I like to think that I don’t take my job too seriously. When working in the food industry, especially in the food publishing industry, it can be easy to forget that the rest of the world lives in, well, the rest of the world. We operate in a field where decisions about, say, the best cut of lamb for braising can make or break a recipe, essay, or even a book chapter. No matter that many people are lucky to find any cut of lamb at the store, let alone a shank or bone-in leg. We critique and rejigger every last snippet of every last recipe—even down to the proper brand and proportion of Kosher salt to use in a dried bean brine, forgetting that most people at home are going to reach for … salt.
I like to think that since I was more or less self-taught, and have done most of my cooking in a home kitchen, I am more down-to-earth when cooking and less prone to question others’ loose interpretation of recipes and techniques. Because, let’s be real, most of us have all sat through one of these:
So I poke fun of the extreme foodies and farmers’ market nazis with my non-work friends, giggling about their audacity to demand high-fat European butter with their homemade sprouted grain loaves and a side of custom-cured nitrate-free, organic, free-range bacon. In the back of my head, I am trying to forget about the stash of fancy butter in my fridge door (and how I really should move it to the freezer so it doesn’t pick up off-flavors), the homemade pancetta my coworker cured as a side project, and the 7-grain bread sponge going through a cold-ferment next to my free-range eggs. And then I forget to hold my tongue when talking brownie recipes and Italian amaros during the Super Bowl, asking my kind hosts about secret ingredients, creaming methods, and just what proportions they prefer in their Negronis. Whoops.
But here’s the thing: home cured meats, French cultured butter, Aperol, and homemade bread are all just a few of the wonderful edibles and potables now being popularized as a result of food snobbery. Sure, it is easy to roll your eyes at the newest Brooklyn butcher shop or Portland food truck specializing in fermented whatever, but these bastions of culinary elitism exist to fill a void. I think our desire for more and better food products is only a sign of good things to come. As an increasingly obese and diabetic country, these good things cannot come fast enough.
Do we need more food snobs? Or do we just need more regular people who just like food to taste awesome? What about all of those who can’t afford to eat “normal” food, or don’t have the time or resources to learn how to cook from scratch? What about Paula Deen?
I am, of course, unsure of the answers to these questions and to the many others that will surely spring up. But as a cook, eater, and food writer, I feel obliged to try.