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weinoo

Epicurean Bullying a la Mr. Bruni

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Frank Bruni just wrote a pretty funny piece in the NY Times, entitled Loving Coffee Without Being a Drip. It's pretty funny and it touches on subject matter near and dear to my heart: epicurean bullying.

Of interest to me is that now, it seems, the best way to brew your morning coffee is the pour over method...of course, I've been doing the pour over method for about 35 years, but hey, whose counting? I blogged about coffee almost two years ago and said:

No matter what, Significant Eater and I always start our day off with a cup of drip - it's quick, easy, and delicious and even when slightly hungover, quite doable.

So, I'm guilty of coffee bullying; I've forced friends, family and the like to change their brewing habits, even going so far as to buy "gifts" such as Melitta set ups, freshly roasted beans, etc. I send articles and invite people over for coffee. I'm annoying.

Naturally, this whole bullying thing doesn't pertain to just coffee, but to many concepts about food and cooking. Who hasn't heard about the best way to cook something?

And I'm wondering - what do you wish people would stop bullying you about? Or, on the other hand, do you bully?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Bullying, proselytizing, elitist opining: it's likely with us to stay. Meehan also recently blogged about it in the Times.


Edited by cinghiale (log)

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Bullying, proselytizing, elitist opining: it's likely with us to stay. Meehan also recently blogged about it in the Times.

True.

So, do you bully, proselytize or opine elitistly? If so, about what specifically?

Or are you personally bullied or proselytized to about anything specifically food related?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I think there's a few different kinds of food-related "bullying."

Consider, first, the ethics and health guys. (Although there's no scientific reason I can think of for these two to be conflated, they usually are, at least in my experience). As a former roommate to a pair of militant vegans I have a bit of experience with this one.

Then there's Prep Nazis - people who can't look at someone chopping an onion without telling them they're doing it wrong. I've been on both sides of this one - on the one hand I get an awful foreboding feeling someone's about to lose a finger when I watch people whack away at ingredients with a slicer, on the other the only culinary school grad I know IRL has informed me I chop onion "like a housewife."

In third place I'd put the Read One Book guys - if you don't do it exactly like (insert celebrity chef here), you're obviously doing it wrong. I'm sure we've all run into these - I've found "you do realize he/she dumbs it down for the audience" shuts them up nice and quick.

My personal favorites, though, are the Evelyn Williams' of the world (fans of American Psycho will know who I'm talking about). They don't have to taste something to know if it's good - the infallible, invisible hand of the free market does that for them. More expensive = better in every single instance, and if your stew meat isn't Kobe beef browned in EVOO extracted by pressing between the thighs of nubile virgins in Crete then it's obviously no good.

I'm sure there's more (people who are the equal and opposite of that last, authenticity maniacs who want their ramen noodles flown in from Tokyo, etc). Has anyone else run into these people?


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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It is not bullying when I am right and you are obviously wrong.

You won this thread.

And illustrated we need this emoticon. colbert.gif


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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So where does one draw the line between "proselytizing" and "teaching"? I am forever educating people with tips, tricks, short-cuts, methods etc that I have learned/discovered over 30-something years in the kitchen and some of them I feel pretty strongly are vast improvements over what would be considered to be SOP. If I opine such am I an elitist bully?

Perhaps the difference is in expressing the opinion that "method X or product Y is superior in all cases and under all circumstances to all persons, ignoring personal taste, cost-benefit or individual situation".

We hold cheesemaking workshops periodically and people pay us good money for our opinions. Additionally, we regularly get phone calls and emails from people seeking our advice on off-grid living, goat herd management and farmstead dairying and we tell them what we've found works for us. Yes we have some very strong opinions on some of these subjects and have no problem telling people exactly what we think, which seems natural and right. Of course we also make it clear that "one size doesn't fit all", "your mileage may vary", "caveat emptor", etc.

So maybe another component to "proselytizing" over "educating" would be the unsolicited or otherwise inappropriate pushing of advice/corrections.


The Big Cheese

BlackMesaRanch.com

My Blog: "The Kitchen Chronicles"

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"The Flavor of the White Mountains"

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IMHO "you're doing that wrong, are you stupid?" is bullying, "I know a way to do that much faster and more even, may I show you?" is not.

There's going to be a huge gray area where people will feel like you used the first form even if you did your best to use the second, so yeah you could just not give unsolicited advice. I'm all about spreading the knowledge, though - I'd still be doing a lot of things the hard way (and fancying myself an expert, too) if folks hadn't pointed out my bad habits over the years.


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Bullying, proselytizing, elitist opining: it's likely with us to stay. Meehan also recently blogged about it in the Times.

True.

So, do you bully, proselytize or opine elitistly? If so, about what specifically?

Or are you personally bullied or proselytized to about anything specifically food related?

Depends on the audience. To some, I'm sure my opinions are elitist bullshit. We're not talking about instruction here, right -- like chopping an onion? We're talking about RIGHT from WRONG, as Holly semi-tongue-in-cheek notes. But it's all relative. If you want to make your carbonara with cream or sausage or mushroom or Egg-BeatersTM, who's to say it's "wrong". The whole eating business has become so attenuated and rarified as to make one sick. Chefs in glass cages! Ingredients found nowhere else! Chickens raised on the roof of my homemade smoker! Stop, please stop. One should read and ask and take it from there. And tell proselytizers to shove it.

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If you want to make your carbonara with cream or sausage or mushroom or Egg-BeatersTM, who's to say it's "wrong". The whole eating business has become so attenuated and rarified as to make one sick. Chefs in glass cages! Ingredients found nowhere else! Chickens raised on the roof of my homemade smoker! Stop, please stop. One should read and ask and take it from there. And tell proselytizers to shove it.

Clap clap clap.

Bravo, mi amigo!


PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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I used to be a bit of an epicurean bully about certain things, but as I aged, I noticed that when I, myself, was bullied, I perceived the bullies as pretentious a-holes. So I stopped, lest others perceive me in that way.

When people ask me why I use a particular chocolate, or why I make my tea in a particular way, I'll tell them. But I always preface my comments with "I think. . . " and end them with "but others may not agree." I won't insist they follow my example, because different people have different taste buds, and not everyone is willing to put the same amount of effort/thought into food and eating.

YMMV, after all.

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I am in the same boat as you. Unless specifically asked, I now save my gushing, opinions, and recommendations for the few friends who actually care and want to know about the latest "grass fed beef" I found or "restaurant" to die for. Not fair to bore or bully friends and family who are perfectly content with chain pizza or Olive Garden (rut-roh - there I go again!!). My friends love coming over for some surprising foods that they didn't know that they might like and they know that I enjoy going to dinner at their houses with no judgement.

I can't stand it when people start proselytizing on the boards - everyone has different tastes and budgets, are on different points of the learning curve and in their lives, and have competing time commitments. Bullying takes away the enjoyment that is the whole point of food. Now, a good food debate with someone who gets it and can handle their end of the argument, that's a whole other ballgame.

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There are fine lines between bullying, proselytizing and discussing.

If there is a better way to do something and you pass it on...that's teaching.

If you have something that you feel strongly about (eg something critical, like pizza toppings) then polite and enthusiastic advocacy isn't wrong IMO unless you are an a-hole about it.

If you claim superiority for yourself because of a belief about food (eg vegans are morons, or meat-eaters are unfeeling bastards) then, even though you may be right, you are a food Nazi and should be suppressed. Top Chef judges (esp the British ones) take note.


Edited by gfweb (log)

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Differing opinions make eGullet threads lively. When constrained by civility, the stronger and more challenging the dialogue, the more interesting the thread.

Two similar statements. "Drip coffee brewing is superior to French press." "I think drip coffee brewing is superior to French press." High school English and my first editor taught me to omit "I think" as, since I am doing the writing, "I think" is superfluous. Yet without those two works, a statement of opinion runs the risk of being considered bullying by those who shall eventually inherit the earth.

An assertion is only bullying if it continues, "... superior to French press, you blithering idiot." The idiot part is almost always best left implied.

Imagine discussions at the Algonquin Round Table if bullying, as often defined in this thread, had been banned.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Differing opinions make eGullet threads lively. When constrained by civility, the stronger and more challenging the dialogue, the more interesting the thread.

Two similar statements. "Drip coffee brewing is superior to French press." "I think drip coffee brewing is superior to French press." High school English and my first editor taught me to omit "I think" as, since I am doing the writing, "I think" is superfluous. Yet without those two works, a statement of opinion runs the risk of being considered bullying by those who shall eventually inherit the earth.

An assertion is only bullying if it continues, "... superior to French press, you blithering idiot." The idiot part is almost always best left implied.

Imagine discussions at the Algonquin Round Table if bullying, as often defined in this thread, had been banned.

Well said.

Bullying is also in the eye of the beholder to a degree. What is spirited discussion to one person is bullying to another.

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So I guess, and I hope, I wasn't bullying when I "forced" some friends to drink Manhattans. And now they have a jar or "real" Luxardo Maraska cherries in their fridge :smile: , and 3 or 4 different ryes in their liquor cabinet.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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What do I "bully" people about? The use of vodka to make a Martini. Really, I guess I don't care if they make a drink that involves vodka and vermouth and an olive. But I implore them to not call it a Martini. After I am done, I try to sneak them a cocktail made with gin.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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What do I "bully" people about? The use of vodka to make a Martini. Really, I guess I don't care if they make a drink that involves vodka and vermouth and an olive. But I implore them to not call it a Martini. After I am done, I try to sneak them a cocktail made with gin.

Further to that....the suffix "tini" to indicate anything made with ANYTHING other than gin & dry vermouth..

E.G. "appletini", chocotini", "melontini", ad naseum.

I could go on, but it would be painful. To all of us.


--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Oh... I'll also "bully" people of the use of the word/term "BBQ". Grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken breasts, sausages, etc. on your grill is NOT BBQing. It's cooking. It's grilling. It's tasty. But BBQ it is not.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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