Friday, June 24, 2011

Aficionados and Snobbery

Interesting comic on xkcd today:

Most of my friends love to eat well. And, like aficionados of any stripe, most can't imagine why anyone would opt for lousy food. 

I'm okay with it, however, and here's why: while I dress comparatively neatly and stylishly, I buy most of my clothes from shopping malls. So if I were as into clothing as I am food, I'd be horrified. There are surely fantastic people making fantastic clothes out there, not necessarily expensive, so why the heck am I not tracking them down, patronizing them, supporting them, and basking in their quality? Why am I not willing to work a little harder and travel a little further for quality?

Also, I've done nothing to customize my car. Shockingly to car aficionados, I drive a stupid boring off-the-shelf car. I am a lemming. I simply take what they give me. I don't think about it, I don't make it better!

You get the idea. I am mindlessly undiscerning in so many ways, as are all of you. But no one's into everything, and it'd be crazy to try. Life's short, diversity is endless, and we all delve arbitrarily into whichever realms strike our fancy. 

Yet I do confess to suppressing a shudder when I see people choosing Olive Garden. It's human nature to feel superior when you spot people making decisions you've outgrown. Even if I'm generally dimwitted, and my field is quite narrow, I will still feel superior if I see you screwing up within my knowledge sweet spot - by, say, sporting a mere 6 spoke umbrella when 8s are actually cheaper and sooo much better (you absolute freakin' idiot)! Work thirty years to master a skill no one's interested in - e.g. jazz trombone - and you'll see how drab and stupid non-trombonists seem. They're civilians, outsiders...goyim. They're just not hip!

I fight this impulse, preferring more of a Richard Scaryian approach: We all have our stuff we care about, the stuff we're good at, our little corners of the universe that we keep orderly, and, in aggregate, it all works amazingly.  Grownups forget to delight in the diversity - that Mr. Cat's the grocer and Mr. Duck's the plumber and Mr. Hound's the food critic; specialists all, each doing his or her thing so no individual needs to know about everything. That's our world, and it's a realized utopia, and one in which both socialists and libertarians can rejoice. But while the aggregate works, Mr. Hound harbors silent condescension re: Mr. Cat's horrid taste in pizza, and Mr. Duck is aghast at Mr. Hound's inability to handle a staple gun. We tribablize, because that's what we do.

As a food expert, I feel that it's my task to cheerily entice people to deliciousness. But I try to never do it via snobbery - by telling people what not to eat. Nothing useful is accomplished in the negative. Instead, the task is to entice them to delicious greatness (the guy in the cartoon should have poured his friend a glass of something awesome!). After experiencing it, they may forget all about Olive Garden. Or, hey, they may continue to enjoy it, which is cool, too. Trying to make people enjoy less is an evil aim. Snobs are evil.

This, by the way, was the great secret of Chowhound's success: entice with passion and enthusiasm. Not "You're eating all wrong!", but "Hey, you gotta go check out this insanely delicious dish of duck noodles!".

No comments:

Blog Archive