Wednesday, October 14, 2009

foodies

I'm really baffled by foodies and the popularization of cooking essentially as a sport. Why does the enjoyment of food need to be infused with snobbery an upper-class attitude?

I really love food. Really really love. An expected ~85 years of three meals a day still seems like such a terrible constraint on allowed food-based enjoyment that I figure everything consumed should be extremely delicious to make the most of the opportunity. But this most certainly does not translate into a preference for expensive or exotic foods. I LOVE broccoli-cheddar rice-a-roni. My favorite food in the world has always been baked potatoes. McDonalds french fries are my personal heroin. Canned green beans, diet mountain dew, creamy chicken ramen noodles, cauliflower, kool-aid, easy mac... these are all large components of my (maybe not always nutritionally recommended) diet. It's not because they're cheap; it's because they're delicious.

I also really enjoy cooking. After a week of intense studying or the end of a big project, the most frequent way I'll unwind for the rest of the day is to cook massive quantities of delicious foods to eat for the next couple weeks of intense work. But I like to cook the things I like; I don't go out of my way to incorporate porcine pancreas or south american fungii and I have no problem substituting lemon juice for those crazy citrusy indian spices that are impossible to find or canola oil for $22/pint olive oil. Tastes the same.

The concept of cooking or food enjoyment as a "hobby" is also strange. Maybe some people take eating seriously enough to qualify definitionally as a hobby. Maybe some people take breathing seriously enough to qualify as a hobby. But I don't think I could claim such a thing with a straight face. Not only that, but elevating the status of food to such a level is just damaging to society overall. It's an absolute myth that poor people are forced to eat unhealthy fast food because healthy food is too expensive and/or time-consuming. I can prove that a couple dozen different ways and definitely spend less on food than if I went to McDonalds twice a day, even sticking to the dollar menu... Insisting that healthy food is only the domain of those with lots of money to buy it or lots of time to cook it just reinforces those expectations (and people rise or fall to expectations.)

So, foodie snobbery is clearly an unnecessary component to true enjoyment of food and cooking. But connoisseur commentary also eerily evokes the Emperor's new clothes. It's well-established that people's wine preferences in blind taste tests are uncorrelated with price. And that adding tasteless red dye to white wine causes people to describe the flavor with red fruits. I'll admit that maybe different types of oil taste different when you eat them plain, but I dare you to distinguish them after being used to stir fry vegetables. So when I see these ridiculous food reviews that are so popular (yet so mind-numbingly dull... I am once again baffled) I just can't take them seriously. Judgments of food quality should be subject to blind tests.

I guess it just boils down to the fact that food has become a fashion statement. And fashion is purely in the domain of the irrational. So I shouldn't waste my breath.