When I get flack that I’m a food snob that only likes expensive things, I put down the black truffles and explain it just ain’t so. I’m a fan of good food, period. And there’s nothing wrong with liking good things. You’re allowed to like good movies, good music, even good whiskey. As soon as you like good food, you’re suddenly a snob.
Well, this snob comes from basic beginnings; the manicured streets of middle-class Staten Island. The Rock, as some of us call it. Not a lot of fine dining on The Rock back in the day, which was fine by me, content as I was with Quarter Pounders, Marathon Bars and Dr. Pepper. I wouldn’t know foie gras if you force fed it to me, but I knew what a school special was, and I could order a cheap one in town with a Snapple and a bag of Fritos for a satisfying lunch. In case you ain’t from Shaolin, a school special is a bagel with one slice of ham and one slice of cheese, heated up. You’re welcome.
As soon as you like good food, you’re suddenly a snob.
I wasn’t alone, most of us had simple tastes, fed by ethnic mothers and grandmothers if you were lucky, and I was. My excursions into fast food, snacks and milkshakes were in direct violation of the food they cherished. They took what they did seriously and to an extent I judge all food on those dishes.
“This isn’t as good as my mother’s sauce,” I say to Kim across the table.
“Your mother wouldn’t call it sauce,” she reminds me.
I write about food because I think about it a lot. I have a lot of food memories going way back. Like when that kid threw up at my first grade pizza party. I couldn’t eat pizza again for ten years. Or back when I was eight, I spent hours eating black olives from my fingertips, chain-drinking cream sodas at some wedding reception. It was the first time I had cream soda in my life and I was forever changed. It blew my mind. I can only compare it to the time I realized that the God character in my instruction manual wasn’t real.
A food memory I always go back to is picking up some fresh salted mozzarella from Demonte or Pastosa in Eltingville, a few vine ripe tomatoes, and some sliced turkey or roast beef – sharing it with my Grandma back home. With a little salt and pepper, and some fresh basil from the side of the house, we were golden.
I guess what I’m saying is feel free to like the good things, but that good is where you find it. And there’s nothing wrong with having a pricey meal now and again as long as you can also savor the cheap eats.
Or don’t. I really don’t care what you do, honestly.