>A good number of my guests mistakenly assume that not knowing absolutely everything about food and wine makes them look like unsophisticated trash, so they get defensive and make ridiculous proclamations. Hey! This is what makes you intolerable, not your inexperience. Of course not that. A good number of us actually love hosting you through the gates – so quit shoving back, for chrissakes. The following are some common ways diners shove back:
I’m not a cab franc person/I don’t like wines from France
Generalizations are a dead giveaway. It means you have no clue what you’re talking about. There’s cab franc from Italy that tastes like three kinds of pepper punching you in the face, and there’s cab franc from Napa that tastes like Dr. Pepper syrup with rubbing alcohol mixed in. The ideal example perhaps is a red bell pepper nose-orgy, chocolate-covered raspberry velvety, lamb tartar-loving beauty from the Loire Valley. But the mass market is characterized by a sameness that explains people’s generalizing. If people are buying crap from grocery stores that’s meant to taste exactly the same year after year, and is therefore made with so many additives and so much tinkering, then of course it’s all one thing. Let us turn you onto something that will change your mind, you jackass.
You can go ahead and pour
I hear this one when I have just poured the tasting for the person who ordered the wine. Fluttering their hand at me like some foppish king, yawning go ahead and pour, I’m sure it’s fine.
You don’t have the slightest idea what to do here, do you? Depending on the night, I might try to help you out on the sly. I might say something like “1 in 20 odds (the odds your wine will be “corked,” or affected by TCA taint) don’t scare you, Sir – you live life dangerously!” Hopefully you’ll get the clue that I’m pouring the fricking taste for pomp’s sake – it’s because either you or I will need to shove our nose in that glass and see if it’s sound, and I’m not allowed unless you ask me. DUR.
Look, I don’t expect you all to know this stuff – of course I don’t. But I do expect that when you are flying along at 38,000 feet and the stewardess tells you to fasten your seat belt, you ought to because she knows something you don’t. Let me tell you, I’ve sampled the last ounce of wine left in the bottle when guests leave, and these people have enjoyed oxidized, cooked, and corked wines all night long without telling me something was off. Because they didn’t want to look dumb. And they will forever think they didn’t like it because of the varietal, which is like saying you don’t like driving Saabs because the one you rented in Maine last fall had a flat tire. They will be the people who often say I don’t like Cabernet Francs.
Sniffing the cork
Believe it or not, some people actually do this. They usually reside in a red state and our restaurant is the first outside of Applebee’s they visited in a long while, having been dragged here by “uppity” siblings or in-laws. They tend to despise the fact that they’re there in the first place, and they’re frightened of any waiter not wearing suspenders and buttons. They sniff the cork and then tell me I can pour. The other guests blush slightly. They will sometimes mouth sorry. Please don’t apologize. That’s just silly. You’re the one who has to spend Thanksgiving with him, not I.
The cork will not tell you much. If it has TCA, the wine in your glass will tell you. If the wine had any other flaw, you won’t know from the cork. Also, corks smell kind of … corky. So sniffing it really doesn’t give you the most accurate information. But most cork-sniffers watch Fox News, so they’re used to this.
Where to begin. The word ‘foodie’ is idiotic, and anyway it’s been commandeered by the same people who think they watching “House” makes them medical experts. It came into popularity because Americans have a lame sense of national identity, propped up by a vapid pop culture and platitudes about freedom. Ashamed and frightened, we have disowned our culture, which is really just a bedsore of rampant, amoral capitalism. We have fast food joints, diet pills, reality television, the Kardashians, and are one of the worst polluters in the world. We bowed out of the Kyoto Accords and we torture suspected terrorists. Clinging to any subset of interests that separates us from the embarrassing oil-igarchy is only natural. It’s like walking six feet away from your parents when you’re a teenager. So food. Your taste in food is now more critical than your fashion sense. But this creates a dreadfully overrated sense of importance. You may not have read Nabokov, but heaven help you if you don’t know what foie gras is.
So when they tell me we’re foodies, what they mean is we are somebody, please show us respect. The foodie merely wants to be recognized as someone who is intelligent, informed and aware. They want me to know they are genteel and refined and offended by our plastic and soulless culture. They just want to be loved; but never forget that they are imposters. Real lovers of food don’t have a cute name for themselves, and are identifiable by a number of signs, including:
• A passion for offal. If they say, “Oooh, lamb’s liver with rabbit kidney-onion salad!” my heart leaps a little.
• Asking their server, the liaison between kitchen and guest, what they recommend. This is the act of a real pro. They don’t even have to take the recommendation. (This is not the same thing as asking “What’s good here?” That’s a stupid question.)
• Animated discussion over the table. Food of any kind fills the cells of the true food lover until they brim over with emotion and enthusiasm. A foodie, on the other hand, is usually awkward and self-conscious, glaring around them and, god help us all, taking notes for their blogs or Tweeting. They look miserable, because they think this will get them taken seriously. We will ask how everything is and they will grimace slightly and say “it’s okay.” In their heads, the apt critic is a caricature of an Ambien-sotted George Plimpton. Servers: When this happens, don’t probe, don’t ask if you can get anything else for them. Just say, “Well, a foodie of your stature will surely adore the fill-in-the-blank dessert.” And then walk backwards out of the room, making sure to remain bowed in a supplicant pose. Because they are foodies.
Still to come: The Fifth Ring of Hell is Reserved for Yelpers