Five tips for vanquishing the food snob in your life

OPINION: They’ve tried the obscure cheeses. They’ve been to the right restaurants. And they want to share everything they know. Here’s how to make them stop, writes Corey Mintz
By Corey Mintz - Published on December 20, 2018
a person smelling wine
The food snob, a subset of the class snob, is a thriving pest in a culture that has turned the things we eat into markers of tribe and status. (iStock.com/SIphotography)

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One thing is unavoidable this holiday season: at some party or other, you’re going to get stuck talking to a food snob.

A decade ago, food began to move into the centre of our thoughts and conversations, carrying a message of peace and goodwill. Learning where your food comes from was a new concept for many. It became fashionable to eat at “nose to tail” restaurants, to champion farmers, to respect animals and the environment. But for all the good it’s done, food culture has also turned the things we eat into markers of tribe and status.

As a result, the food snob, a subset of the class snob, is a thriving pest. And if, at a party, you linger too long over the buffet while trying hopelessly to slice a wedge of halvah, the food snob will eventually insert themselves into your evening with what will, at first, seem like helpful information. They will begin by pointing out a piece of cheese that shouldn’t be missed. Like a con artist gaining their mark’s trust by pointing out a lost wallet on the ground, the food snob seems to be feeling out whether you’re the type of person who wants to talk about cheese. If you take the bait, they’ll end up telling you all about where they shop, eat, and travel — and it’s all designed to let you know how sophisticated they are.

You can’t just tell these people to get lost, either. They used to be rarer — they were called foodies; before that, they were known as gourmands or epicures. Now, they are all around us. The food snob is your neighbour, your co-worker, your best friend’s husband. 

The food snob will, having shared theirs, soon demand your opinion on something that might seem uncontroversial, like who makes the best fried chicken in town. Then you’ll be asked whether you’ve eaten at Chick-fil-A; if you haven’t, whether you would (given the company’s politics); and whether you think their food is overrated. Turn your nose up at fast food, and you’ll have to justify your fancy-restaurant choices by demonstrating knowledge of brining, frying temperatures, buttermilk, and breading methods. If you go the populist route, you’ll need income-inequality statistics on hand to show why fast-food chicken, the kind that everyone can afford, is superior. (Beware the triple-threat food snob, who can cite the stats, explain the cooking methods, and avoid all criticism — because their restaurant of choice is so little known.)

If you should ever come near two of these types at a party, back away quickly. They have too much in common to become friends. Invariably, one will wait for the other to make their food-snob status known via some obscure reference so that they can object to it. “Actually, I’ve been to that microscopic town in Italy,” they’ll say, “and their buffalo mozzarella isn’t as good as the one two towns over.”

But don’t worry: I’ve got your back. Here are five easy ways to deal with and dispatch the food snob.

  1. Make up a restaurant. If they look it up on their phone, tell them it’s so under-the-radar that no one has written about it yet.
  2. When they ask whether you’ve been to some place from the latest top-10 list, respond that your partner got a reservation for last Saturday, but that that’s when you volunteer. Stick the morally superior landing by adding something like, “Of course, I really wanted to eat there — but people were depending on me at the shelter. You know how it is with volunteer work.”
  3. At some point, the food snob will start to recount a meal they ate. There may be discussion of vague feelings (the oneness with nature that you can experience only when hunched over a bowl of clams off the Amalfi coast, etc). There may be a catalogue of every item from the $600 15-course exclusive pop-up dinner by Noma in Mexico (including, more often than not, photographic accompaniment). Whatever the case, interrupt with a story about food poisoning. Pick a food they’re talking about and say that it reminds you of the night you and all your friends got sick from that very thing. When it looks as if they’re waiting for you to finish your gross-out tale so that they can get back to boring you with their recollections, add that you and your friends all gathered fecal samples for lab confirmation of the source of the food-borne illness. The food snob will be unable to resume their anecdote.
  4. Debunk their bogus science by citing some bogus science of your own. This is a lot of fun to do with food snobs of the health-and-wellness subtype, who will invariably bring up some pseudoscientific health-food fad — probably involving avocado oil, turmeric, or baru nut. Tell them that pickle juice is amazing for the skin or that you cured yourself of some unspeakable illness via regular baths in cashew milk. If they try to Google your claims, say you read it in a London Times article for subscribers only. If they’re a subscriber, tell them it was in the newsletter.
  5. Call them a snob. No matter how condescending their tone, no matter how elitist their words, no snob likes to be called a snob — even if they’ve just told you about their kids’ keto cooking classes or that they always ask the chef to make them something off the menu. The merest suggestion that something they’ve said “sounds kinda snobby” should vanquish them. Like a vampire, the food snob cannot stand the sight of their own reflection. 
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