I think of myself as a foodie in training. I love to cook and I love to eat, but my palate is pretty unsophisticated in many areas. I probably couldn't tell the difference between a Sysco steak and one from Peter Luger's if I didn't taste them side by side. I'm clueless about authentic Asian food and Latin American food. I am completely in the dark about wine. That's one of the reasons why I love food blogs. They do a very good job of educating me. I also enjoy foodie message boards because they allow me to "converse" with a broad range of tastes and experiences on one page. My current fave is Chowhound.
While I usually find the conversation stimulating, sometimes these people make me feel like an unsophisticated bumpkin. Maybe they don't intend to, but I sometimes come away from these exchanges feeling stupid.
Here is my most recent example. About a year ago, I made a post about a restaurant in my neighborhood called the Jolley Trolley. It had been there for years and I had never been in it. Kevin and I tried it one night and found we liked it. Granted, the first time I went, I had let myself get distracted by the cuteness of presenting petite filets on top of onion rings and the fishbowl-sized margaritas. On subsequent visits I came down to earth a bit and realized that the food isn't all that good. Don't get me wrong. It's not bad. If it were bad we wouldn't have kept going back, but it's hardly gourmet. They do some things pretty well and there are some things they do that are quite mediocre. They have a really good salad bar. You have to just take your chance and order. The restaurant's main draw is that it's a decent, low-end, American bar and grill. Many of the restaurants in my neighborhood don't have good bars for hanging out, are pricey, or are ethnic. Our only other options for that sort of cheap American classic food is either the diner or Applebees. We get tired of eating at the diner all of the time and we don't like Applebees (I've developed my palate that much at least).
A couple of weeks ago, through the Chowhound boards, I found out that the Jolley Trolley had very suddenly closed its doors. I was shocked because the place had quite popular. Just a couple of weeks earlier Kevin and I tried to go there for dinner and ended up having to go elsewhere because of the long wait. Why had it closed? I made the comment online that I would miss it. It has been our go-to place for some casual fare. Otherwise, our only other choice is Applebees.
Well, I got a rather highbrow response from another poster that the Jolley Trolley is not better than Applebees. It's just as bad and they serve inferior wine there and try to pass it off as something better. Well, I don't go to places like the Jolley Trolley to drink wine. I go there to drink big fruity drinks made with cheap liquor (can I admit that sometimes Sandra Lee's cocktails look good - I drink like a girl) or a Coke. I'm know they don't use the best quality ingredients in their dishes, but I know that they are at least prepared in the kitchen by a cook and that some of them do taste good.
I just felt like that person was talking down to me. I must be an idiot to think that the Jolley Trolley was somehow better than Applebees. The poster informed me that she always just went for ethnic food or to the diner when she didn't want to spend a lot of money. I got the impression that she thought she was better than me.
It's not as if I don't try to be a better foodie. I'm really working hard to educate myself right now on various Asian cuisines for example. The blogs I read really help to educate me about so many aspects of cooking and eating. I like to learn from people who are far more experienced than I am in terms of dining experiences and cooking skills - AS LONG AS THEY'RE NICE ABOUT IT. Besides, I'm sure there are plenty of serious foodies out there who admit to the guilty pleasure of liking something made with cheap ingredients, or store-bought, or containing mysterious chemicals. I might spend years developing a better palate and still feel that some of the Jolley Trolley food tasted good.
If people who are passionate about quality food don't want to be seen as a bunch of elitist snobs, they really need to avoid talking down to people.
That brings me to my next point though. Classic American bar and grill type places have all but disappeared from my neighborhood. There aren't many restaurants where there are bars where you can hang out and eat bar snacks (the only one left is Chinese). The diner is fine, but it only serves cheap wine, beer, and Mike's. (I'm not complaining. I love Mike's. Seriously, I drink like I'm still in college and experimenting with alcohol for the first time.)
I used to love the fact that my neighborhood is filled with mom-and-pop restaurants. The only Starbucks in town is pretty far away from where I am. You can walk down my street and find Italian, French, coffeehouse (of the independent variety), Mexican, Chinese and Chinese takeout, and a huge proliferation of Japanese and Asian fusion places (there are three Japanese restaurants on my street and three Japanese/fusion places set to open all on the same strip). I've always been pleased that the major national chains have stayed out of my neighborhood except for Applebees. Then I realize that Applebees is now the only restaurant of its kind in my neighborhood!
Well, I should clarify one thing. The Jolley Trolley was part of a chain. It was owned by Charlie Browns. But Charlie Browns is hardly a big chain. You don't find them outside the tri-state area. But even as a chain, you can't compete against the big guys anymore. I wonder if in a few years' time if anyone will be able to eat in an independent restaurant anymore.