Food snobbery

I have been doing this blog well over a year now, a year and some change. I have talked about a fair amount of topics. It’s been a while but if you are a regular reader, you know I like food…a lot. I like good food and when the spirit moves me, I like, no love to cook. Sadly the spirit has not been moving me since my ass is struggling to just get past this month. I swear December is the culmination of all that plagues those living on the financial edge and yours truly gets to hear it all. By the time I get home, I have no energy to even think of providing nourishment to my family…thank goodness for a freezer stuffed with soups! As well as a few trusty inexpensive places to eat at when I need to eat out!

Anyhoo, in all the talk of good food, organic food, healthy food, it might be easy to assume that I fall into the food snob category. Well, it’s an easy mistake to make since it seems anyone who fits a certain criteria clearly would never eat junk food or feed it to their kid. Um….not at all.

In fact I was happy after a conversation with a local friend the other day where we were discussing the merits of chili dogs and it turned out we had both grown up eating chili dogs made with Hormel canned chili with no beans. Even now as adults, a proper chili dog at home needs to have Hormel’s canned chili at least for me. Yeah, I know how to make chili from scratch and in the cold weather months, I do it often. But when I feel the urge for a chili gog, I reach for the canned chili.

Now I know for some of my readers as well as some in my personal circle that probably sounds like a gross admission. I mean let’s face it canned foods really have a pretty bad reputation. Maybe it’s because of my work but I have to admit the growing trend towards food snobbery at times gets on my nerves. Yeah, its nice to have a lovely home cooked meal made from scratch with wholesome foods but in a time when so many are struggling to just put food in their bellies, I can’t get worked up on what people eat. Let’s face it sometimes it’s just not financially feasible for some to eat healthy. It’s funny because we live in a time when it’s frankly more costly to eat healthy than it is to simply eat. As I have developed my own cooking skills, while I find cooking to be relaxing at times, fact is it often requires more, not just in cash, but in time and tools, things that some lack.

Recently I was in a discussion where someone asked why would anyone use creamed soups when they can make them? Good question. My guess is because it’s a time-consuming endeavor, I like creamed soups and make them often, but if I was making a meal that required a creamed soup, I’d probably use a canned soup instead of making it from scratch. Unless I had one already in my freezer, leftover from a previous meal.

I am a big believer in moderation. Now a steady diet of canned unwholesome foods is bad for you, yet at times it seems that those of us who admit to liking less than healthy foods tend to be seen an unenlightened bunch. The fact is anything can be bad for you, I have met too many vegetarians who frankly were not healthy eaters.

The thing is when you look down or make judgements on folks based off what they eat, what purpose does it serve? Food is a deeply personal thing, many of our attitudes and thoughts on food are shaped by our childhood and while many of us may change the way we eat as adults (hello…I am a Black woman with southern roots, fried chicken, fried fish, collard greens cooked in pork products anyone?), sometimes even the healthiest, most organic eating folks still have appetites for things based off our youth.

While I have no problem with anyone eating a certain way, it’s when we use food as a means to judge and look down at others which is not cool.

The hospitality of others

I was just reading on one of the few discussion boards I still read with any regularity and stumbled on a discussion that hit home. The poster was in a quandary because she and her family were visiting friends who were putting them up for several days and the friends in question eat a rather unhealthy diet also known as the standard American diet of junk.  Now the poster eats uber healthy and was concerned because her buddies apparently like to feast on cheap hot dogs, soda and Jiffy Pop the way, no I am not making any of this up.

Well many folks (a good 40 plus) stated the person should tell the hostess they don’t dine on such fare and either offer to buy some food and cook it or offer to take this junk eating family out to meals but in no way should she eat the food the host family eats. Now this whole situation hit home for me because provided I stick to my newly created budget, the girl child and I will be visiting some friends who live in a real city soon who eat far healthier fare than girl child eats. Despite my attempts at cooking healthy meals, my girl seems to have reached back into our working class roots and generally refuses to eat most of what I cook. There are only about 8 meals I cook that she will actually eat without me having to create a meal for her.

I admit it gets tiring as hell but for the longest time she was underweight so allowing her to not eat was not an option and she is a stubborn child, even at 4 if an option she likes is not available she refuses to eat. Thankfully she likes salads and carrots so she doesn’t starve. At the moment I am feeling rather victorious since she actually ate last night’s broccoli soup I made but I digress.

The issue for me is when did it become ok to be rude when folks offer us their hospitality? Unless someone has food allergies which in that case all bets are off, it seems to me, how hard is it to simply accept people’s warmth and hospitality. I also think if someone has spiritual or dietary restrictions such as being vegan or vegetarian, then reasonable accomodations should be made.  After all allowing folks to stay at your house generally is a disruptive proposition even with pleasant guests. When our family visits they stay at our house and while both my Dad and Father in law are generally pleasant chaps, the reality is guests do inconvenience us on some level, yet we presumably like the folks visiting so we accept it.

I know my Father on law is not always big on the food I cook, but he eats it and eats it with a smile. The only item he buys is his beer since I rarely keep alcohol in the house aside from that dusty bottle of Jack Daniels on a shelf that I think I last drank 5 years ago when my Mom died. It’s the emergency crisis bottle of booze.

As far as my own upcoming visit, I have already explained to girl child when we visit that should our friends cook a meal for us we are to be gracious and eat it, personally I am hoping that the eating habits of my friend’s kid rubs off on girl child.

Thinking back to the poster with the question of what to do, I am reminded of what a selfish society we have become. We seem to think  the world revolves around us and maybe it’s me getting old but it irks me. Presumably one goes on a trip and stays with friends because they are looking to save a few bucks and see friends so for me, eating what my host or hostess provided unless it’s a food allergy or true food issue (again spiritual or dietary restrictions) is just a given.

I can’t help think that in these tough financial times, it’s not always the cheapest thing to offer to feed another family for several days and if someone told me that my Oscar Meyer weiners were not good enough for them, I might be a tad shocked and even pissed. Since not everyone has the means to buy the uncured natural hot dogs.

So am I being a hard ass? What do you do when folks visit you as far as accommodating guests? I admit I do like to ask what folks like to eat when I am expecting guests but aside from family I have never had non relatives visit overnight, so maybe the rules really are different.

ETA: I realize there is a reason that this issue seems so big to me and in remembering why, I think its only fair to share with you, my fair reader.  Early in our marriage, the Spousal Unit and I went out west to visit his family, well the hubby’s favorite aunt offered to put us up. I had met this aunt once or twice previously, definitely felt comfortable around her and her husband. So I thought nothing of agreeing to stay at her house despite my own skittishness sometimes at staying with folks.

 We arrived at their house, after they graciously picked us up at the airport, we get to their house and it was late and I had not eaten so my aunt in law offered me a pulled beef sandwich. I am gonna cut to the chase and just say her cooking style did not mesh well with my tummy and the next morning upon waking up and realizing I was going to need the toilet quite a bit, I told the Spousal Unit maybe we should stay at a hotel. After all I didn’t want to kill their toilet also I was not to eager to eat anymore of his favorite Aunt’s cooking, granted I still thought she was sweet and lovable but I just didn’t want to eat her food.

Let me tell you that 11 years later I regret that action, at the time I just wanted to be comfortable, by the way the Spousal Unit just reminded me that another reason we left to stay at a hotel was that I was being visited by that favorite Aunt all ladies have and again I just wanted to be comfortable.

Well at the time this decision to stay at a hotel but still visit with family and friends didn’t seem to be a bit deal other than our vacation budget grew quite a bit with the unexpected hotel and car rental. Unfortunatly those actions have caused a rift in the hubby’s family, I am talking over a decade and the favorite aunt who was eagerly awaiting to be a surrogate Granny when we had kids has barely spoken to her favorite nephew aka the Spousal Unit.

Its taken years to get the full details, but the short version is that my aunt in law was beyond offended, she felt snubbed and apparently my decision breached some family order in the Spousal Unit’s family regarding hospitality. For years I didn’t think about this much, I felt it was their lost but as my daughter grows up with no extended family, no aunts, 1 uncle she has only met once and the nearest relative 1100 miles away I wish I could re-do that decision. The only person my daughter knows on her Dad’s side is his Dad and all because I hated that beef sandwich that gave me the runs!

Yeah, its crazy and shit maybe even the Spousal Unit’s family is a little nutty but at the end of the day we do have to be mindful of our actions and the long term impact they can have…yeah 3 days of lousy food that gives you the shits isn’t a great vacation on the other hand out of over 300 days in a year, 3 days is really just a sliver of time to be uncomfortable.