As a professional: a Chef, someone with understanding of Food conveyance. I have witnessed the growing trend and rebirth in popularity of “Gastronomy”. Since this is closely related to my chosen profession, it has been exciting to see. The recent rise in the TV Chef, the Ramseys, the Olivers, and all the other posers slapped-to-stardom in the make-up chairs at the US-Based “Food Network”, has seemed meteoric. I recall the days when one or two TV Cooks would appear daily... “The Galloping Gourmet”, “Wok With Yan”, “Urban Peasant”, and of course “Julia Child”. These would brighten my young green mind with the possibilities of a truly inspired palate. I was inspired then and somehow still remain so.
When the world bounded forward past the three channel TV to 13 on Cable... to Colour, to specialty themed networks, to the Internet... Somehow, this is when the rise of Gastronomy has re-emerged.
Is this a good thing? Well, yes... and NO.
Yes in the way that in does open minds, and attitudes towards trying different things, and even deeper, accepting different cultures. Eat a mile of a man’s diet! When I was a small boy, my parents were trapped in the race that seemed to overtake every one of their peers, the constant one-upping of their friends and colleagues. My dad would buy the latest stereo, Hi-Fi reel-to-reel. My mom would try to keep up with all the latest trends, exotic dogs, hair fashion, and clothing. They’d both be reading the latest books, and keeping up with the latest film and music. And we’d eat at all the newest restaurants. I was taken to restaurants by the time I could handle solid food. I was never one of those noisy babies: mom wouldn’t put up with it, and dad would give a stern look that could wither the skin off a plum. So I was lucky enough to be taken to HY’s steakhouse, Kobe, The Afghan Horseman, and Lychee Garden, to name a few. Esoteric cuisine was one of the things my parents tried to teach. Probably so they could talk about it at the weekly cocktail party. Whatever the reason was, I was fortunate enough to be there and start my life with an acceptance for the differences. At Chinese restaurants, I was taught to use chopsticks, at Indian, I never used my left hand to pick up anything except a fork. Culture and food were taught to me “side-by-each”, and without it being forced down my throat (heh, pun intended)! My mind was opened to whatever food was available at the time. I was also exposed to the waiters and waitresses of these exotic restaurants. These places usually kept the entire family employed, and the younger first-generation children would be the frontline. I never had any bigotry towards any different culture because of this... until I entered public school, and was taught it. Heading back to topic... Is gastronomy a good thing? Yes! And Yes, for me, as it opened my mind and opportunities!
Gastronomy is all good? NO! Let me look back to a time when the TV Chef was first celebratized. Personalities like, Graham Kerr, aka “the Galloping Gourmet”, and of course Julia Child, promised to change your palate and open the doors to food. But they tended to focus on foods prepared in the old-fashioned, extremely fatty ways that left many of us gasping for air, while reaching for our non-existent defibrillators. There was, and still is (if you watch most of what’s on today) a focus on “The Best”. They use all the best quality ingredients, the choicest cuts of meat, and the best equipment (thanks to the sponsors!) This perfection has spawned an attitude towards food, that I believe to be as unhealthy as the menus that are telecast: “If you can’t buy the best, then don’t!” Here spawns the “Foodie”!
The “Foodie” is a fad that has emerged thanks to that wonder, “the Internet”. The internet allows individuals who have a small knowledge of a subject to spray that tiny knowledge on anyone who passes by, like the neighbourhood Tom-cat who likes to stink up everyone’s begonias. Foodies, to me are just that: dangerous to the nose, and the palate. Now, don’t get me wrong... I’m not dumping on all of them! Just seems to me that the more free web space that gets doled out by ISPs (internet service providers), the more lousy “I-Hate-Your-Food-Blogs” are out there. With criticism a-plenty, but not enough knowledge for a solution. Here is the main reason I stop reading many a well written Blog (food or not). Critics and adjudicators must have the credentials to back up what they say. If not, it turns into meaningless nay-saying. Again, enter the Foodie: a self-proclaimed Gourmond whose palate exceeds yours and mine, who has perfect etiquette, and knows Feng Shui, and can afford anything. The Foodie: who has always treated all of his employees fairly, and paid them decent wages. The Foodie: who has always made the time to stop and consider every part of a menu item (cost, quality, season, viability, colour, and popularity) before he trashes said item. The Foodie seems to thrive in this new e-conversation... this one-sided harang that is allowed to happen. In the early stages of these “food-blogs”, true restaurant critics emerged and gave insights to what restaurants were good at, and what not so good at. But these critics, had their own critics! Readers would actually take the time to respond, keeping everyone honest! Not today! With the sheer number of Foodies out there, no one has the time to call them on their mistakes. If nobody calls you a fool, you tend to continue down that foolish path. (now’s the time to wave a finger at me!) Foodies, to me are the armchair quarterback of my profession, which never was a sport.
Selling meals is not a sport, no matter how many silly TV shows show “Chefs” running down the street, “chasing” the next team to victory. No matter how many “golden plate” competitions there are, the goal of any Chef, or Restaurateur should be to make money. They strive to do this by selling prepared food and drink to their customers. To be good at it requires a three-way balance between Popularity, Price, and Product. It’s not about awards, kudos, or being “best”. The smart (and successful) Restaurateur will understand this... so should the Foodie. If a Foodie would understand these principals too, then the Food-Blogs that they write would have some relevance.
When I read about how “the waitress never informed me that there was vinegar in the salad dressing... didn’t she know that I had a painful canker?!?” Or crap like “Snob-n-Snubs has really gone downhill... the plates used to be blue, and now they’re green! Totally clashes!” it’s rubbish like this that wastes everyone’s time, both readers’ and writer’s, but mostly the readers...*sigh*. And unfortunately, there’s allot more out there, and most of it not as obvious, easily disguising itself within prose and poetic use of “foodie-grammar”. Words that baffle more than they educate: the use of anything French (saying ‘ragout’ instead of stew, etc.) This serves no purpose other than to obfuscate or muddle the reader. It’s the old “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with Bullshit” routine.
Anyway! I hate Foodies... for the most part. I can’t see the point. I haven’t read any Blog that has helped me choose my evening’s dining experience. I do write reviews, both good and bad. Usually good. If I don’t like something, I don’t go back. I don’t write about it. If friends ask, I’ll tell them what I think, and why. Without a “why”, there is no learning, or reason. Foodies, read and heed!