Monday, February 8, 2010

Am I a Snob?

I try hard not to be. Throughout my educational history, I've known some pretty smart people who were pretty big snobs, so for many years, I pretended to not know answers to Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy! questions so as not be appear snobby. I try listening to Bob and Tom, but end up punching the NPR button on my radio. I have to apologize after throwing bits of French into a conversation (but it's not my fault! I studied A LOT of French, even in grad school, and have never had a chance to use it!) See, even using the phrase "grad school" makes me feel a little snobbish.

But I will confess to being a lower-level food snob. I think I have always known this, but Saturday evening while rifling through the "Chocolate Lover's" raffle basket we won at our school auction, I found myself doing the thing my Grandma P. always did when tasting, smelling or even just seeing a sub-par food product (ie, not something she made) -- squishing her eyes closed, sticking out her tongue and making the "ACK" sound, much like Bill the Cat (except with a little more "ick" thrown in).

But please. Don't expect me to taint my cookies with bargain bin chocolate chips whose main ingredient is "emulsifiers."

So, if I am a food snob, I blame it on my genes. My dad loved to tell the story about how Grandma got their family through the Depression by "beating the hell out of egg whites" for her famous angel food cakes, which she would cart to town and sell. Then, she'd take the yolks and make the best noodles you could imagine. I remember watching her in the church basement, bossing around the other ladies as they canned hundreds of jars of mincemeat to sell at their bazaar. She made my first birthday cake, a carousel, and I always had the most beautiful and intricate cookies to take in to school on my birthday -- turkeys and Indian chiefs. Sunday dinners at her house were a feast; holidays were a spectacle. Even the lunches she would haul to the fields were special -- I still remember her roast beef sandwiches, made with beef she roasted, wrapped up in wax paper and enjoyed with a cold bottle of pop from the Martin Box.

Grandma was a big fan of Cool-Whip*, Shake and Bake, Kitchen Bouquet, Tang and Folger's Crystals, things I am far too snobbish to use now. In her defense, in the '60's, these were considered haute cuisine in southern Indiana. She was on the cutting edge -- how I would love for her to serve me a Jello 1-2-3- parfait in a pilsner glass today. Even love the nasty coating it left on the roof of your mouth for hours after!

Like Grandma, I am amazed at the things people bring to pitch-ins and pot lucks and think are so delicious -- Hamburger Helper casseroles, veggie trays from the store, pork and beans poured from the can into a baking dish without benefit of brown sugar and bacon -- what a travesty. But I usually manage to keep my tongue in my mouth and my "ick" silent, something she found difficult to do, even at family reunions.

My propensity toward food snobbery has been further nourished by my recently acquired fondness for Cooks Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen. If they say something is icky, it is. If they say it is premium, I must have it. (And, premium to them does not always mean the most expensive -- good is good.) If you follow one of their highly tested recipes, it will turn out perfectly. But I don't really see Christopher Kimball and the other chefs as snobs, just people who like really good, really real food. And let's face it -- if you are going to spend your money and time on a meal, shouldn't it be real and good? And memorable, like Grandma's.


*OK, I confess, we sometimes use Cool Whip for big catering jobs, but I prefer whipping the cream myself. However, I will always be a fan of Reddi-Whip, which is why I will never graduate to mid-level food snob.

1 comment:

  1. No, you're not a snob.

    You should also check out the sister publication to Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country. It's a little more down home. Kind of like the ketchup to CI's tomato aspic. I've never made a recipe out of there that wasn't aces. I highly recommend it.