I don’t know what I’m doing. Well, I do. But I don’t want to. I could throw out a CV, with articles and citations. I could throw you a family heirloom guilty-pleasure reverse-snobbery recipe from the fifties. I could yammer about obscure restaurants or the importance of pure ingredients or “the joys of authentic sushi” or any of a zillion other things. I could fake it, y’know? Look up some African restaurant no one’s ever been to and Asian fruits no one’s heard of and a couple of microbrews no one’s invented yet and wax poetic on ’em. Talk about how green sapote tastes just like chocolate pudding and tut-tut that more Americans aren’t adventurous eaters. (With the “like me” implied.) Wave my bona fides atcha like a puffed-up pigeon, strutting and looking for a fight.
But that’s bullshit. Food purists and snobs and geniuses are boring. I’ll cheerfully admit delighted ignorance. I’m a passionate amateur with serious appetites and an impulse control problem. My primary pleasure from food and wine is derived not from lecturing other people about them, but from eating and drinking them myself. The zenith, the peak, the goddamn point of all food and drink is not the bleeding-edge skill set of Alinea or the tiresome purity of locavores or “one perfect peach” or any of the poetry and politics that have come to surround food. The point of all of it is as catalyst; it is in midwifing that last half hour of a five-hour dinner in good company, when everyone’s sated but no one wants to leave, and there’re empty coffee cups and bits of dessert and half a bottle of rum and a dozen empty bottles of wine on the table, and the talk is quiet and personal and free, and it occurs to somebody that there could be more coffee, and maybe some cheese, and there’s a lot of meat left – who wants a sandwich?
I love food. I’ve planned vacations around meals. I’ve driven six hours, one way, for a single restaurant. I’ve spent whole weekends on one recipe. The roast turkey episode of “Good Eats” holds a place in my holiday TV heart right alongside “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and betting against Detroit on Thanksgiving. And I love food writing. I read professional restaurant reviews for fun. (Online restaurant reviews are an open sewer.) I admire the writing of Jeffrey Steingarten and Gabrielle Hamilton and Michael Ruhlmann, but I love Calvin Trillin best of all.
But I hate an awful lot of food people. The ones who sniff that you “just can’t get decent wasabi in America.” The ones who are more concerned with a food’s authenticity or provenance than its flavor. The ones whose goal, when describing their Christmas menu, seems to be to get quizzical looks. The ones who box each other out like first-graders at the water fountain to be the very first to declare a restaurant “passe.” The kind of people whose dinner invitations you skip cause you like the food and wine but it isn’t worth the pontificating. The ones who didn’t get to this line because they jumped right into the comment-writing when I left them that sweet little red herring about sapote. If you dismissed me there, I didn’t want you getting this far anyway.
And if you did correct me in the comments, me and my new friends are gonna grin at you, ignore you, and get back to the table. There’s still some of the good stickysweet brown crust left on the pie plate. Maybe make some more coffee? Ooh, and there’s something that smells an angel’s feet in the cheese drawer. Get an apple, too. And bring the rum. We’re not done yet.