Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lovers of art, snobs of food.

Lately I've been discussing how annoying Food Snobs are with a friend of mine. They drive me crazy. I love good food but I'm tired of people that are put off if you spent less than $15 on a bottle of wine, let alone bought it at a place other than a chic wine boutique. Getting it on sale at Trader Joe's or Total Wine and More isn't snobby enough. And forget take-out food, no matter how much you spent. Never good enough. 

Analogous to the Food Snob is the Art Snob. Then there are Food Lovers and the Art Lovers, each similar in the same way, just not as snobby. So, here is my take on the food-art/snob-lover debate.

Food Snob: Loves great food as long as someone else (another gourmand of course) has decided the particular food is somehow more special, rare, expensive, greener, more sustainable, more organic, exclusive, or better than food you can get "anywhere". Anywhere being Safeway, Wal*Mart, Krogers, Food City, etc. For the Food Snob, it's about being able to impress others. These are the people that send you a recipe you have to make for their potluck or a list of special over-priced wines you have to buy for their dinner party. Anything else won't go with the food. They don't trust others food choices.
Another interesting note- if they have a food allergy or issue, they are loud and/or rude about asking the waiter about the menu. They make a point of embarrassing everyone else at the table.

Food Lover: Loves great food if it tastes wonderful. It doesn't matter if you can buy it at Safeway, Lee Lee's Oriental Market , a funky diner, a taco truck, or at a posh store like Draegers, as long as it's fabulous. For the Food Lover, it's about the food and sharing with others. And no name-dropping please! These folks don't care nearly as much about others food choices, it's all good. If you bring spam musubi to the pot-luck, excellent! They are excited to try it. And they aren't rude when they don't care for it....just pass on it and eat something else. Making a big deal out of it is downright snobby. And if they have a food allergy or issue, they are discrete and diplomatic, usually talking to the waitstaff before sitting down in the restaurant or even calling ahead. If the water screws up their order, no harm, no foul, just send it back without complaint. No need to make a scene.

Art Snob: Loves great art as long as it's a big name (Possibly dead, but famous and alive works too) artist. It helps if several art critics, art magazines, and serious galleries have declared that the artist is a Big Name Artist. The more exclusive and pricey, the better. Big art helps too: anything larger than your average  living room sofa is better, if it's gigantic bronzes or steel suitable for outdoors only, that's the ultimate. They buy at big name galleries and auctions usually but the Art Snob doesn't have to be rich, just pretending to have money and being the snob is enough. Just as with the Food Snob, it's about impressing others. They always name drop as often as possible and if you don't recognize the artist, your are probably from middle America.
Art Lover: Loves art because they truly love art. Big name artists are great if they love the work, but lesser known artists are fine too, as are outsider artists, Low brow art, student art, primitive art, found objects, glass paperweights,  you name it. They are not out to impress, just to enjoy. Art is for enjoyment. They hang it all over their home and office, and even have it in their yard. They will hang their framed 3-year old's drawings next to a  Damien Hirst spot painting. They go to the local Artist's Open  Studio Tour and actually buy art from the locals. Lack of pretentious attitude is the key difference here.

Spotting the Art Snob:
Best place to look- a gallery or museum show opening is most obvious. They drink lots of wine, (Closet wine experts of course) and wax poetically about how the European Galleries just can't compete with this tawdry place. Sometimes they speak with a fake accent, to sounds more authoritative when speaking about the latest Anish Kapoor project. Is a member of most of the big art museums, or at least the one in their city. Usually dressed in black or grey. Or both. Drives some kind of European car, usually silver or black.
Spotting the Food Snob:
Best place to look- a trendy food store or trendy farmer's market of the moment. Always has their own recycled plastic/fabric/Third World reclaimed tote bags for organic veggies and artisan breads. A trendy and expensive restaurant is another favorite haunt. Look for them sending back food to the waiter because the salad dressing has a touch too much yuzu  juice in it. Or explaining at length and rather loudly how they are allergic to shellfish and even the tiniest speck will lead them to convulsions and shock. They will hand you their lawyer's business card, just in case. And if their order is screwed up, be warned. Another embarrassing scene will ensue. Drives either a Prius or a giant SUV. It just depends on how liberal they are.

So, what does this all mean? Art and food are very much related. And snobs are mostly related...particularly when it comes to food and art.  Being a snob is largely based on attitude. People can fall  into these categories, but in reality, most Art Lovers have been Art Snobs at one time or another and most Food Snobs have been Food Lovers at one time of another. Categories can be difficult, but the truth is usually stranger than fiction. I myself consider myself a Food Lover and an Art Lover rather than a Snob, but I have acted snobbish on occasion. I like Organic wild-gathered-in-season Washington State Chanterelles and Wild-Caught Copper River Alaskan Salmon as much as the next person, but if you ask me what I had for dinner last night, I'll just say "Salmon". As for the art? I like local artists (And local food) and I usually buy art with my tax refund check. And yes, I have a big sculpture in my yard.

PS: I LOVE Anish Kapoor's work. Saw his work at the Tate Modern last year.
Top photo: http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/2007/10/29/is-alice-waters-an-elitist-food-snob/, a food blog by Barbara FisherBottom image: Frida Kahlo. Still Life with Parrot. 1951. Oil on canvas. 25.4 x 28.9 cm. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA.

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