Many people expect me to be a food snob because I’m a food writer living in New York.
They expect me to be judgmental of their tastes, to sneer at chefs who don’t butcher their own hogs, to think carefully about whether to sprinkle grey salt from Brittany on my venison or to go instead with pink salt from Hawaii.
There’s a reason for their expectations. Food snobbery has a long and storied history, and now that food is fashionable, it is considered acceptable in some circles to belittle the tastes of others.
Former chef and current celebrity Anthony Bourdain, host of “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel, did just that recently when he was on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”
“I can’t drive past a Chili’s or an Olive Garden and not boil with rage,” he said.
Boil with rage, really? When I drive past a Chili’s, I remember the cool sour cream and guacamole with the hot grilled onions and grilled marinated steak that were in my first fajita, which I had in the early 1980s.
I didn’t go to Olive Garden as a kid, but I recently enjoyed the Zuppa Toscana with potatoes and sausage.
Bourdain went on to say that people often ask him what the most exotic, unusual or grotesque food he’s ever eaten is.
“I still maintain it’s pretty hard to beat, for sheer grotesqueness and bizarreness, you know, a Cinnabon,” he said
What can I say? For grotesqueness I think I’d point to hákarl, the fermented shark of Iceland that, to me, tastes like someone peed on it.
For bizarreness? Well, I saw a story recently about a grilled-cheese-sandwich Martini, but I haven’t tried that. Fermented shrimp brain in Niigata, Japan, probably is the second-most-bizarre thing I’ve eaten, just behind the low-carb cookie that was handed to me at my gym in 2004. That was the only non-rotten food I’ve ever bitten into and considered spitting out. It didn’t taste like food.
As for Cinnabon, I think for a high-calorie indulgence I’d first go for a Philadelphia cheese steak or a big plate of fried rice, and then maybe the hot-fudge ice cream cake at Big Boy. But a Cinnabon would be right up there, too.
Actually, so would the blood sausage at Les Halles, the New York restaurant where Bourdain used to work. They had terrific French fries when he was chef de cuisine there, too.
And if Chili’s makes him angry, well, I guess that’s his path in life.
Personally, I eat what I like and love to hear about other people’s taste preferences. I find that we can be friends even if we have different tastes.
Some of my favorite people love hákarl — Icelanders tell me that the key to enjoying it is to wash it down with Brennivín, the Icelandic version of aquavit.
I think I’ll probably stick with fajitas.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] .