5 Ways To Fake It As A “Foodie”
August 8, 2018 | BY Tim Cheung
You get paid to eat. Or you eat to get paid. Either way, it’s a very attractive proposition. Having been on the lean Hong Kong Tatler staff writer list during my younger, wilder days means I, too, had my unfortunately short spell as a restaurant reviewer. That’s before the team realised I couldn’t tell ice cream from gelato, or tofu from steamed eggs, and resolutely took me off that roster. With my innately inadequate palate, I was never a foodie but had for some time been surrounded by a cohort of these well-respected individuals who, with their amazingly sharp, nanoscopic taste buds, could decipher every flavour, texture and ingredient origin you can think of. Dining with them isn’t unlike showing up at church as a Buddhist. After all these years, I’ve built up a good many observations and worked out what the others were doing. So, before you crash that next foodies gathering, here are a few tips on how to blend in that may or may not work. Read on regardless...
Have a favourite food...
...that is as unpretentious and homey as it is exotic.
Mine is the homemade chilaquiles that my host mother made every morning during my exchange trip to Mexico in 2007. Which actually isn't my favourite food at all, but everything else was true. It sounds very solid as a favourite food and I imagine upon hearing this, even my real foodie acquaintances would drop their fork, pick up a champagne flute and nod wisely at my remark. Do be prepared for follow-up questions, though—such as “how did she make the tortilla? Which artisanal cheese did she use?” At which point you should in your script already have a couple variations of the same answer - "it was her secret recipe" or "she refused to divulge because it’s considered blasphemous in Mayan culture" will usually do. I also assume it wouldn't be too far from the truth. Upon answering, you should promptly end the conversation by excusing yourself to the washroom or pre-empt any further questions by promising you'll search for that yellowed photo of the chilaquiles you once framed.
Note: my actual favourite food is the baked Kurobuta pork chop with fried rice at Loyal Dining. Buy me lunch and I'll explain to you why.
Befriend a chef...
...especially a chef friend who will "prepare a few dishes off the menu for you" when you're at his/her restaurant, because this will immediately lift your foodchain status from peasantry to the lordship. Ideally the chef would have uttered those words with a cheeky but conspicuous wink.
Every foodie worth their salt has a few chef friends, I have no doubt about it. It's the foodie holy grail, not unlike knowing a nightclub bouncer who can stoically let you skip a 50-person queue. If you don't already have one such rock in your life, your best bet is to enter a slightly reputable Japanese restaurant (Japanese chefs are usually nice and shy, or at least they're obliged to be nice and shy to you), dine and stay past the last order mark, then at the opportune moment leap up and offer him a Sapporo beer, which will inevitably lead to your ordering one or more nice sake bottles and offering half of it to him (I should also mention it's not cheap befriending chefs, but it'll pay off handsomely.) Next thing you know, both of you will take turns wearing your necktie as a bandana, making fun (nicely) about his Asian flush and there you have it: a new chef friend.
Never, ever be the first to comment when the meal begins...
...because you won't have anything remotely intelligent to say, ever.
Instead, blink meaningfully and spend ample time rotating the plate as though you were an artist at the pottery wheel. If you must comment, frown and make a quip about the poor lighting before trying to style a few Instagram top shots. The bottom line is, stay away from actual food criticism until someone else has spoken up.
Also, make sure you've done your pre-match research—know what dishes you'll be getting, where the chef spent his formative years, and what the reputable critic has already said about the food there. Be pithy with your on-the-spot review. A few failproof keywords here: texture, acidity, and "it actually really reminds me of [insert fashionable childhood snack memory]".
Pick your fights wisely...
...when it comes to discussing fads, foods or diets.
The general rule of thumb is that—despite the current craze for plant-based eating—you can go in pretty much no-holds-barred with your tirade over the vegan diet because 12 times out of 10, true foodies are meat-loving savages, who enjoy a half-bleeding ribeye and seafood cooked fresh (ie when they're still alive and breathing) more than anything. Otherwise they wouldn't have been added to the foodie Facebook group in the first place.
Also, as a general rule of thumb: foodies do care about the environment. So before waggling your finger at sustainable food and biodynamic wine, take a deep breath, exhale, make a muted ommm sound and tell them how an organic Georgian wine you sampled recently had "an interesting nose" and was "very inspiring". You normally wouldn't have to explain that it was in fact an interestingly horrible nose, because a fellow real foodie should have dived straight into the conversation by this point and showered you with his passion on fertilising his herbal garden with organic, spent coffee grounds.
Brush up on foodie media...
...because oh my god who knew there was so much to say about fried rice?
Serious foodies, like most intelligent humans, enjoy an inspiring podcast or food feature film. These sources of entertainment-slash-self help references offer commoners like me a rare chance to up their food game without actually consuming any. You can finally be on a level playing field with star food critics with your unsolicited and unabridged cultural commentary of Bao, or why Ugly Delicious’ fascinating dive into cuisines and cultures, with its particular mix of machismo and insecurity that chefs engender, hints at a few sober sociological truths that few could fathom. Did you get that?
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