It’s pretty obvious I have a problem with food. I have 4 kids ages 7 through 13, I’m a partner in a good-sized law firm with a busy practice, I coach, I run several times a week, and I read and watch TV. Yet I still take the time to write on this blog several times a week, even if I do it at 3 in the morning. I read about food, write about food, and — oh, yeah — I cook a lot, too. So to say that I’m somewhat obsessed about food is quite evident.
But does that make me a food snob? I wonder about this quite often, as I hear the term thrown around all the time. What is a food snob? To folks who aren’t into food, any “foodie” is often, by default, also a food snob. Is it the case that all foodies are also food snobs?
The most relevant definition from Merriam Webster says that a snob is “one who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste. ” So, a food snob is someone who offensively acts superior in their food knowledge or their food tastes. OK, that’s easy enough.
Merely being more knowledgeable about food does not make one a food snob. You have to be offensive about it. Knowledge can be measured objectively, and I know lots of people who know a ton but are not at all offensive about it. However, no one likes a know-it-all, so when you start showing off your culinary knowledge, it may become inherently snobbish. When you feel you’re superior, you are a walking, talking S-N-O-B (and the fact that’s just one letter from an SOB is not a coincidence to many).
Although knowledge is quantifiable, “taste,” on the other hand, is not a trait subject to objective measurement — it’s inherently subjective. In fact, anyone who argues that taste is objective is likely arguing that they know what “good” and “bad” taste is, which may by default make them a snob. But I digress. Based on the dictionary definition, I would argue that acting superior about your food tastes earns you your official “Food Snob Merit Badge.”
So, the question now turns to, “Am I a food snob? ” My wife certainly thinks so, and it’s not because I know more about food. It’s because every once in awhile, I find myself judging others because of their tastes. For example, I don’t understand people who refuse to try new things (and I’m talking adults). I don’t fully comprehend why, given a choice, most people would choose Moe’s over Los Cuates.
I can understand when people don’t like something. My wife dislikes — no, abhors — cilantro. There’s a lot of other things she doesn’t like. I can understand that, as she’s tried them several times and just has decided she doesn’t care for them. A complete food snob would think that it’s now her duty to continue trying these nasty bits until she grew to like them. I’m not that bad — quite. I expect that of myself, but not others.
Ultimately, I think being a food snob occurs when your beliefs and actions fall quite far outside the mainstream, and the actions of the masses irritate you. It’s not that you don’t like the same thing as Middle America, it’s just that you always think there’s something better. I actually enjoy McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut. Moe’s, too. I’ll eat a Jessie Jones pink hot dog with canned chili. Hell, I even like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. But everytime I eat those, I’m thinking of what I COULD be eating that would be so much better. And every time I go to Food Lion, I wince — as I know the food I get from the farmers market is a lot better (i.e, more flavorful and healthful).
I asked my 13 year old son the other day if it’s weird that I like to hunt out new restaurants and explore new places rather than try the same old comfortable tastes. After only a moment’s thought, he told me it wasn’t weird, but it was different. I asked him what he’d prefer to do, eat at a Red Lobster in suburbia or venture downtown for some seafood cooked by a chef who developed the recipes herself. He chose the latter. I asked him if it’s weird that we get our vegetables fresh from the farmers who grew it. I asked him if it’s weird that he prefers my burgers over the restaurant versions. You can probably guess how he responded. Ultimately, I realized that because his decisions made me happy, that his thinking was “correct” and “proper” means that I’m a food snob.
If that’s the case, then I’m ready for that Food Snob Merit Badge. And so might my son, thank goodness.