Thursday, October 8, 2009

On seeing canned California olives in someone’s kitchen

You know you’re not going to be close friends when that  happens. They just don't understand.

It is a law of nature that when there are two examples of a food type, and one is in its minimally processed state and the other maximally processed, the minimally processed tastes better. It has more kinds of natural stuff in it and fewer added chemicals; it is more complex. Some of these are obvious.

Kraft Parmesan “cheese”
Parmigiano reggiano
Canned California black “olives”
Kalamata olives (or dozens of other olives)
American “cheese”; Velveeta
Cheddar cheese (or dozens of real cheeses)

I will propose as a new law of  nature that if you look into someone’s refrigerator or pantry and find any of the three on the left, that is fully diagnostic that they’re not a foodie, and it is grounds for refusing any dinner invitation, including one you have already arrived for. It’s like a jazz buff having Chuck Mangioni but not Kind of Blue or a poetry lover having Edgar Guest and Rod McKuen on the shelf but not Yeats or Bukowski. You know their taste is not evolved enough to have a conversation on the subject with them.

Now this is not absolute. There are canned food items that are worth having around for when you just want a little or don’t have fresh: Jalapeños, chicken stock, black beans, tuna, and others. Canned tomatoes are better than store-bought plastic tomatoes but not as good as homegrown. But in some cases, the difference between the two is so extreme that choosing the lesser indicates a personality fault. It’s like watching Fox News instead of, oh, anything else.

Am I an arrogant food snob? Oh, well. Moderation in the pursuit of food may be a virtue, but extremism in defense of taste is no vice.

The Internet Food Association is a bunch of people who do other things in the real world but like to talk about food.

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