Here is what I think is disturbing about my work life: The amazing groundswell of food adoration has morphed for many into unhealthy fetishism of the kind written about on Eater the other day. I think what many are responding to is a massive guilt pang from overindulgence of chef worship, ingredient provenance snobbery, and other symptoms of culinary elitism. I love food, I love travel, I adore the many blessings in my life, and I appreciate the rarified air I get to breathe on some days . . . but what many of the people in the Borelli piece (which itself is kinda self indulgent) fail to acknowledge is that much of the backlash is a class issue. I find it maddening and oddly delusional to see and hear so many people debating issues such as David Chang’s noodle bowl authenticity grade or whether or not Noma deserved to be the winner of the San Pellegrino Best Restaurant nod. I am talking about people who have never eaten in any of those restaurants. It’s a reflection of just how silly and obsessed we have become about food.
I sat at a table recently and listened to several friends debate who is the better cook on Top Chef All Stars and I asked them if any one of them had ever tasted a dish prepared by any of these chefs? Silence. There is a big difference between shopping for good produce, learning all you can about cheese because you love it, attempting duck confit recipes over the weekend, arguing for food safety issues, and laying awake at night because the photos you took of all the food at the local gastro pub were under lit!
Most people, the vast majority of our fellow citizens, have trouble making ends meet these days, let alone give a shit about getting a reservation at Animal, arguing about banchan, or debating the merits of verjus. Let’s not pretend that most of us are anything but lotus eaters, in the classic sense. And Borelli’s call for calm is really an admonition that many of us live by, which is “if your head is occasionally in the clouds, you better know where your feet are planted.”
My New Years wish for everyone who considers themselves serious about food is to do something serious about one of these ideas that Jerusha Klemperer makes note of. The world would be a better place.
What I love about my work life is being able to tell you about great restaurants in other cities, or markets, or food stalls, or most importantly the people. I got a letter from my friend Alan telling me of his visit to my darling Eleanor in Helvetia West Virginia. He sent me a link to some photos and I am attaching this link so that all of you who wrote cards can see her.
Alan wrote (my comments are in brackets): Eleanor was sitting up in her chair waiting for us when we arrived. (We called ahead.) We took her a Big Mac and fries, which she pretty much devoured. We started taking her and the girls at the Hutte [Eleanor's eatery] to McDonalds many years ago and now we get jumped on if we forget to take it in with us from the outside world. [Helvetia is very, very remote!]
Eleanor was still talking about “Andrew’s” phone call visit and she is anxiously awaiting cards and get-well wishes. [Her daughter Anne told her about the posting.] I posted it on Facebook and several friends/fans of Eleanor’s reposted. Former Governor and now Senator Joe Manchin called her yesterday and said he had found out she was ill from one of the Zimmern postings, and he wanted to check on her. She loves the attention . . .”
WOW. Now there is something worth celebrating. So thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who wrote or sent a card. It changed lives.