Food Snobbery Selected Entries (Page 1)
NOTE: Given the complexities and interconnectedness of the Snob universe, cross-references between entries are common and are spelled out in CAPITAL LETTERS for easy identification.
Adrià, Ferran. Spanish chef of appropriately surrealist, Dali-esque mien who functions as a lightning rod in the Food Snob debate over whether MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY is bracingly innovative or overwhelmed by gimmickry. The popularizer of the vegetable FOAMS that reviewers loved in Spain in 1998 but jadedly condemn in America now, Adrià, who operates out of a coastal Catalan resort called El Bulli (The Bulldog), combines a DayGlo aesthetic with a FERNAND POINT fealty to getting the most flavor out of his ingredients, resulting in such weird-ass but surprisingly edible creations as a sardine skeleton enshrouded in cotton candy and skinless green-pea raviolis that look like Dr. Seuss egg yolks.
Artisanal. Adjective suggestive of handmade goods and old-fashioned craftsmanship. In the food world, a romantic epithet bestowed upon the cheesemaker, breadbaker, bacon-curer, etc., who labors in his or her integrity-steeped native locale, independent of the pressures and toxicities of Big Food, to produce exquisite high-end, SMALL-BATCH edibles available by mail-order.
Asian street food. Increasingly chic trope-inspiration among chefs and restaurateurs (e.g. Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Anthony Bourdain) who have eaten their way through Saigon, Rangoon, Singapore, Bangkok, and Jakarta, and have somehow decided that they have seen the future of all cuisine.
Beebe, Lucius. Poncey, immaculately turned out American society writer and gourmand of the screwball-comedy era (1902-1966), best known for his florid New York Herald Tribune columns of the 1930s and ’40s, in which he recounted his social adventures as a walker par excellence and his elaborate feasts at gouty Gilded Age-throwback hotel dining rooms. Though verbose to the point of lunacy (“The good life continues unabated in Hollywood even as in the days of hammered silver handset telephones and the first fine floodtide of early ordovician Goldwynisms”), Beebe was one of the first name writers to take fine dining seriously as a subject, earning him the grudging respect of Snobs.
Berkshire pork. Upmarket pork from purebred swine of British pedigree, redder in flesh, more marbled in texture, and richer in flavor than standard, bland American pork (which is justly described as “the other white meat”). In the nineteenth century, some Berkshire pigs were exported to Japan as a diplomatic gift from the Brits, resulting in the pork’s popularity there under the name Kurobuta (“black pig”), a term unnecessarily bandied about by American butchers and restaurateurs looking for a WAGYU-like profit margin.
Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme. Worldly French lawyer-statesman (1755-1826) whose obsessive interest in eating well compelled him to write the Snob ur-text The Physiology of Taste, a book that, in its fusing of recipes with personal memoir and witty gastronomical musings, anticipated by more than a century the works of M.F.K. FISHER (whose English translation of Brillat-Savarin’s book is considered definitive). Brillat-Savarin is oft credited with the aphorism “You are what you eat,” though what he actually wrote is the more socially trenchant “Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are.” So revered is Brillat-Savarin in France that an especially vascular-plaque-generating Norman triple-crème cheese has been named after him.
Cardoon. Vegetable of the thistle family, related to the artichoke, though treasured for its celery-like stalk. Long a staple of Italian cookery, the cardoon has gained popularity among Snobs for its versatility (it’s good raw in salads or cooked in soups) and the frisson of pleasure one gets from saying its name.
Cèpe. Cloying French synonym for porcini mushroom, used on menus to confuse diners who think porcinis are old news. Truly pretentious chefs use the term “boletus mushrooms” for cèpes/porcinis, a shorthand allusion to the fungus’s Latin name, Boletus edulis.
Chioggia beet. Exuberantly food-stylist-friendly HEIRLOOM root vegetable. First introduced to America by Italian immigrants in the nineteenth centry, chioggias are a popular ingredient in $15 designer salads because of the concentric circles of red and white that they reveal when cut open, evoking Op Art and the Target logo.
Compost tea. Organic potion, heavily championed by the SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE crowd, that’s made by adding water to compost, letting the mixture steep and ferment, and straining out the liquid, which is then sprayed on crops or poured into their soil. A well-made compost tea, which can use anything from molasses to fish scraps as a food source for beneficial microorganisms, works as both a pesticide substitute, keeping deadly plant diseases at bay, and as an enhancer of flavor and fertility for fruit and vegetable crops.
CSA. Abbreviation for Community Supported Agriculture, a program in which members of a local community pre-pay a local farm operation for a share of its yield, ensuring that farmers get money up front to cover operating costs and living expenses in good years and bad. Like the related concept of SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, CSAs are noble and admirable in mission yet often the province of mirthless, preachy people who like to make their fellow Americans feel valueless and shallow.
David, Elizabeth. Snob-exalted English food writer (1913-1992) and trailblazer of what Alexander Cockburn has called the “cookbook pastoral” voice. Taking an avid interest in Mediterranean and French country cooking in the postwar years, David turned out two masterworks, Italian Food (1954) and French Provincial Cooking (1960), which, though sometimes vague and imprecise in their recipes, neatly evoked a sun-dappled Southern European wonderland of LUSTY, un-gourmet-ish home cookery theretofore unknown to English-reading audiences. To Snobs, a far more important influence than JULIA CHILD (vis-à-vis French cookery) or MARCELLA HAZAN (vis-à-vis Italian cookery).
Dayboat. Menu qualifier for crabs, scallops, and, occasionally, fin fish. More or less a synonym for “very fresh,” the term not only emphasizes that the chef doesn’t deal with farmed seafood or impersonal mega-suppliers, but also conjures an image of a fisherman who awoke early this very morning, put on his slicker and Paddington hat, and returned by afternoon with his harvestings from the sea, which he bestowed upon the chef with salty good humor. The terms “diver” and LINE-CAUGHT are used to similar effect to describe, respectively, scallops and finfish.
Dry-farmed. Adjective applied to fruit crops planted in spring, while the ground is still damp, and seldom, if ever, watered until maturation—forcing the plants’ tap roots to seek out water from the earth rather than the sky, and resulting in fruits of vividly concentrated, rather than waterlogged, flavor.
Escoffier. Master French chef (1846-1935), who, though often cited as the source of the rich, severely codified French grande cuisine against which it’s fashionable to rebel, was himself rebelling against the even richer, even more elaborate menus prescribed by CARÊME. Achieving worldwide fame in partnership with hotel manager extraordinaire César Ritz, Escoffier (whose first and middle names, George and Auguste, are seldom used by Snobs) articulated his vision of what is now seen as “classic” French cuisine in his book La Guide Culinaire (1903).
Farmstead. Lyrical adjective used to describe foodstuffs, usually cheeses, made onsite at the very farm where the dairy animals are kept and milked (or, in the case of farmstead baked goods and preserves, where the pertinent crops are grown). The ARTISANAL nature of farmstead cheeses, along with their elimination of a link in the farm-to-table chain of production, has made them a cause célèbré in SLOW FOOD circles.
Flavor profile. Affected food-industry term for “how something tastes.” Scientific analysts break down a food’s flavor profile empirically rather than subjectively, determining its balance between sweetness, saltiness, sourness, and bitterness (and, if you believe in such things, UMAMI-ness), though food critics use the term more loosely.
Foam. Sputum-like nuisance of the MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY era. Though the innocuous practice of frothing stuff up with egg whites is age-old, the 1990s saw such chefs as FERRAN ADRIÀ using laboratory-honed processes, such as blending a food with a gelling agent and then spraying it through a nitrous oxide canister, with just about any ingredient they felt like, be it mushrooms, asparagus, rhubarb, or foie gras.