Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Culinary Anxiety?

I couldn't resist a headline in the Times today about "Dinner at the Foodies." The article discusses how great the pressure is on a dinner party host in certain NY foodie circles. One couple was mortified that they made everything home made except the tortillas. Here's a quote from the article:
“Entertaining and cooking have become an integral part of how certain people demonstrate their cultural cachet,” said Joshua Schreier, a history professor at Vassar College who lives in Harlem and says he is a victim, and a propagator, of culinary anxiety. “There is a specific cachet that only a fiddlehead fern can convey. Saying, ‘I got this olive oil from this specific region in Greece,’ is like talking about what kind of car you have. And people don’t want to be associated with the wrong kind of olive oil. It becomes less about having people over and more about showing off your foodie credentials.”
Culinary anxiety? Remind me not to invite ANY of these people over to my house for a meal. Frankly, if you are going to judgmental about the origin of the cheese I serve, well, you can go pay $200.00 for an equivalent meal at a restaurant and make the staff there miserable. At least they are getting tipped.

Worse, many of these folks, according to the article, have incorporated the "eat local" trend into this elitism. The last thing "eat local" needs to be is an exclusive club. There is nothing so basic and so fundamental as one's right and access to foods grown near home. Making this into an exclusive club can only harm the integrity of eating local. My opinion.

As far as a carbon footprint goes, using the tortilla example, these could easily be purchased from a local company that uses local ingredients, which makes far less environmental impact that say, you buying generic flour from the store and firing up the stove and tortilla press. I know for a fact that there is a Hispanic foods company down the road that makes far better tortillas than I ever will. Buying local is also a way to be green AND not make you a slave to your dinner guests.

When you come over to "The Kitchen" for a meal, we're just not uppity. And we don't wait on you, either. Grab a glass of wine, I will show you where everything is in the kitchen and you can even help. We eat family style. Kick off your shoes and just be comfortable. If the exact fork is not on the table, well, use the one you have. The food is good, the wine is good, the company is good. That's all that matters.

Speaking of being a good host, and a good guest, I have a few thank you notes to send to those who have hosted links to my content in various carnivals.

Cindy at Wisdom of Healing is hosting this week's Carnival of the Healthy and Fit Family. Thirty posts were submitted, and the Nutrition Series here made the cut. Many thanks to Cindy.

Arvind Devalia is hosting a vegetarian Carnival of the Recipes this week at his site, Thoughts and Words.

The Carnival of Family Life is hosted this week at Down with the Kids.

Carnival of Green is hosted this week by Victoria E. The carnival covers all topics on "being green."

And, my take on the anti-diet-diet is featured here at

Many thanks to these fine hosts!


Alison said...

I loved this post. I had seen this article, and thought "geesh. There are people who are missing the point." The point being that food is something to sustain us, something we can enjoy, instead of just a status symbol. Though I have noticed that since blogging about food, people seem more nervous about feeding me. Me? I'm just grateful to be fed.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Maybe they are afraid of ending up in a post! Ha! I'll feed ya, c'mon over. You made it to Iowa, it's not that far.

Exactly. My spouse has invited one of our town's top chefs over for dinner. When I expressed panic, the chef said, "At home, we eat peanut butter. We're just happy not to have to cook!"

It's the company that matters. I just can't see any of "those people' at our table. We'd surely scare them off in a couple minutes!

Scribbit said...

Yea, we're a peanut-butter eating family too but I can enjoy a great meal anytime I get the chance. Great post.

Rachel said...

totally. I hate people who fetishize/mythologize eating and drinking. It's a total turnoff; wine-heads are the absolute worst, I find.

I'm with you - good, fresh food, a nice glass of whatever rocks your boat, good company and some candles (they make everyone look great) - that's a heavenly dinner for me.

Simon said...

I saw this article too! Very interesting.. It does make you question where the local food movement is going - though I know there are many many people out there that are not using it as a status symbol. It is just a way to live and eat that feels right.. I assume these people have good intentions, but maybe go beyond the reasonable level.

kitchenmage said...

I am guessing that, somehow, your place is more fun and the food tastes better. Which is the point, right?

We had an amazing impromptu dinner at friend's the other night: rice, sauteed zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower w/ cheese sauce (had to use up extra milk), salad and fresh homemade bread, plus a bit of wine and lots of laughter. All vegetables were grown in their organic garden and picked that day. It was amazingly good for being so simple. Take that food snobs!