“Oh, it's not up to your standards, I'm sure.”
I hate that phrase. I hate that phrase so much that just typing it made my blood pressure spike for a moment. I hate that phrase so much because it means someone is intimidated by cooking for me, and they shouldn't be.
I write about food and seek out whatever's good to buy in Orange County. I love to cook, and thirteen years after my first trip to a California farmers market, I am still stunned and humbled by the amazing things that come out of the soil within 250 miles of my house. So I cook–and I love to cook, and I love to post pictures on my Facebook of the food I make.
It's just a way of my sharing with my friendslist, “Look! Look at these amazing strawberries!” in the same way that someone else shares anything else they think is wonderful, but the question above is its dark side.
On Friday night, I went to a Passover seder where the hostess was worried about what I'd think of the food. She made this amazing savory vegetable kugel out of matzoh and eggs and green growing things that was almost like a kosher l'Pesach soufflé. I piggishly had two portions, but she was nervous about my eating it, which was silly, because it was great and I wish I'd scored some during the post-seder Ritual of the Ibbergeblibbernes (also known as “Please Take Leftovers Home With You Or They'll Rot In My Fridge”).
I judge restaurants. I judge them because they cost money, and if you, the readers, are going to spend your money in restaurants, you might as well spend it on good ones. When I write a negative review of a restaurant, it's because I'm pissed off that people are throwing their money away on it.
I am not secretly judging your dinner. I am not comparing it to the towering, tortured phalluses of food served in high-end restaurants, and I am not comparing it to some overpriced comfort-food “diner” that charges $20 for something that can be made at home for $5. It sounds jaded, ungrateful and pretentious to be glad not to be eating in restaurants, but any corporate road warrior will tell you how old it gets. A home-cooked meal is a real treat.
When you put a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas in front of me, I am not making a comparison to the special at Memphis. I'm thinking first, “This looks fantastic,” and then I am concentrating on getting every bit of it into my mouth without spilling on my shirt. (You'd think would be habit after thirty-mumble years on this earth, but it requires heavy concentration on my part and always makes me look slightly befuddled at dinner.)
Please don't be upset if I don't take pictures of it and rave about it on Facebook; it's not that I don't like it, it's that I am profoundly grateful to be eating a meal cooked for me that I don't have to take notes on and write about.
Finally, a word about my taste.
I still, even after years of searching for the best restaurant food and the best ingredients in Southern California, occasionally crave an Egg McMuffin. Or–this is the God's-honest truth here–Chicken In a Biskit and processed spray cheese. When my cream soup-hating wife isn't home, I make dinner by cubing a boneless, skinless chicken breast and throwing it in some Campbell's cream of celery soup with a little broccoli. A little pepper and a little rice from a Trader Joe's bag, and that's dinner. No handmade pasta, no cute little individual fruit tarts, no translated recipes from the ancient sacred crypts of wherever; when I'm at home alone it is all about hotdish and boil-in-the-bag white rice.
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'll make you a promise: if you ask for my considered opinion, I will give it to you. Realize, though, that because it's a gift from you to me, I'm likely to see it through the rosiest-colored of glasses.