Samui Wining & Dining
Load of Drizzle

Food snobbery is alive and well but are we a little bit tired of it all?


22What's the difference between a culinary snob and a soufflé? One is puffed up and full of hot air and the other one you can eat. It’s an old joke, but is snobbery still prevalent in our modern, economically pressurized society? Well, yes and no. To an extent it depends on your point of view. And, as I’m the one writing, this I’ll give you mine.

    Let’s start with what snobbery is. A snob can be said to be someone who has the view that most people are inherently inferior to him or her for any one of a variety of reasons, real or supposed. They include intellect, wealth, education, ancestry and knowledge. Often, snobbery reflects the snob’s personal attributes and achievements, perceived and desired social position and insecurities. And I’m sure you can already picture someone you know who fits the bill.

      Given all of the above though I do think there are shades of grey and fine lines. I’ve got friends who love cars and can tell you, in great detail, the inner workings of the combustion engine. Other pals know every No.1 hit song since records began; who the drummer was in the band and what the roadie had for dinner on the first night of their last tour. But they’re not snobs; they’re just geeks, and insufferably boring on occasion. So I don’t think knowledge of a particular subject or interest makes you a snob. It’s more about what you do with that knowledge.


 So I don’t think knowledge
of a particular subject or
interest makes you a snob.
It’s more about what you do
with that knowledge.     


       So what is a snob and, in particular, a culinary snob? David Kamp and Marion Rosenfeld have written some highly amusing books on the subject and they describe a ‘Food Snob’ as: “A reference term for the sort of food-obsessive person for whom the actual joy of eating and cooking is but a side dish to the accumulation of arcane knowledge about these subjects.” And I would also suggest that it’s how they use that knowledge that makes them legitimate targets for an attack with a big stick. Albeit one that’s pan-seared in extra-virgin olive oil, infused with shaved white truffles from Alba, emulsified with a ponzu glaze, drizzled with a sauce Périgourdine and adorned with cassia foam. And if you have little or no idea of what most of those are then you’re safe to continue reading.

       Now you could argue that the world’s top chefs are in some way responsible for giving food snobs the ammunition that we’ll use later to beat them with. Menu descriptions often require an encyclopaedia and thesaurus to decipher them but a food snob will pick up on the language and spray the words around as if they’re speaking the language of the gods – well-informed ones, of course. All with the sole intention of making themselves seem superior in social settings. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re on a date and the simple, whispered phrase, “Flowering quince membrillo,” gets your partner all of a quiver, then I’m all for it. But the food-snob doesn’t think like that.

       There’s a phrase that chefs use, which they’ve learnt in college, and its accepted everyday language in the kitchen – mise en place. And it’s a French term for doing all of one’s food preparation before actually cooking, chopping, measuring, arranging, cleaning up, and so on. But the food-snob will shorten it and use it as a verb: “Honey, I’ve meezed everything for Julia’s supremes de volaille à blanc, now all we need is for the rest of our guests to arrive.”

       So are you reading this and thinking, “Mmm, maybe I’m a bit of a food snob.” Well let’s run a little test. And restaurant professionals working at the highest levels are exempt, as they should know these people and the terminologies. Firstly, for ten points, do you know who the following five world-class chefs are, and with which famous restaurants they are associated. They have all been awarded 3-Michelin stars: Ferran Adrià i Acosta, Heston Blumenthal, Paul Bocuse, Thomas Keller and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. No, well for five points what do the following culinary terms mean: molecular gastronomy, deconstructivism, cèpe (not crêpe), omakase and artisanal.

       If you score more than 5/15, there’s an even-money chance that your still-beating heart will be pulled through your rib-cage and sautéed with cippollini onions someday soon. There’s nothing wrong with being a food-snob in your own social circles with like-minded friends – that’s fine. Just don’t ram it down the throat of others. Because as you do, guys like me will be whispering something about ‘flowering quince’ in your girlfriend’s ear – and it’s no fun being a snob when you’re all alone.


Johnny Paterson


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