Have you ever found yourself in a situation of many a student kitchen? I’m talking about the one where you sit munching a Morrison’s own-brand pizza and oven chips, whilst your flatmate busies themselves with making the dough for an artichoke and goat’s cheese pizza, complemented by a spring onion and potato rosti.
Or when you have that one friend who refuses to eat in McDonald’s and will sit eyeing you disdainfully as the rest of the group wolf down hot, soggy, salty chips and Big Macs. Well fear not, as with this handy guide to food snobbery, you too shall soon be discussing the virtues of balsamic vinegar with all the aplomb of a seasoned food snob.
Lesson 1 – the food
The most important piece of advice for a food snob is to know exactly where your food has come from, and if not from the local farm down the road, at least in Britain, because as everyone knows, British food is the best food in the world. Vegetables should ideally be from your own allotment and picked that morning at dawn, but Country Fresh by the Spar is acceptable, as it could almost pass for a farm shop with all the delightfully fresh-looking vegetables outside on the street for that authentic experience.
Meat can be bought from the supermarket but make sure it says ‘Product of Yorkshire’ on the front and that you can recite the history of the pig that the sausages came from. Stock up on lots of impressive sounding food. Instead of bread, buy focaccia or a tiger loaf. Swap lettuce for arugula (rocket for the non-food snobs) or mizuna.
Lesson 2 – the lingo
When your flatmate asks you what you are having for lunch, it is not acceptable to merely say ‘a cheese and ham toastie with ketchup.’ The ideal description would be ‘A croque-monsieur with Gruyère that I bought on holiday from a delightful little French village and Parma ham, complemented with the delicate flavour of Jersey butter and a homemade sun-ripened tomato relish, finished off with a sprinkling of ground black pepper to season.’
Always mention herbs and spices that you use, the more ethnic-sounding the better, as it makes you look worldly and exotic. Ras el Hanout, a spice mix often used in Moroccan cooking, is an essential one to say loudly. Relish the opportunity to explain to your clueless friends what this is, even if they don’t ask.
Lesson 3 – the gear
No self-respecting food snob is complete without the tools of the trade. Your flatmates often wonder whether you will ever use that crème brûlée torch or the melon scoop, but what they don’t know is that you will be whipping up Michelin-style dishes every day, or at least once a year, when you can smirk as you scoop out a melon with ease, as your flatmate does it marginally less quickly with an ordinary scoop. Fool.
It is also a cardinal sin to own round plates or bowls. Square or other-shaped crockery are the only suitable crockery for a food snob, as they create a quirky and interesting effect when you arrange food on them. Don’t worry about the impracticality of eating soup out of a bowl with corners – it looks stylish and that’s all that matters.
Lesson 4 – eating out
It is of the utmost importance that you shun any kind of fast, ready-made or commercially popular food. A pasty from the Cornish Pasty Company is not OK, but a pasty from a small family-run bakery that no-one knows about is acceptable. Be careful to make sure that everyone knows that you have purchased the pasty from said bakery, otherwise they will simply assume it is from apopular pasty outlet, and that is not the mark of a food snob. If other people start to frequent that bakery after hearing about it from you, find another one immediately.
If you are forced to go to a chain restaurant, even a more upmarket one like The Slug and Lettuce, order the most expensive dish on the menu and complain about it being bland and unoriginal. Use phrases such as ‘I can taste the globalisation’ and ‘This sauce was obviously microwaved.’ Talk lots about how you know this ‘great little place’ in a back-alley of York, where they make ‘authentic Italian cuisine, not watered-down for the masses.’ Be deliberately vague as to where this restaurant is, as you surely don’t want the masses going there.
Originally published on The Yorker 11th July 2010