Do not tell me how to eat

Here is an example of the kind of comment that does not make me happy. I will omit the name of the commenter, for this is a lesson on how not to interact with your host:

Jerry, I thoroughly enjoy your writing on evolution, cats, determinism, …; however I find your musings on culinary pleasures singularly unappetising. Here you are in Paris,culinary capital of the world and you swear by ‘robust bistro cooking’, boring, tired, touristy, coma-inducing, old stuff like blanquette de veau, boeuf bourguignon, cassoulet, … . As to foie gras, try plain fried foie gras (cru not terrine), preferably goose liver rather than duck liver. Restaurants love to sell terrine de foie gras because it does not need any preparation and can be sold with a steep mark-up. At a charcutier, buy terrine de foie gras for a fraction of what it will cost you at a restaurant. Get a baguette and some cheeses, go the Jardin du Luxembourg and enjoy.

For a great but pricy selection of food stuffs, go to the Bon Marchee’s La Grande Epicerie de Paris. There is one on the rive gauche and one on the rive droite. Do hope that you don’t take my criticism of your eating habits amiss.

I could reply at length about the virtues of French comfort food, how I haven’t had any in years, that it is not “touristy” when it’s classic bistro cuisine, that I’ve bought cheese and bread and had picnics, that I lived in Paris for over a year all told, and I’ve had many lousy meals in “bistronomie” and nouvellish places. I’ve eaten in upscale and downscale places, and at Michelin three-start restaurants. And what I like to eat when I’m here is French comfort food, not overpriced small portions at a price of 300 euros per person, not including wine.

I eat what I like and I’ve eaten enough to know when food is good and well prepared.  As for those pricey food halls like that at Bon Marché, this person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. You can find a much better selection of ready-to-nom foodstuffs at a good Parisian street market, and I’ll show you in my next post.

What puzzles me is that someone would want to tell me that I’m eating THE WRONG THING and then add that I shouldn’t take the criticism “amiss”. How else am I supposed to take it? It’s not as if I’m a rube from the States eating in Paris for the first time. It’s like telling someone who likes Duke Ellington that they should be listening to Ornette Coleman.

I still don’t understand what brings someone to write me like this—polite but deeply condescending. But if you want to remain in my good graces, I’d avoid this kind of leisure fascism.

88 Comments

  1. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    What an absolute jerk! You just keep nomming how you want, Jerry!!

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Seconded. Quantity, style and source of cuisine have nothing to do with third parties.

      Personally, I am always impressed with the quantities consumed: as I aged I could no longer have a starter and sweet, now I can only just about manage a main course. Anyone who can hold onto a healthy appetite deserves respect.

  2. Karen Fierman
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I think this guy (and I’m sure it’s a GUY) meant well, but why is he so clueless? If he’s been following you for any length of time at all, he should KNOW that you are a consummate FOODIE (but not of the snob variety). I, for one, adore your food posts and pics … which, by the way, your photos (of everything) are fantastic! Eat on, crouton!

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I think the takeaway here is the writer (if you will) apparently dives into a project where THEY are running THEIR OWN website.

    Go write your own blog post about rive gauche and other hip obscure French stuff that only hip people understand and let us know – we’ll gladly choose to load the article up and enjoy. Or not.

  4. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Ha! What a dick! I have a baguette he can try, if he’s interested.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      That sums it up nicely with no beating around the bush.

  5. BobTerrace
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Gourmet, gourmand, not relevant. Enjoy life, it’s too short.

  6. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    All I will say is that you can delve into any of the gastronomic, molecular, or regional nuances of that dusty old-school standby called cassoulet any time you want. Can’t get enough of the stuff. And for all the high-priced and highfalutin drinks to go with it there is nothing better than a Beaujolais. What can I say? I’m easy.

  7. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Actually, it is Lyon, not Paris, that is considered the culinary capital of France, and by extension, the world.

  8. Paul S
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I’m jealous of your food adventures. Above all else, a dining experience should be personally enjoyable. Pricey doesn’t equal good, neither does a Michelin rating.

  9. MarkMyWords
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Those kind of comments rub me the wrong way, so I understand perfectly your reaction. I agree with your opinion about La Grande Epicerie – it’s good but pricey, and you can find similar if not better at local stores. The tone of the comment reminds me why I bristle at so many of the travel videos on TV – they are from the viewpoint of someone travelling on a far bigger budget than me. Of course an excursion or hotel that costs three times more than I can afford is more luxurious! So keep up the reports on your culinary adventures. I’m taking notes so that I can try some of these places when I’m in Paris in September.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Well, at the budget end of the market I found that the little boulangerie/patisseries in side streets a hundred yards away from the main tourist spots were often good value. The sort of places where the locals bought their lunch every day.

      (In no way am I suggesting that Jerry should patronise any place he doesn’t want to!)

      cr

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        Yes! A good algorithm is find the tourist spot and walk two blocks away from the crowds.

  10. Marilyn
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    The world is full of ‘know-it-all’ people who feel their mission in life is to offer unsolicited advice. Especially because they are sure they know better than you. I really enjoy reading all your posts! You travel to places I will never be able to visit and your travel posts make me feel like I have been there. Please ignore the posts from these twits.
    Have a wonderful time in Paris and keep the daily recaps coming!

    • prinzler
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Had the commenter merely said, “Jerry, you should try this, it’s great . . . .” it would have been completely different.

      • Christopher
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. “When I was there, I ate…you might give it a try” or some variation would have gotten the point across without being rude.

        I’m a 20+year vegetarian, and I get the “you eat everything wrong” talk quite frequently, as if it’s any of their business and as if I gave two sh!ts and a giggle about their opinion. That’s the great thing about people; they’ll always point out your flaws, whether you asked them to or not.

  11. Sharon
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I love your term “leisure fascism.”

    • prinzler
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I loved it more! ; )

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted May 15, 2018 at 4:07 am | Permalink

      Personally, I prefer to reserve the terms ‘fascist’ and ‘facsism’ for adherence to vicious, extreme nationalistic, racist and authoritarian political views. At worst this person is guilty of being a little rude in asserting his/her food preferences in opposition to the Professor’s.

      • Gayle
        Posted May 16, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        agree

  12. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I find a lot of those new food inventions, fusions of various cuisines and what have you, are not really that great. On the other hand, the dishes that have withstood the test of time go that way for a reason.

    The other thing that the commenter said that makes no sense to me is judging a food based on the restaurant’s profit margin. If a restaurant can make great food at low cost, more power to them. As a patron, all that should be important is whether it is freshly prepared, safe to eat, and tastes good. Of course, if one is thinking of opening a restaurant that’s a different story.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      I’ve been told that restaurants also place a huge markup on wine despite requiring even less preparation than foie gras.

      Well of course they do. People seem to think that the cost of the raw ingredients is the most significant part of the expenses. This is completely false. You have to pay your staff, your rent (not insignificant in a place like Paris), your taxes, your building and equipment maintenance, utilities and waste disposal and more besides.

      I listened to a programme on the restaurant trade in the BBC’s Bottom Line series recently. It puts the economics in perspective.

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        Yes, it is a tough business. Even if you have a hit restaurant, it often only lasts a few years before the crowds move on. Of course that is also often because the quality has faded. I think food personalities like Anthony Bourdain and Phil Rosenthal have the right idea: let someone else deal with owning a restaurant and cooking the food.

  13. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Here’s a much better way to make the same comment: “Hey, while you’re in France, here are some taste treats I recommend: . And check out the Bon Marchee’s La Grande Epicerie de Paris. Not to be missed!”

    There. Was that so hard?

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      There you go

      Even “You GOTTA check out rive droite!” would’ve been ok – technically it’s still ordering someone to do something, but for people who can read between the lines, it’s obviously expressing …. I have to go

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      It is if you are trying to show off that you are gastronomically superior.

    • Sastra
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Yes. I’d add that there’s also no harm done by starting out with an endorsement of whatever you can endorse (“You’re right, foi gras is great!”) The writer could have made virtually every point diplomatically. If nothing else, present the “suggestions” not as corrections, but as personal preferences, and in a tone which can’t be read as anything but cheerful.

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        I don’t mind people steering me to new experiences; it’s the lack of politeness, as you say, that rankles. Plus the self-styled superiority. It always amazes me that people will tell you things about your taste on the internet that they’d never say to you in person.

        As always on this site, tone is important.

        • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

          I have no intention of defending the comment in question. However, it should be noted that text in online comments, emails, etc. do not carry emotions nearly as well as face-to-face communication. Not only do people communicate differently when face-to-face vs text messages, the same message has different effect.

          • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

            I think telling someone their taste sucks comes out the same in all modes of communication.

          • Filippo
            Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

            All the more reason to take care in what one writes, as I take letter writers did two or more centuries ago, unable as they were to travel great distances quickly for frequent in-person face-to-face interaction, or video conferencing.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted May 14, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

              That’s probably one good explanation for why their letters were so circumlocuitous, obsequious and faux-modest.

              “I received your communication with great interest…”
              “if I may humbly suggest…”
              “Your humble and obedient servant…”

              and all the rest of it.

              cr

              • Filippo
                Posted May 16, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

                Well, it is rather an art to be able to courteously, civilly and congenially insult someone.

        • Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          And, like you said: It’s not as if it were your first trip for Paris! Good grief!

  14. W.T. Effingham
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    +1

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      On B. Curtis comment above, that is…😯

  15. Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    De gustibus non est disputandum. Literally!

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Oh but there is. The internet has proved that.

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Lol. I suppose you’re right. How about “you can’t *successfully* dispute matters of taste”?

        I think the psychology behind comments like the one in the OP is that many people suppose simply being aware of greatness in a given discipline somehow rubs off on the one aware of it. This happens with sports, fashion, music, and as we can see, food. People like to broadcast that they are aware of greatness because it’s easier than actually achieving greatness.

        • Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

          “People like to broadcast that they are aware of greatness because it’s easier than actually achieving greatness.”

          Exactly this explanation fits the phenomenon of virtue signalling too.

  16. Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Parisian pedantry is not just for petit-déjeuner anymore.

  17. John Crisp
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Personally, I take great offence at your food postings. 😉 Where I live (Bahir Dar, Ethiopia), the food – though tasty and wholesome – is very monotonous, though I have attempted to be as creative as possible in the kitchen. And your penultimate posting was sheer agony: I lived for 7 years in south-west France (Toulouse), home of cassoulet. I think I may have wrecked my laptop by dribbling on the keyboard.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      I have a tip for you on how you can alleviate the torment of seeing the tempting Parisian dishes: look at the pictures only after you have just eaten a meal. It worked for me – a little….

    • John Frum
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      A couple of years ago I had cassoulet in the brasserie opposite the station.
      C’etait fantastique.
      The Leffe on tap helped enormously as well.
      The lass that brought the first Leffe to my table spilt it and proclaimed “ooh la la la la”.

      • John Frum
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        Toulouse Station that is.

  18. Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I think you’ve earned the credit for coining (no pun intended) “leisure fascism.” You also used the phrase last January.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      I too like the phrase: ‘leisure fascism’. Everyone on a coach with an iPad can participate. It doesn’t mean they should be heard.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      I think I will use the term the next time my wife tells me that my jeans are ripped.
      But only once. 🙂

      • BobTerrace
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        Of course only once, just before the divorce papers are served.

    • AC Harper
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      You could probably substitute ‘leisure fascism’ with ‘holiday authoritarianism’. *Some* people are never happy if you don’t stay where they recommend,don’t visit the sights they recommend, don’t eat the foods they recommend, say words they don’t approve of, think thoughts they don’t approve of, and so on.

      There appears to be a theme… holiday thought crime.

  19. Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Jerry, if you’ve never had a hummus. pickle and potato chip sandwich on multigrain toast, you haven’t truly lived. The potato chips must be pretentious kettle cooked ones with the proper crunch, not wimpy Lays or the like.

  20. Hakan Konig
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I’ve read your travelogue from Paris and I’ve been sitting here thinking, “well, me and the wife hasn’t decided where to go for our summer vacation yet. Maybe it’s time to go back to Paris”. Really, the big thing that draws me back there is the food. Been there twice and while there still probably is a huge amount of things to see, the food has been amazing. Even the bad food was good (or at least very well prepared).
    Really need to check out Jim Morrissons grave also. That’s probably one thing we haven’t done yet.

  21. Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I doubt that any French citizen with even minimal taste buds would criticize cassoulet or boeuf bourgignon, both of which I’ve made several times (but how do you get the beans to not dissolve???).But with your indulgence, let me pose as a Fromage Fascist, and ask why Jerry doesn’t mention French cheese????Here I am straining at the leash for raw milk Camembert, which he could have ingested cheaply and deliciously, and he overlooks it and all the other magnificent cheeses like
    Livarot, Pont L’eveque, Maroilles, the smellier the better. And he could have brought them all back legally…..what a disappointment…..

    • Frank Bath
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Steady…

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Now you’ve made me go and think of the Monty Python cheese shop sketch.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Check out the post right above.

    • stephen
      Posted May 15, 2018 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      Fundamentally,Lorna,it all depends on the beans… If you express further interest here,then I’ll expand (& expatiate 😉 ) later today.

  22. Jonathan
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    May I respectfully suggest you try “Les Grands Verres” a new restaurant. The Berkshire pork shoulder is amazing

  23. Christopher Bonds
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    In my experience, persons who give “advice” in that way do not generally welcome receiving advice in the same way. I think they suffer from some deep feeling of inadequacy that impels them to pose as experts.

  24. darrelle
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    A perfect example of something I’ve never come up with a clever term for but that has been a pet peeve of mine for decades. Someone being a dick but since they are well spoken and didn’t use any bad words they insist they are being polite. What really irritates the heck out of me is that most of the time people like that get a pass from others.

    Most websites I’ve ever spent time at have had at least one (usually several) regular who was a chronic dick but well spoken while about it, and never called on it by site admin while less dickish but less well spoken people invariably were. I just don’t get it. I’m happy to see Jerry call people on it here. It’s a rare thing.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Yes

    • ladyatheist
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s called “covert bullying.”

      • darrelle
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        That’s not a bad fit.

      • Posted May 15, 2018 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        You’ve nailed it.

        I must say I’ve noticed a certain ‘off’ tone from a few of the newer commenters since perhaps the autumn of 2017.

        • David
          Posted May 16, 2018 at 1:26 am | Permalink

          The ‘off tone’ is not your liking I take it. You seem to get somewhat perturbed when an expected agreement is not forthcoming. Have you ever been married?

          • Posted May 17, 2018 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

            How do you know that I “seem to get perturbed……”?

            • David
              Posted May 18, 2018 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

              Because of the “off tone” comment. Apparently, recently posted comments have made you feel uneasy about a trend you sense is on the rise or have I misinterpreted the comment or did I misapply the verb?

              • Posted May 20, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

                The off tone I refer to has nothing to do with the civil presenting/debating of facts data, and opinions. I’ve been receptive to that, something you’d know if you’d actually read my past comments. I don’t think snarkiness, trolling, rudeness or arrogance, belittling down someone’s personal tastes, etc. is helpful in these exchanges. Nor is your reference to marital status.

  25. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    As for the unbidden food pundit, to quote the original Latinxs: “de gustibus non est disputandum.

    And speakin’ of Mr. Ellington, worth noting Le Duke gave one his last great concerts in Paris:

    • freiner
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      That version of “Rockin’ in Rhythm” with the “Kinda Dukish” lead-in. Ooh-la-la! (Though I think the concert itself was in the early sixties.)

  26. ChrisH
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    A good cassoulet is a thing of absolute beauty.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      But woe betide you if you praise the Toulouse cassoulet in Castelnaudary (or vice versa).

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Like John Frum did ten comments up? 😉

        cr
        (See, I read all the comments.
        I have no life.)

  27. ladyatheist
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Don’t get fat if you don’t like being told what or how to eat! There are many people in the world who think they have the right to give fat people advice, usually parroted from Prevention magazine or the FoodBabe.

  28. Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Jerry: Dammit, eat whatever the heck you like! 🙂

    I make cassoulet. One of my French teachers (from SW France) asked me if I “put those horrid cloves in” or something to that effect. Seems most cassoulet made in America has too much clove in it. I agree — I prefer no perceptible clove flavor.

    Cassoulet: A dish for kings! Bon apetit!

  29. Posted May 14, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I just greatly appreciate the fact that you share your science, animal,travel and food adventures with us. As I’ve gotten older and my AFIB has advanced, I’m less able to travel, and miss it. Memories of food from different travels still excite my taste buds, whether “restaurant gourmet” or “home cooked style”. I’ve never been fortunate enough to travel beyond the American continents, except for one trip to Japan, and I can truly give my own opinion (which is mine) that there’s exceptional food to be found wherever I’ve been. My huge collection of recipes from everyone and all over (and cookbooks) can attest to that belief.

  30. Roger
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Wow I would hate to see what the commenter thinks about my mustard and baloney sandwich haha.

  31. Dean Reimer
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    It would have been so easy just to say something like “Hey, if you get a chance, try this great place I found last time I was in Paris!” or, “I recommend you try some plain fried cru foie de gras (as opposed to terrine) if you can find it. So good!”

    Is it so hard for people to offer suggestions without condescension? Good grief!

  32. David
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, haven’t you learned to roll with the punches yet? I found the food critic spot on. IMHO photos of meals are boring. Why post them in the first place?

    • Julian C
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      I trust (hope) this is an attempt at humour…

      • Diane Garlick
        Posted May 15, 2018 at 2:06 am | Permalink

        Because no one can be that clueless.

        Can they?

  33. Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    If there’s one thing I can’t stand at my age is someone correcting me on taste, when I’m already baked and enjoy my own quirks, eccentricities and curmudgeonliness.

    Enjoy yourself, Jerry, the way you want to! Thanks for sharing your life, especially with us housebound fogies who don’t get to travel much. You are a joy!

  34. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Don’t you pay that man no nevermind, Mister Jerry; you do bistro you.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 16, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      “Don’t you pay that man no nevermind, Mister Jerry; you do bistro you.”

      I once hear an Appalachian “old timer” say, “Hit don’t make no nevermind to me.”

  35. Jenny Hoffman
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    And really, he or she (possible) couldn’t have just made suggestions without saying what you like is crap, which is just so rude?
    Can you imagine this person telling his or her significant other “You look absolutely beautiful, but really, that outfit is so tired and worn and unflattering”?


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