 2014

For the seafood lover in me

You know what I hate? Food snobbery. I was going to say "food snobs," but then that would be saying that I hate the people, which isn't really true, because I don't actually hate any particular people (except Dubya), rather, I just sometimes hate all people, like, in a disgusted-by-humanity way that occasionally makes me want to go live in anti-social seclusion, but with unfettered access to iced coffee (that I don't have to make) and cheese enchiladas (that I don't have to cook).

Anyway, about food snobbery. True or false: food snobs are the judgiest snobs of all. I say true. Let's examine the evidence.

You have your literary snobs, of which I am often accused of being one. I have previously blog-wrestled with the questions of "what is a literary snob?" and "am I one?" but here I would just like to point out that even literary snobs check out what's on the bestseller list. Then there are music snobs, and I think the arrest of Justin Bieber this week and ensuing commentary clearly demonstrate that even people who aren't music snobs are totally snobby about guilty pleasure musicians, so while it's fun to make fun of hipsters who think they know about cooler indie music than you do, it's also commonly accepted that you'd rather be thought of as "too hip for the room" than "a boy band fan."  (I say this, by the way, as someone who unapologetically sings along with Taylor Swift and the song "Beer With Jesus.") Film snobs? They don't really get all that much press, because so many people have never heard of half the movies they praise that the conversation just kind of fizzles out and then everyone goes back to the theater to see the latest blockbuster. Because popcorn. Also, Quentin Tarantino has basically irrevocably proven that you can like really, truly obscure films and talk about them with a deep, mad passion yet still just be more wacky about it than snobby. As for snob-snobs, you know, like the high-school kind? They turn out to secretly have some good inside, as evidenced by the plot of every sitcom and teen movie ever, and your 20-year high school reunion.

But food snobs are so judgetacularly judgy!

What brought this on?  Well, I'll tell you. Today Brian and I enjoyed seafood at Karon Beach here in Phuket, at a place with today's fresh catch displayed on ice, a fresh catch, I might add, that came from the Andaman Sea, which is across the street. Somehow in that conversation we got to talking about seafood and Red Lobster -- I really don't recall how/why -- and how of late Red Lobster has been criticized on the interwebs because the company is losing money and the food snobs have come out of the woodwork to be all like, "Ewww, their food is bad." To which I say: no.

No, their food isn't "bad."  Here's an example of bad food: it never, ever decomposes, despite Morgan Spurlock waiting around for weeks for it to do so. Here's another example: it makes you gag. Here's another: it has no nutritional value.

But the food snobs, you see, are so afraid that Anthony Bourdain or some other lover of foie gras (a food that may not be bad, but instead is just plain evil) will spot them eating at a Red Lobster, which they have all done, that they have to come out in the comments sections of various food snobbery-inducing pieces and protest too much for all the world to see that they understand how "bad" that food is and won't be caught dead eating it. Even though they have totally eaten it before.

Remember 2010?  One of the cool, indie-ish-but-with-big-name-actors, got-loads-of-critical-acclaim movies in 2010 was The Kids Are All Right. Now, I was thoroughly underwhelmed by that flick, but one part of it will stay in my cherished memory forever, and that is when the character played by Annette Bening (who 100% should have won the Oscar over Black Swan Natalie Portman) is getting fed up with her partner, the really annoying character played by Julianne Moore, and in some restaurant the Bening character reaches the end of her rope at the mention of heirloom tomatoes and says, basically, what the hell is up with all these people suddenly sounding so proud of themselves jabbering about heirloom tomatoes all the bloody time? (I paraphrase.)  I loved that moment. I so relate.

I mean: I like farmers' markets, too (at least in theory -- I don't really like shopping at all), but I also like the grocery store. It's like, why would you waste time ragging on grocery stores when you could be aiming those precious insults at Walmart, which really deserves them? But some people are just so PROUD of themselves for shopping at the farmers' market for heirloom tomatoes, and here's the crucial part:  somehow it's socially acceptable for them to get up on that high horse and actually straight up criticize someone whose food doesn't meet their exacting standards. This is not accepted in other snobberies. When I mention that I haven't read the Harry Potter series and don't really plan to, ever, it launches a debate, guaranteed, not about the merits of Harry Potter but about whether I'm entitled to criticize those books. I have actually lost friends -- well, at least friendly acquaintances -- not even for slamming Stephenie Twilight Meyer but for defending Stephen King's right to slam Stephenie Meyer. Stephen King! A writer for decades who has experienced both the bestseller list and writing about the supernatural, but he's supposed to refrain from criticizing a bestselling supernatural-laden book/series he thinks is shit? Why??!

Ditto for the film and music and snob-snobs. It's acknowledged that they are just not supposed to do that because it's mean/unbecoming/whatever. But the food snobs are allowed to go off whenever they see fit, as if any one meal is responsible for obesity, cancer, and the end of civilization as we know it. And I don't buy the health argument for food snobbery anyway, really, because then why isn't it socially acceptable for those people to walk up to smokers and knock the cigarettes out of their hands? Or better yet, to walk up to people who drive to a place two minutes down the road and say, "Have you ever walked on a single errand in your life?"

The food snobs are, essentially, allowed to be snobs. No, not just allowed; they are downright encouraged. They are the judgiest. Their rampant judging is everywhere. And then, companies who happen to have more than one branch location have to bend over backwards with marketing campaigns to try to remind everyone that their food is not, in fact, bad, but that the food snobs are just zeroing in on them this month for whatever reason. Instead of just fighting about preferences, like New York and Chicago do about pizza, the food snobs are matter-of-fact about the fact that your food choice is not good enough, and no one is bothered by this. Whether it's Red Lobster, or frozen dinners, or Burger King, or bottled salad dressing, or Papa John's, or hot dogs, food snobbery is welcomed with open arms.

But not my arms. I dined on seafood today in Thailand while staring at the sea, and when I return to the Phoenix desert, I will happily go to Red Lobster in broad daylight, with no attempt to hide from the Food Network, and enjoy some fried shrimp there. I do not for the life of me find anything wrong with my dining experience at Red Lobster, and I do not hate chain restaurants just because they are chains (see also: Red Robin, Outback Steakhouse, Chili's, Starbucks, Chipotle, etc. etc.)  I do not get food snobbery, and I do not welcome it. What about you?


Brian said...

I certainly may have some perspective on what "bad" food is (i.e. Mcdonald's, as you described, because it's not necessarily food), but the snobs are so able to get away with calling something bad without any explanation.

Taste is so much more subjective, something I've experienced with you.

linda said...

And I even think that it's unreasonable to make declarations like "there's no real food at McDonald's." Of course there is. The business model relies on it being processed and full of preservatives, but to say it's not food, any of it, is patently not true. The genetically-engineered-to-never-rot potatoes scare me, so I no longer have interest in eating the fries there, but I'm not going to pretend those sandwiches are made of cardboard or something. I liked the special sauce on Big Macs as much as anyone when I was an unabashed carnivore. (As opposed to a lapsed vegetarian.) It IS food. People do lots of different things with food, including adding a whole lot of preservatives to it in the U.S., but it's food. Anyway, McDonald's is one place that has been analyzed, scientifically documented, experimented with, revamped, and so on. Many other chains have not been, but are still declared "bad" and it is interesting that the food snobs so breezily declare what is 'good' and 'bad' when, as you mention, they offer no facts.

Anonymous said...

Red Lobster. I have had many negative experiences there. Like waiting and waiting for service, particularly when they found I was not going to order any alcoholic beverage. Food not withstanding, service and the way a restaurant treats is customers is paramount.

McDonalds. Everyone (well, not really everyone, but many including some snobs) likes to attack anything or anyone successful.

I eat at a place that treats me OK and the food and service are good. Doesn't matter the name or chain. I do look in the paper for the list of restaurants and how they rated on the latest inspection. Then again, Valle Luna, a fine Mexican restaurant, got 2 violations in the fall of 2013. I went there anyway, and asked; the manager told me both of their santizers had broken down on the very day the inspector was there, the sanitizers were repaired the next day. He was very candid. I still go to Valle Luna.

Why is it the media loves to spend countless effort on an entertainer who just got a DUI? Oh, $$$$ (ratings).

On the other hand, the cable company took away CSPAN (now available only on digital service), and just raised my monthly bill by $14. Now there is something to gripe about.

linda said...

I think you've been complaining about the Red Lobster incident (of them allegedly not serving you in a timely fashion because you didn't order alcoholic drinks) for about 30 years now. I'm not sure it ever really happened. Maybe you've repeated the legend so many times it now seems like truth. The whole poor-picked-on-us-we-don't-drink martyrdom gets really old.
When's the last time you were in a Red Lobster, 1989? The people who'd serve you there today probably weren't even born yet. :)

And I can't believe you had to be *that guy*--the customer who just has to ask about the violations! Why not go look up the exact violations in the county records, and pester some bureaucrats instead?

Food definitely trumps service in importance. The service is just important for getting the food to us.