An increasingly pervasive stereotype of food lovers is that they're all elitists and snobs that turn their noses at anything not the most expensive. "Foodie" is a perjorative term (in some senses), and "organic" and "local" have some unsavory connotations. I feel uncomfortable talking with family or non-food lover friends about food and cooking, because most likely, they will think of me as elitist. I think the problem is that bad food has become so ubiquitous that having a different (though not unreasonable) standard isolates you from the rest of society.
For instance, my friends and family criticize me because I...
- keep a selection of herbs and spices in the pantry. (thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cassia leaves, fennel, fenugreek, black pepper....and I've only used saffron once in my life)
- use olive oil. (Not the top-notch quality extra-virgin ones though, just a decent one for cooking and vinaigrettes.)
- prefer Dijon mustard over the yellow-turmeric-hot dog version that most people hate.
- prefer wine or balsamic vinegar (not the expensive aged ones) in vinaigrettes over distilled white vinegar or bottled dressing. (My dad once scoffed, "Vinegar is vinegar!")
- value thick-bottomed pots and pans (I have a few) and a sharp knife (which I don't have).
- like good French bread from a bakery and criticize Subway and Quiznos for using soft, yeasty-smelling bread.
- use decent cheese (usually <$10/lb...I've never bought luxuries like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Sottocenere, etc.) over processed, sliced cheese like Kraft
I think these are all basic, reasonable standards for producing decent food, but my friends and family think that you can produce good food with cheap, bad ingredients. And ironically, a lot of the bad ingredients you find at major grocery chains are actually MORE expensive than the good ones. In my opinion, one is an elitist or a snob only when one's standard's are based more on price than quality, though this isn't a perfect definition. For example, Strauss dairy products are pricey, but of top-notch quality. I don't have Strauss milk with my cereal, but if I need to make a very good yogurt, I will look for Strauss.
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