Thursday, July 29, 2010

Can't we all just have a sandwich?

Oh, I know we all hate reruns, but I just got back from vacation and it might be days, even weeks before an original thought will emanate from my sunburned, tequila-soaked brain. So once again, here's another reposting of one of my pieces from the LA Moms Blog which will be closing at the end of this month. It was either this or a detailed recounting of a conversation I had with Rigel while we were in the middle of rafting down the Truckee river and I realized I might have left the stove on in the condo. See, I can tell you're grateful.

I’m declaring war on the Passive-Aggressive Foodie.

We’ve all got at least one of them in our lives.  The friend or acquaintance, who, while showing off their knowledge of all things culinary manages to make the rest of us feel totally inferior.   The Passive-Aggressive Foodie (or PAF for short) will toss out words like confit and ragoĆ»t in everyday conversation, pretty much ensuring that the rest of us feel really stupid talking about that taco we had for lunch.  Why have just a tuna melt when you can explore the rich textures and subtle layers in a panini?  Inevitably the PAF will make you wish you had a nice bottle of fruity, complex shiraz to bash them over the head with.

A perfect example of a PAF is my friend Diane.  Diane is a wonderful cook, as is her French husband Luc, and we’ve been the fortunate guests at many of their dinner parties.  But as fun and down-to-earth as Diane is, her obsession with food sometimes borders on the insane.  She’s the mom who sends her kids to school with lunchboxes packed with leftover truffle-and-organic-zucchini lasagna, and shows up at potlucks with a dish that requires a five-minute introduction and a four-page syllabus.  She saw a package of pre-made cookie dough in my refrigerator once and almost fainted right there on my kitchen floor. 

Don’t get me wrong – my husband and I love a good meal. But what fun is it when that meal becomes more of a ‘look at me’ statement than simply the backdrop of a warm gathering and good conversation? Sure that steak was delicious, but to refer to its "distinctive marbling" more than once during the meal is just pretentious. And another thing about the PAF – they can never just stop at one dish.  To them, every dinner party becomes a sort of gastronomical triathlon, where the sheer number of dishes will leave you panting by the sidelines.  I still remember being invited over to Diane and Luc's house for a casual Saturday supper, and arrived to find Diane had roasted two chickens and made all the trimmings from scratch – garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus with homemade hollandaise, chestnut stuffing and a pistachio cake  – and this was when she was eight months pregnant.  Let’s just say it really took the wind out of that pan of homemade brownies I showed up with.

So when we decided to meet for a picnic in the park a couple of months ago, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for Diane to step away from her chafing dish and relax a little.  We agreed to keep it simple - we were all worn out from the hectic school year already underway and decided that the less cooking the better.  She said she would bring some food for the adults to eat, and I told her I’d bring some lunches for the kids.  Knowing I would be picking up my girls and coming straight to the park, I had decided to stop by a local deli and grab a few of their boxed kid’s lunches.  I had no idea I would insult Diane by having the nerve to bring food to a picnic.

I should have know there’d be trouble when she called me early that morning to tell me to forget about the kid’s lunches, since she had made enough food for everyone.  I told her thanks, but I had already ordered the lunches; Diane seemed miffed and made some remark about how her kids wouldn’t be eating whatever I brought.  I figured the high cost of goat cheese was making her grumpy that morning.

When we arrived at the park, Diane opened up her suitcase-sized picnic basket to reveal five foot-long italian subs, a tub of curried chicken wings, prosciutto-wrapped melon, a container of homemade potato salad, freshly-baked cookies and a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Basically enough food to feed everyone within a ten -mile radius.  When she saw me bring out my boxed lunches, she had the nerve to say, “Oh, we have too much food already,” which seemed kind of silly considering she just showed up with the entire contents of Aisle 5 from Gelsons.  She could barely look at my offerings that day but I’m happy to say her kids happily devoured those boxed lunches.

I knew then that it boiled down to this:  In our relationship, Diane does the cooking.  A PAF needs to be at the culinary reigns; they don't like eating other people's food and to show up at their home with something to eat would be like showing up on the Oprah show with your own couch.  I’m going to steer clear of food gatherings with her in the future, but if we ever do accept an invitation again, I’m going to show up with twelve cartons of Chinese food just to spite her.

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  1. oh, yeah, we all know them. my mother was one. we could hike ten miles and then picnic with crystal wine glasses, plates, cloth napkins, homemade bread and a meal made from ingredients from countries I didn't know existed. I won't put my children through such misery which is why they like to eat at friends houses, like Laura for example ;)

  2. My best friend in the entire world is a PAF. I love her early, she is one of the most wonderful people I have ever and she has been my rock on many, many occasions. Sometimes though, I just want to knock her over the head with her $112 bottle of olive oil. (But I still really love her.) (But she really does make me nuts sometimes.)

  3. eather-Hay Strom-Oay7/29/2010 4:11 PM

    I have ended friendships because of folks like this ... this is serious shiznit! "What are you making?" Me: "Spaghetti ... I ran out of time, sorry it's nothing fancy, but it's delicious." ~ Foodie: "What are you serious? Is there going to be anything else?" Me: *Yosemite Sam steam coming from ears* - click -

  4. I don't have one! Maybe I'll become the PAF in my group....


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