Thursday, December 11, 2008

If You Meet a Food Critic on the Road, Kill Her!

This entry is inspired by several things I've read - two were recent comments by food critics. One said "Tell people that just because they have access to the Internet and a pie hole that doesn't make them a food critic." Ouch! The other was a chocolate review that was in the New York Times

Rosa, who writes a great blog, called it snarky - and that's the perfect way to describe it. Snarky and not helpful. First the writer does some name dropping: "I brought the chocolates listed below to Chanterelle restaurant in Manhattan (like it would be in the Bronx) for a side-by-side tasting with the pastry chef, Kate Zuckerman, who has a palate I trust." Ooh la la!

Here are two of her comments:

Endangered Species 70 percent cacao, organic chocolate: sugary, moldy taste, had to spit it out. Suggestion: perhaps it was just a bad batch. But if dogs could eat chocolate, I would have given it to the dog. *

Green and Black’s 70 percent cacao, organic chocolate: not much going on other than cacao flavor, a little moldy tasting, astringent. Suggestion: put it out on the giveaway pile for the office mooch. *

She had to hang around with a pastry chef at an upscale Manhattan restaurant to come up with that? Maybe we should review how lame her writing is. I wish I could have seen her sitting there spitting out food - nice image, classy. Suggestion: maybe she was drunk.

I don't want to be snarky either. I guess I just feel bad for all the chocolate companies she shredded. And it wasn't like she lauded many. Judging by the 54 comments of people writing in to defend their favorites, maybe she can't speak for all of us.

And that, dear readers, is the point of this entry. No one can speak for everyone. In fact, the only person they can speak for is themselves. Just because you're a high-speed food critic, doesn't mean that you and I will like the same things. That doesn't make you wrong, but it doesn't make me wrong either.

One of my favorite books is "If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him." (Don't freak out, we're not bashing the Buddha!) The message of the book is that no one can tell you what is right for you. You have to find out for yourself. You have to take the journey of your life, ask your own questions, and find your own answers. Run from (or kill) anyone claiming to have all the answers. I love this book.

I think it's fine that there are food critics, and movie critics, and art critics. I like to hear what they have to say. But I don't always agree with them. I like to read what all the people who post things on Amazon or other sites say about products. I often find these much more helpful than what the "experts" say. They are written by people like me. They say helpful things like - the book was slow at first, but hang in there. Or - I loved this, but the controls were too hard to use. I had to send it back. And they are very seldom mean - even if they didn't like something, they don't say things like "Give this to your dog." Or "My fifth grader could write better than this." Why be hateful?

All I can figure is our NYT writer was trying to be funny. But it didn't come across that way and it didn't offer much in the way of helpful information. I actually found the 54 comments to be better than the article! That's one thing about the Internet, we all do have a pie hole, and the reader can decide who provides the best information. Maybe that food critic is scared we won't need him/her anymore.

One thing I think we do owe ourselves to to try many things before we decide what we like. Try a lot of candy bars before you lock into one favorite. Listen to a lot of types of different music before you commit your entire budget to Britney Spears. Don't let your journey be about just staying in the place you started.

You don't need anyone to tell you what's the best chocolate or the best book or the best movie for you. You don't need anyone to tell you who to love or what job to take. They can guide you, help you learn, but at the end of the day - only you know what's really the best choice for you.

(And if you have to spit something out, you might want to keep that to yourself.)


Heidi said...

Goes back to the old saying ... "If you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all."

My mom always held Jackie O and Grace Kelly up as standards for my own precious behavior. High standard, indeed.

Can you imagine either of them writing up a column like the one you described?

And I agree ... just because one person loves or hates something doesn't mean they are correct!
Good lesson, and good blog, as always!

By the way, what was that critic's name? We need to know it, don't you think??

Denise Ryan said...

Wow - high standard indeed - holy cow! No wonder you are so fabulous!

And you are right - our NYT writer is Jill Santopietro.

Rosa said...

Interesting that Theo wrote back and offered to send her more chocolate. Maybe if I wrote more scathing reviews, I'd get offers like that too.

mike said...

Ha, You tell them Denise Ryan!You can't mess with Chocolate and get away with it !!!!!Makes you wonder if these critics even like Chocolate or if they just got a job writing for a newspaper.You ,I trust I KNOW you like your Chocolate!!!!!!