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THE FOOD WORLD IS ON SOME ILLUMINATI SHIT
January 4, 2013 5:39 AM   Subscribe

20 Things Everyone Thinks About the Food World (But Nobody Will Say) "Needless to say, these are complicated topics, and we can’t do them justice in the space of one list. But they are opinions and issues that we find ourselves circling with friends who work in the industry or follow it closely, and we think they’re worthy of discussion."
posted by bobobox (251 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
This cracked me up!
posted by vitabellosi at 5:50 AM on January 4, 2013


hmm, avast pops up with an malware infection detection on that website.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


20 items on 21 pages. They should get some kind of recognition for that.
posted by sidereal at 5:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Twenty Things That Are Mildly Interesting Served on One Page Presented Like an Arsehole on Twenty.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [30 favorites]


I initially misunderstood the first one. I thought he meant "Refusing to spend money on non-Western foods is racist." I mean, it might be, but you can spend a ridiculous amount of money on non-Western food, so what's his beef? It's "Refusing to spend money on non-Western restaurants is racist." Yeah, I get that.

But that might just be a thing in places like New York, which actually have vibrant restaurant scenes. I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the moment. The majority of places that serve decent non-Western food--and there are more than you'd think--seem to be owned by non-Western people. I believe the best local sushi joint is owned by a Japanese family. Both Indian places are family affairs. There's an awesome Chinese/Vietnamese place which is owned by an Asian family (don't know where from, exactly).

Still, "El Amish," the local authentic taco stand run by a Hispanic family, is pretty cheap. $3 per taco, and that's basically all they serve. Then again, this may be because the place is obviously targeted at the local Hispanic community. No advertising of any kind, the menus are in Spanish, etc. They might attract more business and be able to up their prices if they took just a little effort to introduce themselves to the business community just half a dozen blocks north. Then again, maybe they don't want to. They seem to be doing well enough.
posted by valkyryn at 5:59 AM on January 4, 2013


Manahattan? Is this a biblical bread joke?
posted by workerant at 6:01 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


They should get some kind of recognition for that.

If by "recognition" you mean "an entire canned ham thrust into their nostrils" then I concur.
posted by elizardbits at 6:09 AM on January 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


I was just a bit confused by the article, as 1. I've heard a lot of those things said on many occasions, 2. several of them just don't apply (what? People don't spend huge gobs of money on non western restaurants? They don't?). Then I realized it's terribly NYcentric... then I lost interest.
posted by edgeways at 6:10 AM on January 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sooner or later, every tasting menu in the world will be exactly the same, made up of One-World Modernist Fare cooked in industrial-size sous-vide machines out of a central commissary on Mars.

This is fantastic.
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:11 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


A 20 course menu of tepid snark on a wilted bed of stock photos.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:12 AM on January 4, 2013 [37 favorites]


"El Amish," the local authentic taco stand run by a Hispanic family, is pretty cheap. $3 per taco, and that's basically all they serve. Then again, this may be because the place is obviously targeted at the local Hispanic community.

I was gearing up to disagree with you in part until you made this very good point. Because that probably explains why the cheap tacos and $5 dumplings in New York are so cheap - because they're being served in restaurants that are indeed catering to a local community rather than to foodie pretenders.

I actually found myself nodding in agreement at a couple of these; especially the one about molecular gastronomy, which has always struck me as a weird Emperor's-New-Clothes fad. Yes, I appreciate the creativity behind it, and yeah it's cool if you can get the essence of mushroom flavor in a foam or whatever, but - the whole idea of doing an entire meal that way is something I've never gotten. I mean, if I'm eating, it's because I'm hungry, and if I'm hungry I want a plate that is fuller than this.

I'm gearing up to do a food blog (that's it, I have officially become a stereotypical Brooklynite) and one of my resolutions this year is to get into "the food scene" a bit more - I rarely eat out, and it strikes me that I should at least poke a toe into the restaurant scene just to see what's going on. This was a pretty bracing reality check to go into it with eyes open before I make that plunge; thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:12 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Props to any critic who has the cajones to promote responsible eating and sensible portions in 2013.

I guess they yell out nutritional information when you strike them instead of making a percussive sound? Must be some foodie thing.
posted by invitapriore at 6:12 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure I agree with the one that says that not everyone's food is worth holding up as good. I think it's a matter of taste, and of degree. I know a few people who would regard much of Western food as pretty gross. I myself can only take hamburgers the odd time, even if served in a fancy restaurant.
posted by LN at 6:13 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This "slideshow-style" list offers a range of "strong opinions". Some are "insightful" and "cutting", others are "what's-the-deal-with-airplane-food level".

Writing: 27
Concept: 22
Format: 4
posted by Rock Steady at 6:15 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure I agree with the one that says that not everyone's food is worth holding up as good. I think it's a matter of taste, and of degree. I know a few people who would regard much of Western food as pretty gross. I myself can only take hamburgers the odd time, even if served in a fancy restaurant.

I think it's telling that there wasn't a specific example of someone's food that wasn't worth holding up as good. I guarantee you that, if there had been, someone would be chiming in to say how much they love it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:16 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


He means "seaweed salad," not "struggle salad," right?
posted by theredpen at 6:17 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is not about 'the food world'. This is about the USA part of 'the food world', and then probably only about a part of that.

Nevertheless, I partially agree with point seven. Underpaying servers to make them grovel for tips makes for unhappy servers, strains the relationship they have with the customers, and it's really plain unfair to pay someone less than the lawful minimum. That's what a minimum is for.

So no, tipping should not be abolished, underpaying should be abolished and then tips can be a nice, voluntary extra again, and that's still worth giving extra-good service for. Especially since it IS an extra, and not an obligation.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:17 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmmm...Another website that doesn't work unless you disable AdBlock. Nice.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:19 AM on January 4, 2013


He means "seaweed salad," not "struggle salad," right?

I thought that was a somewhat evocative term for the sad little iceberg lettuce 'salads' that come with the $7.99 sushi lunch specials around here.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:22 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thorzdad: Hmmm...Another website that doesn't work unless you disable AdBlock. Nice.

Worked for me no problem.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:24 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad, I did not need to disable AdBlock, I just had to allow javascript.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:24 AM on January 4, 2013


I was expecting to see one specifically about sustainability, which is to me at least, the biggest ignored issue in food culture today. A few of his points hit on these topics tangentially but...

What about The environmental impact of meat production?

What about The impact of unsustainable fishing practices?
posted by j03 at 6:24 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are so many things wrong with this "list" I don't even know where to start! So I'll just take them in the order they come:

Who are these provincial bigots that scoff at "ethnic" food? Is the writer in 1952?

THE NEW YORK TIMES RESTAURANT REVIEW HAS GONE SOFT. Gone soft? Maybe he's in 1852?

THE FOOD WORLD IS ON SOME ILLUMINATI SHIT Again, duh? As soon as we started seeing food as an art form (Babylonian times?) we started seeing the same pretentious "arty" assholes as you see at any gallery opening cropping up. The food world, just like other art circles loves to fellate itself, go figure.

NEW YORK BAGELS ARE TERRIBLE No shit sherlock! Any mass produced crap is terrible, even sacred ones like New York bagels.

SOME OF THE BEST MEALS IN AMERICA ARE COOKED BY ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS Yes, and? Oh, not an exploitation issue for you, it's that they don't get due credit? Sadly neither does the underpaid, underapreciated American.

THE SUSTAINABLE FOOD MOVEMENT IS ONLY RELEVANT TO RICH WHITE PEOPLE
Um, I think you have a mistaken understanding of what the movement is about. Apparently you hang out with some sort of Republican bigots from 1952 anyway, so I see where your lack of understanding comes from.

TIPPING SHOULD BE ABOLISHED Ok, this is tiresome, I quit.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:24 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


NEW YORK BAGELS ARE TERRIBLE No shit sherlock!

The point is that a short time ago, there were bagels in New York that weren't mass produced crap. But when H&H closed, the last traditional bagel bakery in the city, that changed.
posted by valkyryn at 6:27 AM on January 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


21) Truffle Oil tastes like ball sweat.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:30 AM on January 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the moment. The majority of places that serve decent non-Western food--and there are more than you'd think--seem to be owned by non-Western people.

I was stuck in Fort Wayne for a year or so, and was really surprised by some of the incredible hole-in-the-wall, super-sketchy ethnic food that could be found there. Between the awesome cuban sandwich joint, the Thai place in a renovated body shop, decent Vietnamese, and the eternally wonderful JK O'Donnells, there was surprisingly good food in that little place.
posted by themadthinker at 6:30 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The point is that a short time ago, there were bagels in New York that weren't mass produced crap.

Yeah, like 50 years ago except for in a few choice locations. New York has the same per capita level of crap as everywhere else, they just have more capitas so the total volume of non-crap is higher.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:32 AM on January 4, 2013


Wow, pretty much every one of these is wrong. Or it applies not to the "food world" but to some segment of Brooklyn food world, I suppose. This guy should really travel more.
posted by vacapinta at 6:32 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


22) Sometimes in New York the food is so bad you wonder if the cockroaches are moonlighting as short order cooks.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:33 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I found these to be spot-on, except for one thing: I have never had anything but bland and underwhelming Tex-Mex, even in Texas.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:40 AM on January 4, 2013


21) Truffle Oil tastes like ball sweat.

And smells like ancient hobo taint buried beneath the light of the new moon.
posted by elizardbits at 6:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


ALL WINE MOSTLY TASTES THE SAME.

Man that's kinda embarrassing.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


there was surprisingly good food in that little place.

I know, right? There's actually a coffee shop on the east side, Old Crown, that brings a chef in every Friday to prepare a meal. Two starters, three or four entrees, soup, two desserts, all paired with different wines, all different every week. Fantastic. And you can get in and out of there for about $30 a head, $40 with wine.
posted by valkyryn at 6:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Baloney sausages.
posted by borges at 6:52 AM on January 4, 2013


Locavorism has become the newest outlet for yuppie guilt, providing a feeling of living ethically and supporting a cause...

Amen.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man that's kinda embarrassing.

Almost red wine tastes like migraines and despair to me. I can only sense actual differences in rose and white.

CHECK YOUR WINIST PRIVILEGE SHAKES
posted by elizardbits at 6:55 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Almost red wine tastes like migraines and despair to me.

Protip: Don't buy wine at 7-Eleven.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:57 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hm, I don't think they have any 7-11s in spain.

Wait, maybe there is one in the Llobregat airport.
posted by elizardbits at 6:59 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Man that's kinda embarrassing.

Especially since the first flavor he mentions is "oak". Clearly he's never tried un-oaked wine. Either that or his definition of "wine" is limited to the Mogen-David family of products.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:04 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


H&H ... the last traditional bagel bakery in the city

The hand-rolled mini-bagels at Absolute on 108th and Broadway are far more traditional than H&H's bagels ever were. And there's a line outside the door every Sunday.
posted by slkinsey at 7:04 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


A1 SAUCE DOES NOT MAKE HAMBURGER TASTE LIKE STEAK
posted by borges at 7:05 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


All wine does taste similar; often professional wine tasters can hardly tell the difference between red and white, per this article on wine blind tests.
posted by Harald74 at 7:06 AM on January 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


Locavorism has become the newest outlet for yuppie guilt, providing a feeling of living ethically and supporting a cause

You know, I buy into a CSA farm. Little place out in Scott, Arkansas, a small and mostly poor town. The entire farm, which has crops, chickens, goats, pigs, and a couple cows, is run by one hard-working, beleaguered woman. And maybe I'm the perfect white yuppie to sneer at, but I'm god damned proud to buy into it.

And it's not just knowing that her farm would fold without our and others' support. It's knowing her and having her in my life. It's getting to take time to get the fuck out of the city and get some work done with my hands, even if it's shit work like digging a trench. It's taking my children out there so that they can learn about where their food comes from and what it takes to grow it. It's watching my daughter play with baby goats. It's celebrating in the farm's successes and grieving over its losses when disaster happens, as it did last week when an ice storm obliterated her crop. It's the kids in the school across the highway that go to that farm to learn about food and farming. It's the cookouts we have every year, where we cook half a pig over an open fire and stuff ourselves silly, and I look around the group and see everyone from liberal arts majors to physicians to electricians to dyed-in-the-wool hillibillies all breaking bread together.

So yes, I support her and a bunch of other local farmers every chance I get, because they do good things and I believe people should have a shot making a living doing what they love.

But cynicism and sneering at middle class white people is more fun, I guess.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:08 AM on January 4, 2013 [54 favorites]


I think it's telling that there wasn't a specific example of someone's food that wasn't worth holding up as good. I guarantee you that, if there had been, someone would be chiming in to say how much they love it.

That really pissed me off. I give you no credit for being a Bold Iconoclast Who Says What We're All Too Scared To if you're too scared to actually name a cuisine you think is inherently inferior. Samoan? Luxembourgeois? Cretan? Stuff everone already makes fun of like English food? Hell, belly up to the bar and trash French cuisine as long as you're trolling, just don't throw out a bunch of vague nonsense and expect anyone to respect you.
posted by Copronymus at 7:09 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


All wine does taste similar; often professional wine tasters can hardly tell the difference between red and white, per this article on wine blind tests.

That test doesn't say as much as people think it does Red and white are just different kinds of grape. I mean sure all wine tastes similar in that all food of a specific category (burgers, pasta, pizza) taste similar. But thats different than saying there are not bad and good versions. And sometimes even something sublime.
posted by vacapinta at 7:13 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Man that's kinda embarrassing.

Especially since the first flavor he mentions is "oak". Clearly he's never tried un-oaked wine. Either that or his definition of "wine" is limited to the Mogen-David family of products.


I dated a sommelier for two years, and in that two years was exposed to a wide variety of wines in all varietals and degrees of quality.

I still agree that most wine all tastes the same.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on January 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


What he was trying to say was buying a CSA and patting yourself on the back isn't solving the larger issue of access to high quality fresh produce for poor people.
posted by j03 at 7:15 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Turn brooklyn into Mannahatta? Well, it'd displace 2 million people, but it would be pretty cool.

A couple of points:
Tipping should be abolished- of course. But this is America. We don't pay living wages here.
Locavores are rich white folks- usually yes. But the farmers they are supporting generally aren't. (Rich at least. Not sure about the white part, I've never met any of the people who farm for the CSAs that my family and friends are in)
They touch on the food drought issue, but I really wish they had written more. In New York, with a subway card and a little cart this can be avoided and I have seen more and more CTowns, Food Bizarres, etc. here than I ever expected. But I imagine that once you lose the density and have to rely on a car for transportation, shit goes downhill. Maybe we need a grocery version of the Community Reinvestment Act?
Going back to the Brooklyn thing, the writer should get out of Park Slope/Williamsburg. There is more to Brooklyn than the hip parts. Just like if you go to the right parts of Manhattan, you can still find good food that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
posted by Hactar at 7:17 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Red and white wine aren't different types of grapes. White wine is made with red grapes too. They just leave the skins out. See white pinot noir and red chardonnay.
posted by j03 at 7:20 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


NOT EVERY COUNTRY'S CUISINE IS WORTH CELEBRATING.

That may or may not be true but then he illustrates it with Golumpkis? I don't want to live in a world where stuffed cabbage isn't worth celebrating.
posted by octothorpe at 7:21 AM on January 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


I mean, yeah, all wine tastes the same in the way that, say, burnt-to-charcoal hamburger tastes the same as a pan-roasted tenderloin.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:22 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd avoid this page folks : JavaScript Blacklist (NoScript) blocked 15 cross site scripting attempts, of those Ghostery recognizes only 12.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:24 AM on January 4, 2013


Food memories are incredibly powerful, causing people with otherwise refined tastes to swoon over corn dogs from the State Fair, or Twinkies, or whatever they ate the first time they saw a pair of bare breasts.

Apparently everyone in America is a straight guy or a lesbian?
posted by jokeefe at 7:24 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


whatever they ate the first time they saw a pair of bare breasts.

.....so breast milk, then.
posted by elizardbits at 7:26 AM on January 4, 2013 [23 favorites]


What he was trying to say was buying a CSA and patting yourself on the back isn't solving the larger issue of access to high quality fresh produce for poor people.

Yeah, I think the point was about relevance not whether or not it was worthwhile. The point wasn't that buying from a CSA was a bad thing, just that it's a model of sustainability that excludes a lot of people. I've belonged to a CSA and ate a ton of kale and I found that worthwhile, but that model isn't solving the problem of getting fresh produce into food deserts where people can't drop $400 all at one time on a summer's worth of chancy produce.

I'm not a bad person for belonging to a CSA, but I'm not solving the world's problems; I'm just a guy throwing out a ton of cucumbers because seriously why are there so many cucumbers every week.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:27 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


All wine does taste similar; often professional wine tasters can hardly tell the difference between red and white

While there is no doubt that non-blind tastings heavily bias results, I suspect the main issue for professional wine tasters is that they taste too many wines in a sitting. Far too many. This does two things: 1) it dulls their palates considerably; 2) it makes younger and fruitier wines more attractive.

To get a Masters of Wine qualification you have to pass three 12 wine blind tastings. If it were just random, you would expect nobody to pass the test. Even so, my personal view is that 12 wines is still too much. Even without the issue of a dulled palate, too much choice alone clouds better from worse things. There is a whole book on this topic, which is fascinating: The Paradox of Choice. In it, it details an experiment where people blind taste jam, and where the more jams they taste, the more their opinions on the quality of the jams become contradictory.

Furthermore, a lot of the most respected wine professionals are not in their first flush of youth, and their sense of taste has diminished somewhat.

I'd heartily agree that much of the language of wine tasting is horribly overblown, pretentious and unhelpful. Notwithstanding the pressures on winemakers and wine professionals to keep trying to find new ways to say the same things, the idea that wines all taste alike is a curious one to those of us that drink and taste wine for fun. If you're mistaking a grassy sauvignon blanc for big, high alcohol shiraz you're not doing it right.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:27 AM on January 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


REFUSING TO SPEND MONEY ON NON-WESTERN RESTAURANTS IS RACIST.
This might be American-only. In London for example many top restaurants are serving Indian or Thai food.
It is not "racist" anymore than thinking burgers are not high-end food is racist. There are categories of food that lend themselves to fresh, inexpensive ingredients.
By the way, pasta out of the box is cheap. Fresh, hand-made pasta using high-grade flour and a huge number of eggs is time-consuming and not cheap. It is not something you can "replicate pretty faithfully at home" This is a statement made by someone who doesn't know much about food. In addition, thinking Italian food=pasta (where its usually just a starter) shows an ignorance of Italian food.

THE NEW YORK TIMES RESTAURANT REVIEW HAS GONE SOFT.
It has been soft for so long, this statement makes no sense. So it is wrong in that sense.

THE FOOD WORLD IS ON SOME ILLUMINATI SHIT, AND RENE REDZEPI IS PULLING THE STRINGS.
The "food world" is a club like fashion, art, entertainment - everything. Also, it goes in waves. One year something is in and popular. Another year, its something else. There's no big trend or conspiracy here. I've been to Noma. The food is innovative and interesting. I do agree it doesn't lend itself well for replication but that wasn't the point being made here.

NEW YORK BAGELS ARE TERRIBLE.
Agreed.

SOME OF THE BEST MEALS IN AMERICA ARE COOKED BY ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.
The kitchens are full of Mexicans but they are legal. Assuming they are illegal is the racist sentiment here.

THE SUSTAINABLE FOOD MOVEMENT IS ONLY RELEVANT TO RICH WHITE PEOPLE
Its relevant to everybody. The fact that annoying people in Brooklyn have adopted a holier-than-thou attitude and made you feel small does not negate this. I know some really annoying environmentalists too. But the cause is no less just.

TIPPING SHOULD BE ABOLISHED.
Sure, why not. But the rest of the world does do a lot of tipping. America is unique in the tips being so high.

NOSTALGIA PROPS UP A LOT OF REALLY, REALLY BAD FOOD.
Agreed. Strongly agree.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN HAS GONE POP.
He's always been Pop.

ALL WINE MOSTLY TASTES THE SAME.
I am sure if you called a vote, most people would agree with this. But that still doesn't make it truth.
You can say wine is unfairly appropriated by food snobs. You can say annoying people claim that appreciating good wine is more important than it really is. You can say that any wine bottle above $25 is extremely diminishing returns. That might be true. But saying all wine tastes mostly the same is just an ignorant, petulant statement.

MOST SUSHI RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA STAY IN BUSINESS BY SERVING MISLABELED FISH AND RIDICULOUS ROLLS THAT HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY EXISTED IN JAPAN.
Yes. But everybody know this right? Its a good argument as to why people should be more informed about their food.

FOIE GRAS IS NOT WORTH FIGHTING FOR (OR AGAINST).
Nobody but Americans are fighting for or against. I've been to SW France where foie gras is cheaper and more abundant. Corner cafes in Toulouse serve you some before you have your sandwich. There are plenty of other foods that are produced more unethically and yet Americans chose to fight this battle probably because they imagined its only eaten by posh, annoying people: see Sustainable and Wine above.

THE FOOD WORLD IS THE ONLY PLACE WHERE ASIANS GET RESPECT AS CELEBRITIES IN AMERICA.
Too America-specific for me to comment on even without mentioning that many of my favourite musicians are Asian-American.

TASTING MENUS AND MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY ARE TOO OFTEN THE DOMAIN OF CHARLATANS.
Agreed. Again, its important to know more about your food rather than following food trends. The real "foodies" I know care about good food whether its from a Michelin place or a food cart. Trends are for sheep.

ANONYMOUS CRITICS DON'T EXIST ANYMORE, AND MOST FOOD WRITERS (AND THEIR PUBLICATIONS) DON'T PAY FOR THEIR MEALS.
This is like movie reviews. Find a critic or even regular Chowhound poster whose tastes you trust and follow them. Forget crowd-sourcing when it comes to good food. Most people don't know good food for many reasons: See Nostalgia entry above.

NOT EVERY COUNTRY'S CUISINE IS WORTH CELEBRATING.
As others have said in this thread. Have some balls. Name a country, please.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS AN EVERYDAY OCCURRENCE AT SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANTS.
Sadly, this doesn't apply just to the food world. So not sure what its doing here.

TEX-MEX IS OFTEN BETTER THAN AUTHENTIC MEXICAN.
I doubt you've tried authentic Mexican. That said, I agree Tex-Mex can be wonderful. So not sure about the either/or here.

THE HIGH-MINDED GLUTTONY PROMOTED BY FOOD WRITERS IS JUST AS UNHEALTHY AS THE AVERAGE AMERICAN DIETS THEY RAIL AGAINST.
Well, sure. I haven't heard any food writers say that people should eat rich meals everyday. Good food writers also tell you about the simple cafes serving honest good food. So this doesn't really apply to all food writers.

BROOKLYN'S HYPED FOOD SCENE WILL TURN THE BOROUGH INTO MANAHATTAN, PART DEUX.
This last one betrays the whole list. This should have been called "Things I hate about Brooklynites"
posted by vacapinta at 7:31 AM on January 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


I doubt you've tried authentic Mexican.

Oh yeah this was the other one I wanted to jump all over.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:36 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Last week the Washington City Paper, in a small piece on food trends, printed a pretty insightful quote from Teddy Folkman, the chef/owner of Granville Moore's:

“I’m gonna be honest and say none of them. I like all of them. Whole animals raised on the restaurant’s rooftop farm, smoked in front of you for 10 hours using local wood? Bring it. Twenty-four amazing courses paired to the music stylings of Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force? Why not! House-made pasta with house-made ricotta topped with the oil of six different olives pressed tableside? Please and thank you! Chef David Chang said it best: ‘Bad trends were usually good trends. They just got watered down into a really bad, overdone trend.’ Just find the place that started and does the trend right. You shouldn’t be disappointed.”

posted by troika at 7:40 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


(what? People don't spend huge gobs of money on non western restaurants? They don't?). Then I realized it's terribly NYcentric... then I lost interest.

This. I started to mentally graph all the Chinese and Mexican restaurants I know in the St. Louis area and I get the distinct impression that each category's prices would graph out to form a nice power curve, and these would probably overlap pretty well until you got to places I'm not likely to ever eat at.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:44 AM on January 4, 2013


With regards to every country's cuisine not worth celebrating - I'll pipe up with Russian food. I was born there, and we eat a traditional late-Soviet meal each and every time we get together. It's become a point of comedy for my significant other as the same dishes appear on the table meal after meal. There are always platters of pickled and brined things, herring salad with beets, potatoes and mayo, salad olivier (one of the few items he likes), kissel or krushon and vast quantities of alcohol to drink, and a variying main dish(es).

Most items that appeal to most palates have been borrowed from neighboring countries and regions - from Ukranian borscht to Georgian shashlik. Dishes truly native to Russia are not that varied, appealing or even delicious. Lots of porridges from buckwheat to barley, root veggies, often boiled, and grains fermented into beverages like kvas that are a very acquired taste.

I'm very omnivorous, but I can clearly see the hilarious reactions to people trying Russian food for the first time (no matter where they're from - west or east) and it's clear that there are genuinely few gems there. Which brings us to his point about nostalgia.
posted by tatiana131 at 7:44 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


All I can say is that I am truly relieved that someone agrees with me about Tex Mex. The guilt has been slowly melting my insides into queso sauce over the years. Mmmmmm. Queso sauce.
posted by Mooseli at 7:45 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I give you no credit for being a Bold Iconoclast Who Says What We're All Too Scared To if you're too scared to actually name a cuisine you think is inherently inferior.

Turkish: a bunch of things other cultures do better, plus lots and lots of ground meat

Korean: only the presence of kimchi makes Korean food not boring, and kimchi isn't that great to begin with

Tibetan: look, everybody else thought of dumplings too, calling them "momos" is cute but it hardly elevates the little fuckers to anything special

Norwegian: an entire culture of food devoted to turning fish into the grossest things imaginable
posted by mightygodking at 7:49 AM on January 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Tex-Mex is used to being deprecated but, frankly, we here in Texas don't care. We're too busy eating...
posted by jim in austin at 7:49 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


NOT EVERY COUNTRY'S CUISINE IS WORTH CELEBRATING.
As others have said in this thread. Have some balls. Name a country, please.


I'll bite. With the caveat that "worth celebrating" is not the same thing as "has a few dishes that are interesting or good" or "could make an interesting restaurant."

Off the top of my head in no particular order as a representative sample, I'd suggest Sudan, Estonia, Mongolia, Bolivia and Canada as countries whose cuisine may not be worth "celebrating" (although I'm sure they all have some noteworthy features and things that are good).
posted by slkinsey at 7:49 AM on January 4, 2013


But, poutine.

*pouts*
posted by polymodus at 7:50 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


And "Mongolian BBQ".

*mouth waters*
posted by polymodus at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


And ketchup chips and nanaimo bars!
posted by troika at 7:53 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


kimchi isn't that great to begin with

You're kidding, right? Kimchi is cruncy, spicy, salty, fermented, and fantastic. Do you know a food that does that better (I'm not being sarcastic, I'd would love to discover something even better than kimchi), or do you just not like those characteristics?
posted by (Over) Thinking at 7:53 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'll bite. With the caveat that "worth celebrating" is not the same thing as "has a few dishes that are interesting or good" or "could make an interesting restaurant."

Is this one of those things were people who care deeply about food are using words in ways that make no sense to the seven billion people who are just eating? To me, "worth celebrating" means exactly the same thing as "would make an interesting restaurant." I've had some of the foods that are mentioned here as suggested examples, and plenty of them seem worth celebrating to me in the sense that they make a decent menu for a restaurant.

Seriously, Turkish food? Delicious. Sure, it's a lot like Greek food, but it's all delicious.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, most wines taste the same around the world, but that's American Robert Parker's fault. There is still plenty of diversity in old world wines : Amarone, Savagnin, Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille are examples of fairly distinctive. Also, Mexican commonly rocks, although certainly cheap crap exists, but TexMex usually sucks.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I doubt you've tried authentic Mexican.

fite
posted by elizardbits at 7:55 AM on January 4, 2013


Do you know a food that does that better (I'm not being sarcastic, I'd would love to discover something even better than kimchi), or do you just not like those characteristics?

I love all those characteristics but in this particular case I do not like them all together. Nor do I like a thing that smells like the gates of hell have opened and belched forth an unwashed army of demon orcs.
posted by elizardbits at 7:57 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seriously, Turkish food? Delicious. Sure, it's a lot like Greek food

Which reiterates my point about Turkish food was "it's stuff other people do better. Also there is a fuckton of ground meat." Seriously, I think the Ottoman empire just one day up and decided "meatballs. That is what we fucking do, okay? Meatballs. Wrap them in pastry, boil them, whatever. We do meatballs. We will call them fancy things, of course." And then they mounted a few thousand people on spears to prove they were serious about meatballs.

And the meatballs are nothing special.
posted by mightygodking at 8:01 AM on January 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Do you know a food that does that better (I'm not being sarcastic, I'd would love to discover something even better than kimchi), or do you just not like those characteristics?
I love all those characteristics but in this particular case I do not like them all together. Nor do I like a thing that smells like the gates of hell have opened and belched forth an unwashed army of demon orcs.

Mmmm, unwashed demon orcs. At any rate, one may personally may not like kimchi, but it seems silly to write off an entire cuisine based on personal preference. (I realize you are not the person who originally posted.) Please, keep disliking it though because that just means I get ALL THE KIMCHI.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 8:07 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


On a more serious note, I think each of their points is plausible and truthy (especially in the American/NYC domain). Unless you already have a critical background, their concerns may not make much sense. But I for one have this background (a little bit) and will vouch that everything they say isn't that unreasonable. I only wish they tried make a more researched and detailed article to convey their complaints.

On their first point, it is completely echos the writings of the great critic Ruth Reichl, who once said that the reason there's so little American interest in high-end Chinese is basically "racism". There is more than one kind of racism, and I interpret this to mean *both* a kind of ignorance, closed-mindedness, noncosmopolitanism when it comes to the flavor profiles of entire food-cultures out there (hey kimchi guy!), as well as deeply entrenched forces at work having to do with attitudes about class, power, status.

Anyways. Being the food slut that I've become of late, I have a dinner reservation at a *** restaurant tonight so I'm off to iron my shirt. Happy fighting!
posted by polymodus at 8:11 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most of this reads more like 20 things you need to know about the idiosyncrasies of NY foodies, who have not yet realized that NY is no longer the universe, culinary or otherwise.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:11 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Over) Thinking: Please, keep disliking it though because that just means I get ALL THE KIMCHI.

This is the best food attitude. I don't understand when people get all bent out of shape* over someone else not liking something they like. Oh, you pick the tomatoes out of your salad? Awesome, hand 'em over, more for me.

*not that it's happening here, I mean in general and stuff.
posted by troika at 8:12 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Turkish: a bunch of things other cultures do better, plus lots and lots of ground meat

I'm sorry you feel that way, but you're wrong.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:14 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


All wine does taste similar; often professional wine tasters can hardly tell the difference between red and white, per this article on wine blind tests.

Maybe they just made some good wine in New Jersey?

I still agree that most wine all tastes the same.

I don't disagree with that basic premise, but oak? Really? You can't tell the difference in barrel aged and vat aged wine? Can you tell the difference between vodka and rum?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:16 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


>> I'll bite. With the caveat that "worth celebrating" is not the same thing as "has a few dishes that are interesting or good" or "could make an interesting restaurant."

Is this one of those things were people who care deeply about food are using words in ways that make no sense to the seven billion people who are just eating? To me, "worth celebrating" means exactly the same thing as "would make an interesting restaurant."


No, they don't mean the same thing... any more than one reasonably interesting album by Edie Brickell makes her entire musical oeuvre "worth celebrating."

There's a difference between some dusty restaurant in Little Estonia serving hot bowls of leivasupp to ex pats that might be interesting to drop into one day on the one hand, and knocking up a fancy restaurant to "celebrate the cuisine of Estonia and make this wonderful culinary tradition more widely known" on the other hand.
posted by slkinsey at 8:16 AM on January 4, 2013


Most Polish food is gross, and the things that aren't gross are usually better-done in Germany. Gołąbki is probably the blandest thing I've ever eaten in my life.

there I said it
posted by downing street memo at 8:17 AM on January 4, 2013


polymodus: "Mongolian BBQ"

Not actually Mongolian.
posted by octothorpe at 8:19 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


23) SOME PEOPLE JUST DON'T LIKE CILANTRO.

I don't need to hear "Oh, it tastes like soap to you? You know, that's genetic," from every waiter* forever, thanks. I just don't like the taste of it, and it's not because it's soapy.

* -- It's always waiters. Never waitresses.
posted by Etrigan at 8:20 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


And as for "authentic" Mexican cuisine I can recommend Fonda El Refugio next time you're in México D.F. Be sure to bring your wallet...
posted by jim in austin at 8:23 AM on January 4, 2013


I don't disagree with that basic premise, but oak? Really? You can't tell the difference in barrel aged and vat aged wine?

....No?

Look, I admit that I have a clodlike palate when it comes to this. If you feel it's more accurate for me to say "I believe most wine all tastes the same," then I'll cheerfully agree. But no, I can't tell whether a wine has been oaked unless it's really, really oaky, and not everyone else can either. And it took the sommelier to tell me that that flavor was even called "oaky" because to me, it tasted like butter. (Just like Moscato was the first wine I ever had that didn't taste like that big huge swath of flavor that my mind registers as "wine-flavor", only because it was sweet. Then there was that weird variety he insisted I try that tasted like I was sucking a wet fur coat, but I don't know what the hell that was.)

Can you tell the difference between vodka and rum?

Not really. I've not really ever gotten too far past the childlike "ewww alcohol taste is icky" stage. Which probably explains why I also don't register most wines as being anything but "wine-flavored".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Most Polish food is gross, and the things that aren't gross are usually better-done in Germany.

Pistolety o świcie!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a difference between some dusty restaurant in Little Estonia serving hot bowls of leivasupp to ex pats that might be interesting to drop into one day on the one hand, and knocking up a fancy restaurant to "celebrate the cuisine of Estonia and make this wonderful culinary tradition more widely known" on the other hand.

So the difference is the difference is the price of the food and the nationality of the people who eat there? Other than racism or classism, why would that be a dividing line?

There's no way to celebrate food other than to eat it. People who eat and enjoy a food are "celebrating" it even if they do it in a fancy restaurant, a hole in the wall, or their own kitchen and no matter who they're surrounded by. Announcing that certain cuisines aren't worth celebrating, despite plenty of people celebrating them all the time (very few cuisines aren't eaten regularly by some group of people who love them) just reeks of the kind of pretension that makes people hate "foodies."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:27 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then there was that weird variety he insisted I try that tasted like I was sucking a wet fur coat...

I'm not going to ask how you knew this.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:29 AM on January 4, 2013


What an interesting mix of (IMO) excellent and misguided points.

I will say this, though: "REFUSING TO SPEND MONEY ON NON-WESTERN RESTAURANTS IS RACIST" - This is actually something I talk about all the time, anyway.

It is something I noticed when I first moved to America (along with the fact that you guys just seem to complain a lot about the price of food in general even though it is so freaking cheap here). It's not necessarily true across the board, and yeah, there's maybe that one fancy Indian restaurant people will shell out extra for, but here are things I heard (and I'm sure I still hear, but I have become far more acclimatised) a lot when I first arrived: "Paying more than $TK for a taco/burrito/most items from a taqueria is a rip-off" or "A banh mi that costs more than $TK isn't authentic."

There are three reasons this stuff is traditionally super cheap: 1) It's sold in low income neighbourhoods and food trucks, where overheads are cheaper, 2) They're using low quality ingredients for much of it, and I think mostly importantly 3) Many of the people working in the eatery are likely family and are not earning a decent wage or benefits.

So to me, this always does sound kind of racist, because when someone says "I won't pay more than $1.50 for a taco," it sounds to me like the person is inadvertently saying "I don't think immigrants should earn a decent living" or "Their food is worth less."

OK, I'll tackle one more:

"ANONYMOUS CRITICS DON'T EXIST ANYMORE, AND MOST FOOD WRITERS (AND THEIR PUBLICATIONS) DON'T PAY FOR THEIR MEALS."

The former is generally true (does anyone think otherwise?), but in my experience as a journalist and sometimes food writer, the latter is not, unless we're talking about bloggers. I do see many food writers increasingly getting into murkier ethical territory -- like buddying up to chefs or attending media events at places they intend to review (the main reason for this, I think, is that many media outlets expect them to be both restaurant industry beat reporters and food critics, and those are two very separate roles) -- but not paying for meals for review is a really, really serious ethical breach, and (I'd hope) word would spread pretty fast to rival publications if it were happening.
posted by retrograde at 8:29 AM on January 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Mightygodking: You have to try some place that does good Korean Style Chinese food. I'm still ambivalent on Korean food myself, but the food that's come up by combining their food with traditional Chinese can be sublime.

In the LA area there's a wide variety of quality, ranging from places which replace the jellyfish with a specially textured noodle (bad, IMO), to ones where the mustard sauces are sublime.

Personally, I'm still working my way through enough traditional Korean to make up my mind. I like it fine, but do I think it's great? Not sure, I'm pretty sure I haven't had the best there is to offer yet.
posted by bswinburn at 8:30 AM on January 4, 2013


Mightygodking: You have to try some place that does good Korean Style Chinese food.

Which is a nice way of saying "Chinese food." Chinese and French are the two cuisines that take all they encounter and devour them slowly, leaving behind only bones and, like, gross herrings and stuff.
posted by mightygodking at 8:32 AM on January 4, 2013


> Then there was that weird variety he insisted I try that tasted like I was sucking a wet fur coat...

I'm not going to ask how you knew this.


:-) Immediate post-tasting suggestion. I had it in my mouth and was in a lizard-brain state of "ew ew ew nasty nasty what is this what is this", and he said "tastes like a wet fur coat, doesn't it?" and my brain instantly jumped on that as "YES THAT IS WHAT THAT IS THE TASTE OF". Before that all I could register was a sort of musty-ness.

Exactly the same thing happened when I first tried hot sake - just as soon as I took the first sip, a friend next to me said, "tastes like hot nail polish remover, doesn't it?" and now that is all I can think of when I even smell hot sake. (Although, it really DOES smell like nail polish remover to me....)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand when people get all bent out of shape* over someone else not liking something they like.

Yeah, I lovehate these threads for that precise reason, because everyone immediately descends into the "oh if you don't like $THING_I_LIKE then you are ignorant/wrong/uneducated/etc" madness and it is just hilarious to me. Like OMG different people like to eat different things? HOW CAN SUCH A THING BE POSSIBLE NO I SHAN'T BELIEVE IT.


but it seems silly to write off an entire cuisine based on personal preference

I am okay with largely dismissing entire cuisines based on the extremely frequent inclusion of a thing that one is allergic to, though. I have a lot of trouble with many Asian cuisines that are heavy on the seafood. The most innocuous things suddenly turn up with shrimp flakes, and it is often difficult to explain that literally every single thing that comes from the ocean will make me sick. Yes, even the seaweed. Yes, even that random other thing that everyone else eats. Yes, that other thing too. No, please don't cook my food in the same oil you fried those shrimps in. Yes, seriously. No, I'm not just being a fussy American. I just want to not have to try to remember the word for anaphylaxis in a language I'm unfamiliar with while gasping and blue on the floor.

In conclusion this is why I end up sadly eating fries at McDonalds while everyone else devours tasty local noms.
posted by elizardbits at 8:35 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sudan, Estonia, Mongolia, Bolivia and Canada

The first four I don't know - but I can say that Equadorian food (next door to Bolivia) is delicious and I can imagine that Mongolians probably do a great roast.

As for Canada
- poutine - the most delicious junk food ever
- Tourtière
- Butter tarts
- blueberry grunt

and all that is just the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario.
posted by jb at 8:36 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are three reasons this stuff is traditionally super cheap ... 3) Many of the people working in the eatery are likely family and are not earning a decent wage or benefits.

So to me, this always does sound kind of racist, because when someone says "I won't pay more than $1.50 for a taco," it sounds like the person is inadvertently saying "I don't think immigrants should earn a decent living" or "Their food is worth less."


This this this. It's remarkable how much of every restaurant's overhead is payroll, and when you complain about a $2 glass of soda, you're really complaining about the less-than-minimum-wage wage that serving staff make.
posted by Etrigan at 8:36 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


elizardbits - Korean food has a lot less seafood (I'm not allergic, but I don't like it). Also, Mongolian probably doesn't, what with being landlocked.
posted by jb at 8:37 AM on January 4, 2013


Which is a nice way of saying "Chinese food." Chinese and French are the two cuisines that take all they encounter and devour them slowly, leaving behind only bones and, like, gross herrings and stuff.

And yet Tex-Mex isn't the same as Mexican? Nope, you're just wrong here. The influence of the cultures meeting has, unsurprisingly, created something new.
posted by bswinburn at 8:37 AM on January 4, 2013


Turkish: a bunch of things other cultures do better, plus lots and lots of ground meat

That? Yeah, that was the sound of my switchblade flicking open.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:38 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then there was that weird variety he insisted I try that tasted like I was sucking a wet fur coat...

I'm not going to ask how you knew this.


Not to step on a perfectly good line, but the vast majority of our "sense of taste" is actually our sense of smell. If you've smelled a wet fur coat, you're 80 percent of the way to having tasted one.
(/pedant)
posted by Etrigan at 8:40 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Turkish: a bunch of things other cultures do better, plus lots and lots of ground meat

Seriously? Have you been to Turkey? This statement bears no resemblance to reality. (I will agree that Turkish restaurants in the United States can be pretty lackluster, but my mother-in-law is from Istanbul and man, can she cook some awesome food.)
posted by Daily Alice at 8:41 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Some of the best food that I had in Paris was made by Turks. (Of course, they called it "Greek").
posted by jb at 8:42 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


These aren't actually things that "nobody will say" at all, are they?
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:44 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]



and all that is just the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario.
posted by jb at 8:36 AM on January 4 [+] [!]


That's because they have all the regional cuisine. Out west we just throw fast food wrappers out of our idling trucks.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:45 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Turkish food is frickin' delicious, and certainly not (in my experience) all about meatballs. Turkish pizza? A revelation!!! If you're in Toronto and you haven't been to Pizza Pide yet, get there ASAP. You will thank me.

On that note, I would argue that all cultures have delicious foods worth celebrating. I tend to assume that if I don't think of a certain type of food as being yummy, I probably just haven't eaten enough of it yet.
posted by Go Banana at 8:46 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


On that note, I would argue that all cultures have delicious foods worth celebrating. I tend to assume that if I don't think of a certain type of food as being yummy, I probably just haven't eaten enough of it yet.

This is also why De gustibus non est disputandum is a thing. There's plenty of food that I don't like, but is worth celebrating because enough other people seem to like it. I can't stand sushi, but it seems like half the people I know love it, so it's obviously worth celebrating.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:49 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've not really ever gotten too far past the childlike "ewww alcohol taste is icky" stage.

I never tried. It never made sense to me. People tell me, "You have to develop a taste for it." Sure, or I could just sip this Coke that tasted immediately good when I was three years old and didn't require an acclimation process, and then I'll have some delightful water and enjoy my food's flavors and then drive home safely.

If we're going to plink at the food world's flaws, by the way, how about that one? Serving a tasting menu that is coupled with eight different glasses of wine ("half-pour" or not) and then offering to process the diner's valet ticket is no different and maybe qualitatively worse than football stadiums pumping their fans full of beer and then hiring the state police to direct traffic out of the parking lots and onto the highway.

in my experience as a journalist and sometimes food writer, the latter is not, unless we're talking about bloggers.

My girlfriend is a food blogger. She does it purely for fun. Her blog has no ads and she has no desire to profit from it. She has been "invited" to review restaurants several times. In some cases, she politely declined. The first time she accepted, she had been to the restaurant previously and she thought it would make for an interesting story to post.

The second time she accepted an invitation, it was also for a restaurant that she (and I) already knew, and in fact it was a restaurant she was already working on reviewing. By coincidence, the restaurant's publicity firm in New York reached out as she was simultaneously preparing the review. They offered lunch or dinner for two, and I was happy to go along because it's a good restaurant, and not cheap. Long story short, the restaurant staff hadn't been told anything about our visit and our lunch cost me eighty bucks. I'm looking forward to reading what she writes about that.
posted by cribcage at 8:50 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So to me, this always does sound kind of racist, because when someone says "I won't pay more than $1.50 for a taco," it sounds to me like the person is inadvertently saying "I don't think immigrants should earn a decent living" or "Their food is worth less."

I say this because I know places that make excellent tacos for exactly that price and are run by people who are actually from that area of the world, so why should I pay $8 to some white dude from Binghamton? If those excellent immigrant-run places want to charge me more I am certainly not going to complain. In this scenario I guess I am actually racist except it's towards the white dude from Binghamton.


Korean food has a lot less seafood (I'm not allergic, but I don't like it). Also, Mongolian probably doesn't, what with being landlocked.

Yeah, I was mostly talking about Malaysian and Vietnamese and whatnot. Mongolian food is pretty rad, as is Tibetan. Also I spent about 75% of my time in Chengdu eating everything I could get my hands on. The other 25% was spent screaming about baby pandas.
posted by elizardbits at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you're in Toronto and you haven't been to Pizza Pide yet, get there ASAP. You will thank me.

I live in Toronto, and I have had Pizza Pide and other Turkish pizza besides, and I stand by my sentiment that Turkish cuisine is "food other people do better" in that regard.
posted by mightygodking at 8:52 AM on January 4, 2013


I say this because I know places that make excellent tacos for exactly that price and are run by people who are actually from that area of the world, so why should I pay $8 to some white dude from Binghamton? If those excellent immigrant-run places want to charge me more I am certainly not going to complain. In this scenario I guess I am actually racist except it's towards the white dude from Binghamton.

Yeah, I think the opposition to $8 tacos is less "immigrants shouldn't get a living wage" and more "places that charge that much for tacos typically aren't owned by immigrants."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:53 AM on January 4, 2013


I have to weigh in on this cheap taco issue that keeps popping up. I don't think I'm one to put a maximum price limit on tacos, but I can see why I would, and I'd very much like to think it has nothing to do with race.
I've lived in NY for just shy of a decade, and have become quite accustomed to getting (to my palate) really fantastically good tacos out of a truck for $2-3. So, if I were to have a knee-jerk reaction and say that $10 is too much, it would be because I know for a fact I can get one I love for a 1/4-1/3 of that.
It has nothing to do with the staff, certainly very much to do with the low overhead (food-truck), more than a little to do with the ambience (super friendly cooks on the truck, utterly convenient location). It's the same reason I won't pay $10 for a slice of pizza; very similar in fact since I'll eat the same number of each.
By the same token, there is not much of a limit to what I would pay for good mole poblano.

I may be fixating too much on tacos, but I think that the same applies to dumplings [or insert another non-western "street food"] as well. As someone mentioned upthread, they are often venerated and inexpensive in outer-borough culturally-concentrated spots (I hate the term "ethnic"). Usually that means they are cheaper, which should very much have an impact on what consumers expect to pay for a similar product elsewhere.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 8:56 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


downing street memo, I see you live in DC. Have you been to w Domku? It's Polish/Scandinavian. I bet you'd be able to find some delicious-to-you aspect of Polish cuisine there.
posted by troika at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"tastes like hot nail polish remover, doesn't it?"

When you make liquor, you are supposed to throw out the "heads", the first drippings to run out of the still, because they contain methanol and ethyl acetate among other nasty tasting things. Rice Wine is brewed like beer and the heat in the process creates more ethyl acetate to form in the product than in typical grape wine vat fermenting.

Ethyl Acetate is also known as Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover.

The more you know!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:00 AM on January 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


If those excellent immigrant-run places want to charge me more I am certainly not going to complain.

You're in the minority. Most people will pay less for food if they can, and it only takes one middling immigrant-run place to charge $1.50 for a taco to drive the prices down for all the other authentic places that can afford to pay themselves nothing. Taco Bell didn't get big because of the quality.
posted by Etrigan at 9:00 AM on January 4, 2013


Have you been to w Domku? It's Polish/Scandinavian. I bet you'd be able to find some delicious-to-you aspect of Polish cuisine there.

Seconded!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:00 AM on January 4, 2013


In this scenario I guess I am actually racist except it's towards the white dude from Binghamton.
Being racist towards a white dude from Binghamton is still being racist.

Assuming that being from a country makes one particularly skillful in preparing the cuisine of that country is, likewise, racist.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:01 AM on January 4, 2013


Have you been to w Domku? It's Polish/Scandinavian. I bet you'd be able to find some delicious-to-you aspect of Polish cuisine there.

I don't know how good or authentic the Polish food at Domku is, but I do know that they will serve you a pancake with bacon cooked into it, solving the "I want to put syrup on this bacon, but not be judged for that choice" problem completely.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:02 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


When did H&H close?

WHAT

THE

FUCK

NYC?!!!!
posted by chara at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2013


Ok, looks like I am a racist towards a pretend person that I made up as a hypothetical example then. And if preferring to give my money to immigrants who skillfully prepare their native cuisines for a reasonable price rather than to other non-immigrants who do a less skillful job for 3x the cost is also racist, then I will accept that label again.
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2013


My Lithuanian friends (who share a similar cuisine style) tell me Domku is the real deal. Thus we've had to eat there with them if we ever want to go out with them*!

*Which is to say this is a good thing as they are fun and the food is good not to mention the millions of types of infused vodkas they serve there!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:07 AM on January 4, 2013


Being racist towards a white dude from Binghamton is still being racist.

If the contention was that thinking certain cuisines should be priced lower because of their regional/ethnic background is racist, but then it turns out that the only people charging more than that low price are not of that regional/ethnic background, I am not sure this is a thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:12 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Assuming that being from a country makes one particularly skillful in preparing the cuisine of that country is, likewise, racist.

That's not the assumption. The assumption is the reverse, that people not from the country are less likely to be able to prepare that country's cuisine skilfully. I'm also not sure any of it's racist, since there's an explanation for "Mexican dude makes better tacos than guy from Scranton" that isn't "Mexican people have racially predisposition to taco making."

Culture is a thing, you know.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:15 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ liz that white dude from Binghamton had a FAMILY
posted by Greg Nog at 9:22 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


> Protip: Don't buy wine at 7-Eleven.

Well of course not. They don't sell Mad Dog 20-20.
posted by jfuller at 9:25 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am dumbstruck by how an article written in the most cosmopolitan city of the world could possibly be so parochial.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:29 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


He gets a lot of things right, but there's definite button pushing going on with X IS RACIST and Y IS A FIRST-WORLD PROBLEM. This is so obviously bait to get reposted that the burden of proof is on him that it's anything else in addition to that. (I think there's merit to the first but the second is pure trolling. He hasn't given a moment's thought to it; it's just an easy cheap shot for page views. And if you're gonna lay the smack on somebody, play it safe and lay it on white people with money. Brave of him.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:36 AM on January 4, 2013


I was going to start a food blog too but I think posts of Instagramed bowls of cereal would get boring quickly.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:40 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't have a lot of disposable income right now, but let's just assume I've made a "White Dude from Binghamton" sock puppet and posted something witty to this thread.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:41 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


My food blog would be the Ironic Apathy Food Blog wherein I photograph my walk through all the delicious specialty stores and greenmarkets in my neighborhood and then go home and eat a lean cuisine pizza because I'm too exhausted to cook.
posted by elizardbits at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think their comments on the sustainable food movement are incredibly misguided and frankly pretty offensive. There is a huge amount of work being done in that arena by people and communities of color and to erase that is damn ignorant. For the most part, among people who actually do shit, food and class and poverty are recognized as being inextricably intertwined-- so I assume the authors don't really get out into the activist community much. Then again, an article entitled "20 FOOD THINGZ 2 MAKE U MAD!!" probably isn't engaging in good faith to begin with.
posted by threeants at 9:49 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


21) Truffle Oil tastes like ball sweat.

Either my tongue is too short or I'm not bendy enough in the middle. So as I'm the only male in the immediate vicinity at the moment I'll just take your word for it for now.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:49 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


then go home and eat a lean cuisine pizza because I'm too exhausted to cook

I have an awesome pairing to go with that! It's oak aged non-acetone nail polish remover strained through a fur sock! It's got hints of blueberry and marscapone with a distinct pruno finish!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:50 AM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love that right after getting sniffy about all wine tasting more or less the same, they then get their panties in a bunch about sushi restaurants using HAKE FOR HALIBUT. Yeah. IT TASTES THE FUCKING SAME.
posted by spicynuts at 9:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's not that you don't like kimchi, just that you don't like it yet.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:52 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]




I love that right after getting sniffy about all wine tasting more or less the same, they then get their panties in a bunch about sushi restaurants using HAKE FOR HALIBUT. Yeah. IT TASTES THE FUCKING SAME.
posted by spicynuts at 9:51 AM on January 4 [+] [!]


I know a lot of people that think all wine tastes the same. I encourage them to buy the cheapest wine on the shelf. I don't see why that would be an issue, if anything it should be a relief.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:53 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


NEW YORK BAGELS ARE TERRIBLE.

Bullshit. Manhattan bagels maybe, but go to the Bronx or the less-trendy parts of Brooklyn and there are still quality bagels to be had.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb: It's not that you don't like kimchi, just that you don't like it yet.

This is also how to describe Malört.
posted by troika at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you missed my point, Stagger Lee. I was pointing out the hypocrisy of using one line of reasoning for wine and another line of reasoning for fish.
posted by spicynuts at 9:57 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bullshit. Manhattan bagels maybe, but go to the Bronx or the less-trendy parts of Brooklyn and there are still quality bagels to be had.

Before I assume you know what you are talking about, tell me how old you are. If you are not at least 40, I'm calling bullshit on your bullshit. Cuz you have no frame of reference if you are under 40.
posted by spicynuts at 9:57 AM on January 4, 2013


It's not that you don't like kimchi, just that you don't like it yet.

Kimchi is usually made of cabbage. I haven't yet sampled kimchi to find out whether or not I like it, but you probably wouldn't want to be in the same room with me after that experiment, so I am content to remain in the "doesn't like it" category.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2013


Red and white wine aren't different types of grapes. White wine is made with red grapes too. They just leave the skins out. See white pinot noir and red chardonnay

There are both red and white wine grapes. Pinot Noir is a red grape. Chardonnay is a white grape. The red color in red wine comes from leaving the pressed juice in contact with the skins of red grapes. If you press wine from a red grape and remove the skins, you don't get the red color and can make things like white pinot or white merlot. That red chardonnay link of yours states that they also use red Chambourcin grapes to get the color.

"We picked the Chambourcin (grapes) and pressed it then we picked the Chardonnay (grapes) and pressed it and then put the Chambourcin juice on the Chardonnay skin to get the (red) color," Pack said. "Winemakers make white merlot (which is typically a red wine) by not leaving the juice on the skins. We just reverse that process to get the red Chardonnay."
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:02 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"All wine does taste similar . . ."

Sauternes vs Pinot; day and night. Seriously.
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 10:10 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not that you don't like kimchi, just that you don't like it yet.

I think that's a totally valid formulation that can be applied equally well to wine, sushi, liver, blood sausage, and Chicken McNuggets. You could probably be conditioned to enjoy anything, and thereafter genuinely enjoy it. But life is short and I have different priorities. On the bright side, more kimchi for you!

Speaking of which. Everybody in this thread should feel free to begin disliking haddock, lobster, and both tuna and mackerel sashimi. Sometimes I worry about supply and I could use lower prices. Also, please stop liking chocolate-frosted donuts because sometimes Dunkin' Donuts runs out.
posted by cribcage at 10:11 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's no way to celebrate food other than to eat it.

If this is what you think is meant by "celebrate a cuisine" then there is really no basis to further this fork of the conversation. To be clear, this is neither what I nor the authors meant by "celebrate a cuisine." Your thesis would suggest that we "celebrate the cuisine of McDonald's" by eating McNuggets.


As for Canada
- poutine - the most delicious junk food ever
- Tourtière
- Butter tarts
- blueberry grunt

and all that is just the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario.


Four things that are pretty good doesn't equal "cuisine worth celebrating." Which is the whole point they were making.
posted by slkinsey at 10:14 AM on January 4, 2013


It's not that you don't like kimchi, just that you don't like it yet.

Since I am not a small child, I have no reason to force myself to continue eating things that taste extremely unpleasant to me. Why should I waste my time and money repeatedly retrying an experience I have previously failed to enjoy? There are literally thousands of other things I can eat that I do enjoy instead. It harms no one.
posted by elizardbits at 10:18 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the Tex-Mex item: what is "a fajita," exactly? I've never heard this construction. A taco with fajita meat (skirt steak) in it? A platter of fajitas? I'm not trying to be facetious, but this baffles me. How does one have "a fajita"?
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:22 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not everyone likes everything. It is usually (but not always) possible to learn to appreciate and even enjoy just about everything. But if a person isn't motivated to try and it isn't harming their quality of life or nutrition, there's no reason to bother.

I thought it was interesting to read in a Harold McGee article a while back about people who hate cilantro because it tastes like soap to them. Turns out that there are some aromatic compounds in cilantro that are the same as some aromatic compounds in soap. Some people who are exposed to these compounds only in soap at some formative stage of life and "imprint" those aromatic compounds as "part of soap" and not as "part of soap and also part of food and also potentially part of other things" therefore find cilantro "soapy tasting" and unpleasant. This is the sort of thing that should be possible to change though conditioning and applied will, if one was interested.
posted by slkinsey at 10:25 AM on January 4, 2013


efore I assume you know what you are talking about, tell me how old you are. If you are not at least 40, I'm calling bullshit on your bullshit. Cuz you have no frame of reference if you are under 40.
posted by spicynuts at 12:57 PM on January 4 [+] [!]

I'm 41, and a native of the Bronx.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:25 AM on January 4, 2013


In a lot of places, "a fajita" has come to mean "a taco you put together yourself out of sliced meats or similar foodstuffs," as opposed to a taco that the cook puts together, which is generally more ground or finely shredded meats or similar foodstuffs. I've also seen it used on a menu in a way that clearly meant "soft taco," but that was a proudly gringo place.
posted by Etrigan at 10:26 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the sort of thing that should be possible to change though conditioning and applied will, if one was interested.

Speaking of imprinting on strong flavors (and finding others horribly repellent), someone posted a Slate article a couple years back about trying to introduce Chinese stinky-tofu-connoisseurs to cheese.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:31 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm glad "Molecular Gastronomy" was called out here: it has the lamest marketspeak buzzword since "Blast Processing" for a name, and the whole thing is food made for and by people who would turn their nose up at Kool-Aid and Cheddar Bacon Doritos, using the very same chemicals to make fake Gin and Tonics and chicken "inspirations" for 50 times the price.

"Molecular Gastronomy can take a hike as far as I'm concerned."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:32 AM on January 4, 2013





I think you missed my point, Stagger Lee. I was pointing out the hypocrisy of using one line of reasoning for wine and another line of reasoning for fish.
posted by spicynuts at 9:57 AM on January 4 [+] [!]


Yeah, it's some anti-elitist call out. The way you've summarized it, (And I think you're right) he's claiming that the difference between flavours is largely undetectable without proper labeling. Obviously that's not entirely fair or true.

If I can't tell the difference between two wines or two types of fish I will always buy the cheapest. If someone else claims to prefer the more expensive one, I will gladly let them make that choice themselves.

The take away from this shit should be that tastes differ, and that we shouldn't judge others for spending too much or too little. Instead, the author seems to be making the case that people who enjoy nice things are hypocrites and not really enjoying themselves half as much as they think.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:33 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the Tex-Mex item: what is "a fajita," exactly?

Tacos al Carbon with refritos instead of pintos that you have to roll yourself.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:35 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


WRT telling the difference between different sushi fishes: it has been suggested many times that there is a very, very small number of people who really can appreciate the fine qualities and subtle differences that differentiate $1,000 sushi from $200 sushi. This means that that the vast majority are effectively throwing away that extra 800 bucks. Of course, the number of people who think they belong in that elite group is probably at least 100 times larger than the number of people who really belong there. If this weren't true, the places selling $1,000 sushi couldn't stay in business. There are larger groups but similar ratios at work for those who can appreciate the difference between $200 sushi and $50 sushi. Same goes for wines, and many other things.
posted by slkinsey at 10:42 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I spent about 75% of my time in Chengdu eating everything I could get my hands on. The other 25% was spent screaming about baby pandas. The other 25% was spent screaming about baby pandas.

I just want to make clear that I favorited the comment for the bold part, because baby pandas rock my world, though ABSOLUTELY NOT in a food context.
posted by fatehunter at 10:43 AM on January 4, 2013


You do realize the screaming was because of how delicious the baby pandas were, right?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:45 AM on January 4, 2013 [8 favorites]



WRT telling the difference between different sushi fishes: it has been suggested many times that there is a very, very small number of people who really can appreciate the fine qualities and subtle differences that differentiate $1,000 sushi from $200 sushi. This means that that the vast majority are effectively throwing away that extra 800 bucks. Of course, the number of people who think they belong in that elite group is probably at least 100 times larger than the number of people who really belong there. If this weren't true, the places selling $1,000 sushi couldn't stay in business. There are larger groups but similar ratios at work for those who can appreciate the difference between $200 sushi and $50 sushi. Same goes for wines, and many other things.
posted by slkinsey at 10:42 AM on January 4 [+] [!]


Agreed. I don't see this as a problem at all.
I think that we should avoid assuming that someone can or can not tell the difference though. (Especially if we base our assumption on class, race, etc.)

The mislabeled fish thing isn't really about worrying that the wealthy are getting ripped off anyway, it's that we don't really want someone dicing up critically endangered fish and turning them into fish sticks. There are a lot of reasons that this stuff is regulated.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:48 AM on January 4, 2013


The 10th Regiment of Foot: You do realize the screaming was because of how delicious the baby pandas were, right?

Well, not exactly. You have to scream at them real loud to stun them so you can pop 'em in your mouth, otherwise they are too wriggly to eat.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Korean food is awesome. Bulgogi and kalbi. All those little cold dishes (namul). Bibimbap. Bokumbap, heavy on the sesame oil.
I've never been to Korea so my opinion here could be worthless, I live in a city with several concentrated pockets of Korean businesses, and I love the restaurants.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:55 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


This means that that the vast majority are effectively throwing away that extra 800 bucks.

I would think many of the people who experience $1,000 sushi are doing it as a once- or maybe twice-in-a-lifetime experience. And in exchange for that extra $800, they purchase the experience of having tried $1,000 sushi as well as the opportunity to discover whether they can appreciate it. That seems like a reasonable trade. In fact, I think it's kinda neat.

I would add separately, it's my understanding that research has solidly established that perception is affected by external factors. Paint more and brighter yellow on a can of Sprite, and tasters will detect stronger lemon flavor. Et cetera. I'm no expert but it's my understanding that this is not controversial, but rather pretty well settled. In which case, it seems feasible that somebody paying $1,000 for sushi will indeed experience that meal very differently from the $200 sushi that he ate last week.

...irrespective of what happen under a blindfold. Because while blindfold tests are interesting and fun, that's not actually how most people eat.
posted by cribcage at 10:59 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Truffle oil is one of those things like cilantro that some people can't taste properly. I am among them, though calling it "ball sweat" (a taste with which I am familiar as a gentleman-loving lady) is awfully kind.

The thing that makes me and this person sick in truffle oil, though, isn't the truffle (if any) but the 2,4-dithiapenthane. Which to many people tastes like a truffle, but to me tastes like some horrific world-ending toxic rain. Ball sweat? Maybe Cthulhu's ball sweat.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that we should avoid assuming that someone can or can not tell the difference though. (Especially if we base our assumption on class, race, etc.)

The thing about this is that being able to tell the difference between things depends on several variables.

One variable is how intrinsically easy it is to tell the difference. It is, for example, a lot easier to tell the difference between $200/ounce fish eggs and $50/ounce fish eggs than it is to tell the difference between a $200 bottle of champagne and a $50 bottle of champagne.

Another variable, and one that tells the tale when it comes to the "less intrinsically easy to tell the difference" food items is education and experience. This is where things such as socioeconomics can often legitimately come into play. It's not the case that some people were genetically endowed with tasting abilities that enable them to tell the difference between a $5 piece of sushi and a $40 piece of sushi. That is a skill that is gained through the application of education and knowledge, much of which is gained by eating $40 pieces of sushi. This is not to say that someone who has eaten lots of $40 sushi can necessarily tell the difference, but it is to say that someone who has never eaten a $40 piece of sushi most certainly cannot.
posted by slkinsey at 10:59 AM on January 4, 2013


I would think many of the people who experience $1,000 sushi are doing it as a once- or maybe twice-in-a-lifetime experience.

You might think that, but you would be incorrect. As astounding as it may be to the rest of us, there are plenty enough people in the world who think little about dropping $1,000 on dinner. And these are the people who keep the high star, ultra-expensive restaurants afloat.

If you look at the menu of almost any super-expensive restaurant, you might be surprised to see things like a simple steak on the menu along with some of the more "fancied up" preparations with a high "wow factor." This is because there is a class of person who regularly dines at these restaurants, and who might not always want the "salmon sixty-seven ways" or whatever it is. So they have to have simpler preparations to serve this clientele. This is actually a big problem for people who save up money for that "once in a lifetime" experience at a top haute cuisine restaurant, because if they are inexperienced at dining on this level and they order they wrong things, they may end up choosing the dishes without much "wow factor" and are likely to go away disappointed. That simple steak will be expertly prepared and delicious. But it's unlikely to be a "once in a lifetime" experience. That's because it's on the menu to serve people for whom dining at that restaurant is a quotidian experience.
posted by slkinsey at 11:05 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've eaten salmon straight from the god damn Puget Sound. Meaning I caught it, filleted it, had it on ice within 5 minutes, then sliced it into sushi. I could sure as hell tell the difference between that and the 5 dollar roll I get at Whole Foods and even the stuff I get at expensive places in Manhattan. But it's not an 800 dollar TASTE difference. It is, however, an 800 dollar ACCESS difference. In order to get that quality of salmon sushi, I would need to own waterfront property and have the leisure time to stand out there with the right equipment and get a salmon. So for the most part that's where the 800 bucks goes - it's for the network of catch and distribution within the minimal amount of time between water and plate.
posted by spicynuts at 11:06 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Re: Turkish food. Iskender Kebap.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some reason I'm reminded of the plot of the film The Freshman - Matthew Broderick gets caught up with a mafia-run "exotic supper club," where guests paid exorbitant amounts of money to eat a meal prepared from an endangered animal. He spends most of the movie trying to rescue a Komodo dragon from this fate, and fails - or so he thinks.

When he gets back to the kitchen, he finds that the chefs are actually making something out of smoked turkey and grouper mixed together, because "how the hell would the guests know the difference". As for the dragon, it's safely on its way to the exotic animal zoo the mafia don will be opening in a year or so.

But there are people who are willing to spend money on something perceived to be rare - but unless they've been exposed to it before, how would they know?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:15 AM on January 4, 2013


I couldn't imagine anyone opening a Canadian restaurant, so in that sense the food is not worth celebrating.
I mean we do have our own handful of unique dishes, but then so does any major eastern US city.
Also, Montreal has the best bagels.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:20 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tibetan: look, everybody else thought of dumplings too, calling them "momos" is cute but it hardly elevates the little fuckers to anything special

excuse me but thanthuk and tsampa
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:21 AM on January 4, 2013


excuse me but thanthuk and tsampa

I'm sorry, but yak butter tea is an indefensible crime against humanity.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:23 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, I love how MeFi food threads veer from shit-flinging to celebration to conciliation to shit-flinging again.

It's like family holiday dinners ALL THE TIME!
posted by Kitteh at 11:24 AM on January 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have never had yak butter tea, but I remember Michael Palin in one of his travelogues saying "It's better if you think of it as soup. Thin, salty, Roquefort soup."
posted by KathrynT at 11:26 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, but yak butter tea is an indefensible crime against humanity.

what because it's so amazing and not everyone gets to try it
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2013


what because it's so amazing and not everyone gets to try it

Yeah, definitely, that's what I mean. /yakburger!

It tastes like you distilled the lovely scent of the yak (and let me tell you, that is definitely an apropriately named animal!) then strained it through a sweat sock into a vat of rancid butter, left it in the sun for a few days more, then skimmed off the liquid.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:32 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


As astounding as it may be to the rest of us

I don't find it astounding. But then, I've dined at the French Laundry and Masa and any number of other such restaurants. It's a hobby that I quite enjoy and I don't think of it, personally, as being remarkably different from the habits of a family friend who has spent untold thousands of dollars turning his entire basement into model-train heaven. (And his basement is awesome.)

It might be astounding to someone else that such people exist, sure. It may also be astounding to discover that there are people who would laugh at the lot of us having a conversation about $1,000 sushi versus $200 sushi, because they don't/can't conceive of paying anywhere close to $200 for a meal and certainly not for raw fish. And it may be astounding to learn that in between, there are any number of people who watch Food Network or Hell's Kitchen or Top Chef and dream idly about trying these restaurants but never do, for various reasons, until they turn sixty and their kid treats them to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

there are people who are willing to spend money on something perceived to be rare

Sure, and that's where mislabeling fish becomes a real and malicious problem. I don't care if a diner at Blue Ginger is some country bumpkin who can't distinguish between butterfish and sablefish. That's totally irrelevant. He has every right, when he walks into that restaurant, to expect that he'll be able to say, "I may not be able to identify a butterfish, but I tasted it once in my life."
posted by cribcage at 11:32 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Michael Palin in one of his travelogues saying "It's better if you think of it as soup. Thin, salty, Roquefort soup."

Slight derail, but some of the Palin travelogues (including Himalaya, the source of this quote) have returned to Netflix Instant as of January 1.
posted by troika at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


It tastes like you distilled the lovely scent of the yak (and let me tell you, that is definitely an apropriately named animal!) then strained it through a sweat sock into a vat of rancid butter, left it in the sun for a few days more, then skimmed off the liquid.

To each their own. I genuinely like yak butter tea, although yes, half of your first cup might be a struggle. I disagree strongly with the word 'rancid'. None of my yak butter tea ever tasted unpleasant in the way you're describing, it was just maybe too salty when I first drank it. Maybe you had a bad batch of tea. Maybe my taste buds are off. But I've drank enough of it to know that I like it.

I'm a big fan of yak products in general, especially dairy. If you haven't had a yak cheese pizza in Leh then you should. Yak cheese on its own is lovely and mild. Yak butter does have a distinctly earthy smell to it, but again, I don't think I could ever go with a word like rancid or comparing it to sweat socks. I went through a lot of trouble to get some yak butter back to the US so that I could regularly make tsampa with it. It's still delicious.

There are good Tibetan foods. I haven't had any in the US but they exist.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2013


"It's better if you think of it as soup. Thin, salty, Roquefort soup."

Oh I am SO trying that line.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:55 AM on January 4, 2013


Only white yuppies care about sustainability? Ancient Mesopotamians didn't rotate their crops? There's not a long, rich (and bloody) history of resistance to the forced expropriation of land and the imposition of industrial agriculture on furious peasants all over the damn world? Cesar Chavez didn't go on a hunger strike re: pesticides on grapes? This dude can't tell the difference between a Blancs de Blancs prestige and a Lambrusco? I swear there's ignorant people all over the internet.
posted by jcrcarter at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2013


I went through a lot of trouble to get some yak butter back to the US

On a related funny note, I travelled one time up through Yunnan into SE Tibet with a friend who's husband is an ethnic Tibetan immigrant to the US. Before she left to return we found a box of powdered yak butter in a grocery store. She bought some for her husband thinking, like you, he'd want to use it to make tsampa with. She reported that upon her return her husband's exact reaction was, "what do I want with this?" Turns out even he didn't like yak butter!

To be fair it is very fortifying in the thin air and at least it's not as bad as the cheese!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:04 PM on January 4, 2013


ALL WINE MOSTLY TASTES THE SAME.

What? No notes of petroleum and bubblegum overtones to help us differentiate? On a related note, I like to go to my local hipster coffee house that does the weekly cuppings, get a seat near the chalkboard and offer suggestions for the flavors we're supposed to be detecting. I started off ingenuously enough, offer suggestions such as "rounded", "tinny", "harmoniously acrid", and as time has passed I've tried to work in more and more completely implausible descriptors such as "convex", "rhomboidal" or "analytic". Sometimes it works, sometimes doesn't. Usually, the barrista refuses to let me pick up chalk when the cupping begins.
posted by Wash Jones at 12:04 PM on January 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Tex-Mex is better than Mexican food? What region of Mexican food are you talking about, gringo? This is like saying that Chinese food is superior to American food. What region of China? What region of America? Truly a pointless comparison and presented only as trollbait.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:13 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've eaten salmon straight from the god damn Puget Sound. Meaning I caught it, filleted it, had it on ice within 5 minutes, then sliced it into sushi. I could sure as hell tell the difference between that and the 5 dollar roll I get at Whole Foods and even the stuff I get at expensive places in Manhattan. But it's not an 800 dollar TASTE difference. It is, however, an 800 dollar ACCESS difference. In order to get that quality of salmon sushi, I would need to own waterfront property and have the leisure time to stand out there with the right equipment and get a salmon.

This assumes that your salmon straight from the god damn Puget Sound, filleted and iced within 5 minutes, then consumed shortly thereafter represents top quality fish for sushi. Which it does not. Salmon already is not a traditional sushi fish, although I suppose that's neither here nor there. But to the extent salmon is used in top quality sushi it is likely to be killed and bled using the ike jime method, then carefully aged, etc. So I wouldn't say your salmon was representative of a $1,000 sushi experience no matter how much you liked it.

I'm sure you had no trouble telling the different between your god damn Puget Sound salmon and a $5 Whole Foods salmon roll. Whether you could tell the difference between your salmon sushi and the sort of salmon sushi you could get as part of a $200 experience... maybe not so well. Maybe you would prefer the other salmon sushi. Indeed, given the other things that go into making great sushi (rice being highly important) my money would be on the $200-level salmon sushi coming out the winner in a blinded test.
posted by slkinsey at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2013


otherwise they are too wriggly to eat

Literally all they do all day is lie around looking pudgy. Sometimes they even manage to fall over while lying down.

Also yak butter tea is the kind of thing that is only acceptable when it is like 20 below and you're sitting in a ger watching weird variety shows via satellite teevees after a long bright blue sunny winter's day chasing after baby yaks.
posted by elizardbits at 12:18 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ancient Mesopotamians didn't rotate their crops?

Um...
posted by slkinsey at 12:19 PM on January 4, 2013


And it is definitely better than airag.
posted by elizardbits at 12:19 PM on January 4, 2013


The question is whether you can tell the difference between airag made from the milk of different breeds of horse.
posted by slkinsey at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2013


No but I did learn to tell the difference between horse poops and reindeer poops.
posted by elizardbits at 12:25 PM on January 4, 2013


VISUALLY
posted by elizardbits at 12:26 PM on January 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think the $8 taco guy is a bit of a strawman, both because I've heard people complain about the price of immigrant-run places plenty, and because I don't think $8 taco guy is typically directly competing with $1.50 taco guy. He's competing with $8 panini guy and $8 artisan soup lady.
posted by retrograde at 12:26 PM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's because they have all the regional cuisine. Out west we just throw fast food wrappers out of our idling trucks.

Naw, I'm sure there's great food there, but being an Easterner I just don't know what it is.

Four things that are pretty good doesn't equal "cuisine worth celebrating." Which is the whole point they were making.

I could happily live off those four things (and the blueberry grunt will save me from scurvy). of course, that's not the whole of Canadian cuisine. It's not as easily stereotyped as Asian cuisine, because it's very diverse (reflecting aboriginal, French, British, and more recent immigrant origins) and the Anglo-bits can be very similar to American and British cuisine -- but that doesn't make it any less celebratable. Quebec itself has a very unique cuisine -- and I'd rather go to a Quebecois food restaurant than an Italian one because that will be more interesting to me.
posted by jb at 12:32 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not that Asian food isn't diverse -- but I think that when you're embedded in something, it's harder to see than when it's farther away.
posted by jb at 12:33 PM on January 4, 2013


Love the wine comment.
posted by freakazoid at 12:36 PM on January 4, 2013


I couldn't imagine anyone opening a Canadian restaurant, so in that sense the food is not worth celebrating.

Funny enough, they don't have a lot of places labelled as "Chinese take-out" in Beijing either.

Also, I've been to Quebecois-food restaurants, they've just opened up a First Nations food restaurant in Toronto, I would love to go to a Nova Scotian/Newfoundland Restaurant (mmm, fried cod-tongue!) and every steakhouse is essentially an Albertan restaurant.

And yes, in Toronto you will see places labelled as "Chinese and Canadian food" or "Indian and Canadian food".
posted by jb at 12:37 PM on January 4, 2013


the Anglo-bits can be very similar to American and British cuisine

I'm not sure what truly "American" cuisine really would be other than a melange of aboriginal and immigrant styles and tastes either!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:37 PM on January 4, 2013


I'm not sure what truly "American" cuisine really would be

It's the crumbled potato chip topping on your tuna casserole.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:48 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Thank those of you who answered my fajita query. This native Texan has never heard it used that way, ever. Bizarre. I'll think of y'all next time I have fajitas.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:52 PM on January 4, 2013


Tex-Mex is often better than authentic Mexican.

Tex-Mex is as comparable to authentic Mexican food as Frankenstein is to a healthy human being. It's pretty much become it's own monster, quite sui generis. People are entitled, as with anything else, to eat it and enjoy it, I just wish they'd stop comparing it to Mexican.

Using beans, tortillas and whatever they want to label as salsa doesn't make the food any more Mexican than me using teriyaki sauce makes my food Japanese.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:52 PM on January 4, 2013


It's the crumbled potato chip topping on your tuna casserole.

So a south american native tuber cooked in an African style then crumbled over a tropical fish baked in a French method?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:54 PM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


>>Four things that are pretty good doesn't equal "cuisine worth celebrating." Which is the whole point they were making.

I could happily live off those four things (and the blueberry grunt will save me from scurvy).


Here's part of what goes into whether a cuisine might be "worth celebrating" as a kind of example...

Poutine : Fundamentally french fries with gravy on them (not exactly original or distinctive) with some fresh cheese curds added. Delicious, but not exactly distinctive.

Tourtière : Meat pie. Nothing particularly distinctive and "Canadian" about it, other than the name used in parts of Canada.

Butter Tarts : Thin custard and stuff in a pastry shell. I'd have to be convinced about what makes this distinctively "Canadian" other than the shared name and popularity in Canada.

Blueberry Grunt : Not Canadian (probably originating in New England), with identical examples found all up and down the East Coast under the same or different names.

There might be a viable argument made for "celebrating Québécois cuisine," for example, but this sort of thing isn't it. One would have to show at least that (a) there is something distinctively different about Québécois cuisine, and (b) that the results of the distinctive Québécois approach are particularly delicious.

More to the point, really, is that "celebrating the cuisine" of a place doesn't necessarily mean making a restaurant that features its four or five most well known dishes, but rather showcasing its unique and uniquely estimable culinary heritage and traditions and how these things have been and can be expressed in hundreds of delicious and distinctive ways. Beef on Weck isn't enough to merit a celebration of the cuisine of Western New York. A restaurant could "celebrate Italian cuisine" without necessarily reproducing a single iconic Italian dish (one could argue that a restaurant like Babbo in NYC does exactly this).
posted by slkinsey at 12:55 PM on January 4, 2013


I don't want to continue this Canada derail too far, butter tarts are not "thin custard and stuff". The filling is more like the stuff in a pecan pie, but lighter, and with a few raisins instead of the top layer of pecans.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:01 PM on January 4, 2013


Poutine : Fundamentally french fries with gravy on them (not exactly original or distinctive) with some fresh cheese curds added. Delicious, but not exactly distinctive.

"Powered flight : Fundamentally the same thing that birds do."

"The Internet : Fundamentally a cocktail party."

"All food ever : Fundamentally just stuff pulled out of the ground or killed on the run (not exactly original or distinctive), maybe burned a little (fire, how pre-AD) with some other stuff added."
posted by Etrigan at 1:06 PM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


The filling is more like the stuff in a pecan pie, but lighter, and with a few raisins instead of the top layer of pecans.

You mean Chess Pie (or the tart version, Vinegar Pie)?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:06 PM on January 4, 2013


America and Canada are both huge, diverse places. Think regional instead of national and it'll be much easier to come up with restaurants that are iconic and typify the place.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:08 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Blueberry Grunt : Not Canadian (probably originating in New England)

Probably. But that's like the pavlova - did it come from New Zealand or Australia? Both countries claim it. Because Australians claim it doesn't make it less Kiwi, and because Kiwis claim it doesn't make it less Australian. If it's a Canadian dish, it's a Canadian dish. And I'm positive more people would associate a Blueberry Grunt with Canada over anywhere "up and down the east coast."
posted by troika at 1:15 PM on January 4, 2013


Not like Chess Pie. No corn meal, not what appears to be an eggier yellower custard. It's browner and gooey like pecan pie, but airier.
I think the reason it comes up often as uniquely Canadian is that it is actually not the same as other pies/tarts. It won't blow your mind, and it's not some stellar pastry tragically missing from American bakeries. It's pretty good though.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:15 PM on January 4, 2013


>>Poutine : Fundamentally french fries with gravy on them (not exactly original or distinctive) with some fresh cheese curds added. Delicious, but not exactly distinctive.

"Powered flight : Fundamentally the same thing that birds do."


I think it's more like saying, "Airbus A330 : fundamentally in the same category as the Boeing 777" or "Barn Swallow : fundamentally a kind of swallow"
posted by slkinsey at 1:18 PM on January 4, 2013


More to the point, really, is that "celebrating the cuisine" of a place doesn't necessarily mean making a restaurant that features its four or five most well known dishes, but rather showcasing its unique and uniquely estimable culinary heritage and traditions and how these things have been and can be expressed in hundreds of delicious and distinctive ways.

Then you've created a definition of "celebrate" that is more or less explicitly means "worth reproducing in a fancy restaurant." There also seems to be some requirement that the food be "unique" which seems basically impossible, given that the building blocks of most cuisines show significant overlap. If your belief is "some cuisines aren't worth charging hundreds of dollars for" then fine; no one's going to make you pay hundreds of dollars for Canadian food, and maybe you can stop with the pronouncements about how lackluster you find it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:21 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every place in the world that has wheat, fats and meat has a meat pie; they are not all the same and Tortiere is unlike any other that I've ever had. And I'm a serious meat pie fanatic. It's as different from hamburger pie (the Anglo-Canadian version) as a Scotch Meat Pie is from a Pork Pie (same outside, different meat, different flavouring).

America and Canada are both huge, diverse places. Think regional instead of national and it'll be much easier to come up with restaurants that are iconic and typify the place.

Which is also true for China, or even smaller places like France or Italy. We only talk about "Chinese", "French" and "Italian" cuisine because we are outside of those places and our distance makes the differences smear. Or we take the food of just one region and generalize it to the whole.

People overseas have very strong ideas about what "American" food is -- Americans might not recognize it, but they have "American" restaurants. (They don't have Canadian restaurants for the same reason that there are few Dutch or Danish restaurants -- big neighbours cast big shadows).

Also -- one day they will have an Iron Chef British. My SO and I already know how the narration will go: "Fukui-san, Iron Chef British is...yes, he's chosen boiling! He will serve boiled beef on boiled potatoes with boiled carrots!"
posted by jb at 1:25 PM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Butter tarts aren't anything like Chess Pie. They are a butter-brown sugar flavoured tart (with a clear filling - runny or solid, as per your preference), most similar to pecan tarts without the pecans.

What I want to know is why the expression isn't "As American as pecan pie" or "As American as sweet-potato/pumpkin pie" given that all three of those really are uniquely American, while apple pie is European.
posted by jb at 1:29 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then you've created a definition of "celebrate" that is more or less explicitly means "worth reproducing in a fancy restaurant."

Guess what? When the authors say, "not ever cuisine is worth celebrating" they mean something along the lines of " it's not worth making a big deal about and/or opening a fancy restaurant featuring the food of every cuisine" with the implication being that some of them aren't all that great or interesting. If your definition of "celebrate" when applied to cuisine means "occasionally eat the food of", well then of course every cuisine is worth celebrating. But this is clearly not what was being suggested.
posted by slkinsey at 1:53 PM on January 4, 2013


I think the whole "cuisines worth celebrating" is a derail as well, as there seem to be two camps here:

1. The camp which holds that "celebrating" means "enjoying" at any level, and

2. The camp which holds that "celebrating" means "acknowledging this is a cuisine big enough to have made some kind of impact on the global food scene overall in the way that Italian or French cuisine have".

And I think if you pick any cuisine in the entire world, INCLUDING Italian or French, you're going to have a difference of opinion as to whether it belongs in camp 2, but just about everyone thinks that given cuisine belongs in camp 1.

Since camp 1 is more inclusive, I propose that we agree on using the camp 1 definition, because all food is beloved of someone somewhere in the world, and someone grew up eating it and was made happy by it, so yay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


FOOD FIGHT!
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:55 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]



Which is also true for China, or even smaller places like France or Italy. We only talk about "Chinese", "French" and "Italian" cuisine because we are outside of those places and our distance makes the differences smear. Or we take the food of just one region and generalize it to the whole.


Agreed entirely. I was going to go that far, but figured I might be muddying the waters.


It gets even more interesting when you get into things like American Italian food, which is very clearly distinct from actual Italian food. Iconic foods like American style pizza or Spaghetti and meat balls snatch flavors and techniques from all different regions and combine them into a single dish, not to mention adding some of their own.

We only think that Italian food is a homogenous thing because we're generalizing and not really worrying about the regional distinctions that make the food what it is.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2013


slkinsey you are probably god damn right.
posted by spicynuts at 1:58 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]



I think the whole "cuisines worth celebrating" is a derail as well, as there seem to be two camps here:

1. The camp which holds that "celebrating" means "enjoying" at any level, and

2. The camp which holds that "celebrating" means "acknowledging this is a cuisine big enough to have made some kind of impact on the global food scene overall in the way that Italian or French cuisine have".

And I think if you pick any cuisine in the entire world, INCLUDING Italian or French, you're going to have a difference of opinion as to whether it belongs in camp 2, but just about everyone thinks that given cuisine belongs in camp 1.

Since camp 1 is more inclusive, I propose that we agree on using the camp 1 definition, because all food is beloved of someone somewhere in the world, and someone grew up eating it and was made happy by it, so yay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on January 4 [+] [!]


A lot of the excitement around Noma was because of the way it challenged conceptions about which of those categories it belonged in.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2013


Guess what? When the authors say, "not ever cuisine is worth celebrating" they mean something along the lines of " it's not worth making a big deal about and/or opening a fancy restaurant featuring the food of every cuisine" with the implication being that some of them aren't all that great or interesting. If your definition of "celebrate" when applied to cuisine means "occasionally eat the food of", well then of course every cuisine is worth celebrating. But this is clearly not what was being suggested.

Here you're setting up an insanely false dichotomy. For every given cuisine, there are plenty of people who 1) eat it more than occasionally and eat it with relish and deep appreciation and love and 2) don't eat at fancy restaurants. Those people are 100% celebrating their food, in the actual real world sense of that term. The fact that the authors (and you) don't like those cuisines is fine, but there are people who do, and to elevate what you're eating to "celebration" while denigrating what they're doing smacks of racism, classism, and pretension.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:05 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


It gets even more interesting when you get into things like American Italian food, which is very clearly distinct from actual Italian food. Iconic foods like American style pizza or Spaghetti and meat balls snatch flavors and techniques from all different regions and combine them into a single dish, not to mention adding some of their own.

Something that blew my mind is that Canadian Chinese food is apparently somewhat distinct from American Chinese food, just by the collection of tiny distortions created by different immigrants serving different populations in different environments.
posted by Copronymus at 2:06 PM on January 4, 2013


Something that blew my mind is that Canadian Chinese food is apparently somewhat distinct from American Chinese food, just by the collection of tiny distortions created by different immigrants serving different populations in different environments.

I discovered this oddity when on the Montreal Chowhound board and someone asked where to get the best Canadian-Chinese food was? I was like, "Huh? Wuzzat?"
posted by Kitteh at 2:11 PM on January 4, 2013


As others have said in this thread. Have some balls. Name a country, please.

I'm game: Dutch cuisine. Threat or menace and does it actually exist, or is it just bog standard northern European fare little different from that found over the border in Belgium or Germany?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:11 PM on January 4, 2013



He means "seaweed salad," not "struggle salad," right?

"Astragalus salad" maybe? Via autocorrect?
posted by jamjam at 2:11 PM on January 4, 2013


The fact that the authors (and you) don't like those cuisines is fine, but there are people who do, and to elevate what you're eating to "celebration" while denigrating what they're doing smacks of racism, classism, and pretension.

Your argument smacks of being deliberately obtuse to the authors' point. But hey, at least you're not pretentious, classist and racist. So you have that going for you.
posted by slkinsey at 2:22 PM on January 4, 2013


I was hoping "struggle salad" was just a colorful term for that terrible wilty iceberg lettuce with a few scraps of carrots thrown in with some sort of meh sesame gingerish dressing. Like, it's struggling to even be a salad.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:24 PM on January 4, 2013


I think the authors make their point on "celebrating" pretty clearly:
Some of those cuisines have been ignored by old-school foodies for a reason. Not every region has the proper environment for raising delicious animals or producing tasty vegetables, let alone the luxury of creatively preparing the meager fruits of the local land. Yes, food is always a lens into other cultures—the way people prepare and produce is integral to shared value systems. Celebrate that idea. Don't bother telling us that everyone's food is worth trying though. We’d rather eat something delicious than be politically correct.
posted by slkinsey at 2:29 PM on January 4, 2013


Dutch pannekoek places exist here. It's good stuff. I even like stroop.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:31 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every place in the world that has wheat, fats and meat has a meat pie; they are not all the same and Tortiere is unlike any other that I've ever had. And I'm a serious meat pie fanatic. It's as different from hamburger pie (the Anglo-Canadian version) as a Scotch Meat Pie is from a Pork Pie (same outside, different meat, different flavouring).

From one meat pie fan to another . . . if you ever have the chance, try the Natchitoches Meat Pies made fresh from scratch at Lasyone's in Natchitoches, Louisiana. They are pure heaven.
posted by Annabelle74 at 2:48 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some times I like to brag
Sometimes I'm soft spoken
and when i'm holland i eat the pannekoeken
I got the spice
you bring the sauce
AND YOU CAN KISS MY ASS YOU PRETENTIOUS CLASSIST RACIST FUNKY BOSS
posted by spicynuts at 2:59 PM on January 4, 2013


Many years ago I had a step-father from Texas who taught my mum to cook Tex-Mex (he was also part Native American, that may be irrelevant but may also have something to do with the way he cooked it). My siblings and I grew up on home made Tex-Mex and all of us learned how to cook it. Home made Tex-Mex is quite different from what you get in a restaurant (although that isn't all that bad depending on the restaurant).

Living in Canada has made it difficult to find a decent restaurant and to purchase the right ingredients for home made Tex-Mex. But then it has introduced me to Poutine and butter tarts.
posted by deborah at 3:23 PM on January 4, 2013


I'm game: Dutch cuisine. Threat or menace and does it actually exist, or is it just bog standard northern European fare little different from that found over the border in Belgium or Germany?

Good cheese. Mayonnaise on French Fries is a brilliant - twisted, but still brilliant - idea.

But, of course, there will be overlap between neighbouring countries. Dutch food influences and is influenced by British and German and northern French and Belgian food, and there will be a lot of similarities. After all, they are all very close together. Maybe the true equivalent of a "Japanese" (which is my city is often as Korean as it is Japanese) or "Chinese" restaurant would be a "North-West European" restaurant.

That said, a British restaurant opened up near us. I really want to go, but it's kind of expensive and (unlike Indian or Ethiopian) I do know how to make almost everything they serve - except the Yorkshire puddings, which scare me.
posted by jb at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2013


a) Where there hell is this $1000 sushi? The most expensive place in LA is more like $400-600/head

b) This was a lot of discussion of Korean food without a single mention of Soondubu, which I consider an indication of great failure.
posted by flaterik at 3:49 PM on January 4, 2013


The other 25% was spent screaming about baby pandas.

You were hoodwinked. The giant pandas in Chengdu are spoiled and lazy compared to the hardworking red pandas. I can accept different tastes in food, but not in pandas.

And lots of talk of Chinese food, but I haven't seen mention of Uighur food. Maybe it is a bit of food nostalgia, but the kabobs, flatbread, and noodles were tasty and something unique.
posted by FJT at 4:25 PM on January 4, 2013


Wine, for me, is like Opera. It's ok in small amounts, but I'd rather have something else most of the time.

I can tell the difference between Merlot, Pinot noir, Bordeaux, Riesling, etc. I can also taste the difference between a $10.00 bottle of wine and a $50.00 bottle of the same kind. The thing I can't do is tell which one is better.

I'm more of a beer/bourbon/scotch guy anyway.
posted by freakazoid at 4:25 PM on January 4, 2013


> I'm not sure what truly "American" cuisine really would be other than a melange of aboriginal and immigrant styles and tastes either!

When we were in Chinon, France, we passed a restaurant called "Le Tennessee" serving Tex-Mex. They seemed to be serving burritos, ribs, and burgers. We did not eat there. Not even ironically.
posted by offalark at 4:30 PM on January 4, 2013


The wine I drink most often is Black Box Cabernet, because it's $17 for 3 liters and the spout / box form factor makes it easier for me to drink a glass a day instead of 2/3 of the bottle per day. I like it, it's plenty good, it's Wine.

For Christmas dinner, I made prime rib &c, and I went to the Fancy Grocery store and asked for "a bottle of wine that would be worth drinking for good prime rib, for under $20." The guy pointed me to a bottle of something that normally sells for $27 that he had on sale for $19, and I said "Sold!" and brought it home. Oh my GOD it was SO GOOD. When we finished it, my husband looked in the bottle and said forlornly "The wine is gone. Why is the wine gone?" I do not have a particularly sophisticated palate, but I could definitely tell the difference between those two.

Apropos the taco/fajita/tex-mex discussion: I cook a lot, and while I do a lot of stuff from various regions in Europe, Asia, and the Subcontinent, I know nothing at ALL about Mexican/Central American/South American cooking beyond making tacos with supermarket taco seasoning. Which is to say, basically nothing. What's a good cookbook that I could pick up to start learning about cuisine from the Rio Grande south? (Yes, I realize this encompasses a vast and diverse area, I don't know anything about any of it.)
posted by KathrynT at 4:39 PM on January 4, 2013


I don't eat at expensive ethnic restaurants for the most part. It's not because I'm not willing to pay high dollars for it but because I've found a direct correlation between my tastes and low cost, particularly with oriental restaurants. Generally, the pricey places seem to tone down and Americanize (or fusion in bad ways) the food whereas the right cheap places are the ones that taste like home to emigrants. I realize they're often running on a shoestring budget so I tend to massively overtip when I eat at them, sometimes in excess of 100% of the bill.

I've eaten a lot of Pho and the average $6/bowls I've had is better than the best $15_/bowl I've ever had. The expensive Afghani/Pakistani places I've been to were merely OK but the $7 for a kebab places that all of the taxi drivers go to eat are marvelous. The best Chinese I've been able to find near me is the oriental grocery where they'll try to kill me with heaping servings of unlabeled vats of food served cafeteria style for $7. The pricey ones I've tried use bland white meat, reduce the spice level, and sometimes boost the sugar.

One exception that springs to mind - I have had truly excellent expensive Indian food.
posted by Candleman at 4:39 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't finish this. These people are clickwhore ignoramuses.
posted by Miko at 6:11 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The giant pandas in Chengdu are spoiled and lazy compared to the hardworking red pandas

... who aren't even pandas, or red. One ad campaign in Canada does not "arrived" make.

I love red pandas too, but they have nothing on the real pandas.
posted by fatehunter at 7:37 PM on January 4, 2013


Something that blew my mind is that Canadian Chinese food is apparently somewhat distinct from American Chinese food, just by the collection of tiny distortions created by different immigrants serving different populations in different environments.

Shit, New England has its own distinctive American Chinese cuisine, which I grew up with and sorely miss.
posted by threeants at 8:23 PM on January 4, 2013


It's not that you don't like kimchi, just that you don't like it yet.

I've read (I think it might have been on Slate) that you can condition yourself into liking food, that it takes a surprisingly small number of attempts (about ten). I've been working on this with the anchovies at the little tapas bar we like to go to. They're the only thing on the moriawase plate that I don't like, but I try to eat at least one every time we go. I think I'm past the tolerance building phase, and I'm pretty sure I sort of enjoyed it the last time we went.

On the other hand, tomatoes. The smell, taste, and texture of a fresh tomato make me gag. Cooked? In sauce? No problem.

As for cuisine not worth celebrating? Take a couple steps outside of sushi, and you'll find that Japanese food is incredibly boring, and not all that innovative. Salt, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and miso paste. That's about it. That's the standard holy fiveity of Japanese flavor. Now, the stuff that they've imported or adapted, that's pretty good, but a cold block of tofu with soy sauce? That's not cuisine, that's desperation. (hell, even the tofu came from China)
posted by Ghidorah at 9:01 PM on January 4, 2013


but a cold block of tofu with soy sauce? That's not cuisine, that's desperation

Well of course it is, silly. You need to have grated ginger and finely chopped scallions with it. Then it's one of my all-time fav summer dishes, hiyayakko. And I will not have you badmouthing it.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:18 PM on January 4, 2013


Tempura, tonkatsu, soba noodles in soup, ramen (not the instant kind), sukiyaki... incredibly boring? Or do these fall under the imported/adapted catch-all?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:50 PM on January 4, 2013


Tempura, tonkatsu, and ramen are all imported/adapted. Even sushi supposedly originates outside Japan.
posted by FJT at 1:34 AM on January 5, 2013


That actually raises an interesting point - at what point would you say a given influence on food translates from being "imported" to "of a piece" with a given cuisine? Because, shit, about 95% of American cuisine could be thought of as "imported" from one source or another, unless you're talking something like, say, pemmican.

And it isn't just whether something was "imported" anyway - the people who did the "importing" leave their own stamp on it, and that's important too. Take jambalaya - that's probably a re-working of paella, which itself could arguably be considered a reworking of pilaf (and if you don't believe that, consider who occupied the Iberian peninsula for so long in the Middle Ages).

Even though those dishes all could be related, I daresay you wouldn't find a single person who thinks of jambalaya as "Spanish" or paella as "Middle Eastern" any more. Jambalaya is inherently "Cajun" in everyone's minds now. Does the fact that it was imported from another place negate that? Do its foreign origins negate the influence New Orleans has wrought upon it over the years? No. So - isn't it fair to say that it is an example of New Orleans cuisine?

And if that's the case - isn't it fair to say that tempura is an example of Japanese cuisine, reflecting - as it does - the adaptations and changes wrought upon Portuguese cooking by the Japanese?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:23 AM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't eat at expensive ethnic restaurants for the most part. It's not because I'm not willing to pay high dollars for it but because I've found a direct correlation between my tastes and low cost, particularly with oriental restaurants. Generally, the pricey places seem to tone down and Americanize (or fusion in bad ways) the food whereas the right cheap places are the ones that taste like home to emigrants. I realize they're often running on a shoestring budget so I tend to massively overtip when I eat at them, sometimes in excess of 100% of the bill.

Well, you see, part of the problem is that it's circular; there are some truly excellent expensive Chinese restaurants in LA, Toronto, &c. Part of this, of course, is that in those areas there are Chinese people with enough money to decide that they want to have a fancy Chinese style banquet or whatever, and next thing you know waiters are coming through doors with entire roasted suckling pigs.

In other areas of the country, opening a 'fancy' Chinese restaurant is committing financial suicide, precisely because most people feel, well, the way you do. Or they try to fusionize it, make it pan Asian, a little fancy ...

And of course for some reason people are willing to pay a little more for Japanese food than Chinese food.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:45 AM on January 5, 2013


for some reason people are willing to pay a little more for Japanese food than Chinese food.

It's perceived as more exacting and labor-intensive.
posted by Miko at 7:37 AM on January 5, 2013


Wait a minute, you guys don't have butter tarts? No wonder it's so violent over there.

I do think it's strange that in all this talk about Canadian food, no one has mentioned maple syrup and its associated forms of being. Mmmmmm, now that is worth celebrating!! And what about bannock? Flapjacks? Moose meat? Saskatoon berry pie?

Also there totally are Canadian restaurants, there's one I pass pretty frequently downtown.


Also, there is such a thing as $200 sushi? I can't imagine spending that much on one meal, especially raw fish.
posted by windykites at 7:44 AM on January 5, 2013


Also, there is such a thing as $200 sushi? I can't imagine spending that much on one meal, especially raw fish.
posted by windykites at 10:44 AM on January 5


I'm not completely sure if you're joking or not, but if you aren't:

New York Times Review of Masa.

That bite comes at some cost. Seven years ago, Masa had a base price of $300 a person, excluding tax, tip and upgrades like something to drink. Now it is $450 for the same fandango, an increase of 50 percent. A meal for two at the restaurant can easily run to $1,500 — an amount that is a little more than 35 percent of the Census Bureau’s most recent calculation of the median monthly household income in the United States.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:48 PM on January 5, 2013


Dear heaven, I'm not cut out for the food world. I get irritated if my dinner out costs more than $30 after the tip, unless it's a special occasion. I just can't even imagine that a single meal could possibly taste good enough to cost that much money. $200 is like a week and a half's wages for me. I really don't understand- what are people getting for that money?
posted by windykites at 4:28 PM on January 5, 2013


Not quite $200 but out here in the provinces sushi can cost as much as $130 a person (before drinks).
posted by octothorpe at 4:32 PM on January 5, 2013



mightygodking: "I give you no credit for being a Bold Iconoclast Who Says What We're All Too Scared To if you're too scared to actually name a cuisine you think is inherently inferior.

Turkish: a bunch of things other cultures do better, plus lots and lots of ground meat

Korean: only the presence of kimchi makes Korean food not boring, and kimchi isn't that great to begin with

Tibetan: look, everybody else thought of dumplings too, calling them "momos" is cute but it hardly elevates the little fuckers to anything special

Norwegian: an entire culture of food devoted to turning fish into the grossest things imaginable
"

I feel so sad for you, that you haven't eaten good Turkish or Korean food.

Turkish bread, actual real honest-to-goodness Turkish bread, which you haven't eaten unless you've actually been to Turkey because -- and I know this is going to sound awful, really -- there's some flavor there that I'm guessing has to do with either the water used or the starter that just doesn't happen if you get it outside of the country. I was in Istanbul for a few days and each day I walked past the bakery it was this revelation. Turkish sandwiches are the tastiest sandwiches, seriously.

Also, Korean. Oh my goodness, where do I start? I mean, I guess I'm just dumbfounded here. Yes, Kimchi is an important part of Korean cuisine. But there are all of these stupendously delicious dishes like Dukk Bokki, BibBimBap, Galbi Tang, Bulgogi, all of which are pretty uniquely Korean, none of which use Kimchi in any fashion. I mean, I wouldn't call any of these dishes boring. There's this massive Korean immigrant population here in Philly which means there's just this overabundance of restaurants and I've been to many of them and it's now honestly one of my favorite cuisines to eat. I mean seriously I could live a hundred years and never have any French food and die happy but my life would be far less richer if I never had Dukk Bokki again.

I've only been to a Tibetan place once and, you know, honestly it tasted remarkably similar to Afghan and other Central Asian cuisines so I'm not sure why you're singling them out. When you come down to it, all cuisines really are are the locals doing the best they can with the ingredients and tools they have at hand. Dumplings are prevalent across Eurasia so of course the Tibetans have them and of course they would have their own word for it.

I can't speak for Norwegian food as a whole but if you're talking about Lutefisk that's common across all Nordic countries and indeed varieties of it are available elsewhere but, ha ha, as with all cuisines are affected by the context. So there is also rotten preserved fish in Egypt and parts of Africa; fish sauce is made from fermented fish and salt in much of the South East pacific, early European cuisine was probably greatly influence by Roman cuisine which made extensive use of garum which was fermented fish.

Of course, while Lutefisk is perhaps Norway's most notorious fish-based contribution, gravalax is probably its most famous and most eaten, along with smoked salmon (no, they didn't invent it, but they probably do it best). Beyond fish, Norway is famous for many delicious cheeses, notably Jarlsberg which if you've never eaten makes you a nobody in Cheese Circles.

I guess this was meant to be some sort of wry comedic routine or something? It doesn't come across as particularly funny. Otherwise, you're approaching these cuisines with a shallowness of knowledge that makes you particularly unsuited to judge them.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:07 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


mightygodking: "Seriously, Turkish food? Delicious. Sure, it's a lot like Greek food

Which reiterates my point about Turkish food was "it's stuff other people do better.
"

Also, how iron-clad sure are you on the chronology here? How impossible is it that Greek food is based on Turkish food?
posted by Deathalicious at 8:10 PM on January 5, 2013


We're still left with the article's claim that not all cultures' food is worth celebrating, but then not naming names - in an article about telling supposedly hard truths. Either there is a defensible example of a cuisine that could be credibly described as mediocre, or there isn't.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:19 PM on January 5, 2013


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