ONE-UPMANSHIP

I think I was maybe six or seven years old the very first time I saw water for sale in the grocery store. I remember staring it and being really confused. “Mom, why would they sell water?” I must have gotten a shrug from mom because I don’t remember getting an answer. Or she may have answered and it was just too much for my squishy little six year old brain to process. Maybe the question should have been, “Who would buy it?!” I mean it comes out of the tap, all you want, for little or no money!

A few years ago, people think nothing about stopping at the grocery store and picking up case after case of store brand bottled water. It’s getting so that now the store brand isn’t good enough, so the water they’re buying is becoming more and more expensive. “Well the only water I buy for my family is Fiji, because it’s better, more pure.” I overheard this from two women having a discussion at the grocery store…as if the other woman was obviously poisoning her family with the store brand.  I just read an article where they are now mining icebergs for ice to be melted down and be marketed as the world’s purest water.

Let me help you people out, because of the one property of water called tonicity, if you drank enough absolutely pure water with no impurities, salts or minerals in it at all, it could lead to brain damage, coma or even death…Come to think of it, the Fiji drinking woman may have been drinking very pure water indeed! Look, it’s not just these two ladies, and it’s not just water that I’m talking about. That was just an example of how out of control the one-upmanship has gotten. If something isn’t done soon to give these people, chefs, cooks, critics, locavores, vegans, vegetarians and food bloggers a reality check. There will be a backlash against all food in general. Something that will set the food movement that was started in the 50’s and 60’s back to the margarine age!

I didn’t realize in all of the posts I was writing, there was a common thread. It wasn’t until my friend Adam Kuban: of Slice, and A Hamburger Today fame, more or less summed it up while making an off the cuff comment, when I was railing against coffee snobs. This is what he said:

“From my perspective, it seems to be in reaction to the childhoods some of us lived (’70s and ’80s kids). To extrapolate from my own, I was raised eating bland foods — canned vegetables, American cheese, Oscar Mayer cold cuts. Once I discovered that food could be so much more, the scales fell from my eyes, and I was eager to plumb the depths of deliciousness. I suspect that this is a generational pendulum swing that’s sort of overcompensating for all that. If any of that is true, you go and couple that with the internet and everyone’s ability to posture and brag, and you get people getting into this giant game of one-upmanship.”

He laid out a timeline example that I also feel compelled to share. Mostly because I can’t figure out a way to say it more succinctly, and also because as I have mentioned I am A.D.D. from hell, and while trying to write a better timeline actually began eating the peach crayon I was writing with. The Cat was nice enough to put my crayons and construction paper away.    In the meantime, I’ll let Adam’s timeline speak for me as well:

“Preground Folgers gives way to people grinding whole beans at the grocery store. Pretty soon that’s not enough, so people are buying fresh-roasted beans from a roasterie. Then single-origin, then trying to roast it themselves. Then eating beans from the ass of an opossum-cat from Africa.” “At some point the coffee snobs are going to be (blond) roasting each bean individually. … And then grinding each bean on its own (“Each bean is slightly different and so requires a different RPM and/or grinder burr to release the maximum blah blah blah. We analyze each bean and match it to the optimal grind.”)”

I understand and so does Adam, that without people doing these crazy things, not only pushing the envelope, but tearing it up in shreds, stomping on it, pouring gasoline on it and burning it into a fiery cinder, then peeing on it. We wouldn’t know what was possible. We wouldn’t know how good something could be. I see this every time there is a cookie baking contest, and someone does chocolate chip. Building a better mouse trap…I get it. This isn’t the problem!

Here is the problem, when you walk into a restaurant…any restaurant… from a lowly burger or pizza joint, to a four star restaurant with a world renowned chef…and you get the attitude stuffed down your throat. At the burger joint that may have a line stretching around the corner because the burgers are just that good, and you’ve seen it on TV, in magazines etc…and you just have to eat there. You get your burger and ask for ketchup, then after the rolling of the eyes and head, the tongue clicking and moaning of all the disciples(who all know how to sufficiently grovel and swoon) standing around, you finally get the tongue lashing about how “I don’t let anybody use ketchup” or “Ketchup isn’t ever an option in my restaurant.” I have a simple word for cooks like this… Asshole.

Or you go to the four star restaurant, order the full on tasting menu because that is what the chef recommends (and you don’t want to upset him, he is letting you pay him to dine in his restaurant tonight), a bottle or glass of wine in between each course because the chef also recommends this, as well as dessert, cheese plate, coffee etc… what would be useful after paying several hundred dollars for thirty or so mouthfuls of food that took four hours to eat… would be the chef recommending a place to stop off and get a pizza, and maybe give you a twenty spot to buy it with.  

To be fair, it’s not super common amongst chefs and cooks. It seems to be most prevalent amongst food writers, critics, bloggers and the “foodies” and the dietary bent groups. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one of these idiots who are proclaiming this or that “to be the only true way” to be cooking, catching, storing, preparing, etc… something. Then next week, something else comes along and supplants that. That’s how you arrive at Kopi Luwak Japanese Nel Drip coffee. Don’t believe me, check it out on YouTube and let me know if I’m over reacting, or if this is perhaps the silliest thing you’ve ever seen. Well, besides” two girls one cup” thing.

Here’s the bottom line as I see it. Good food is good food… period.  Be it the lowly hot dog, or the best Russian caviar. Taste is a very arbitrary and subjective thing, but good is good. But you can bet your life on one thing… something is going to come along and either tries to be better, or actually is better, and that’s fine. But something that was good doesn’t suddenly become crap, just because something is better, in reality it is still good.  If you start getting all cocky about how this is the true way of doing something, or I’ve been to a restaurant that will only do this because everything else is crap… just know I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit. Suum cuique pulchrum est (to each his own is beautiful).  I’ll go a bit further to say, “To each his own is beautiful, and has its place.”

So enjoy your ways, your foods and your diets. Whether you’re a Locavore, Chef, Cook, Blogger, Critic, vegan, vegetarian or someone who just enjoys food… Let it be ALL food, not just “only this”, or “only that.”  There may be a little old lady in central Italy who makes the best pasta on earth, and it’s soooo good, she makes whole villages cry at its deliciousness.  That’s all fine and well, but my world would still have a place for Spaghetti-o’s… and so should yours.

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8 thoughts on “ONE-UPMANSHIP

  1. Couple that with a Twinkie for dessert and you've got a WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! Tasty is tasty in my book… Why limit yourself to only certain foods when you could have it all?! Life's too short to be a foodie! Being cibo suits me just fine…

  2. Mmmmm, spaghetti-Os, cold, right from the can-delicious!Got to agree with you brother. Not a big fan of pretentiousness when it comes to food. I'm not fussy, just looking for yummy!Good Cibo here!

  3. Here’s the bottom line as I see it. Good food is good food… period. Pav said that^^^^^I have a friend who says, "Right is right."Same theory Pav, anybody that thinks their way is the best needs a crash course in diversity. And my god we should hit the road doing that! The Rolling Cibo Thunder Show!

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