Twenty years ago, the only thing elevating our food scene above gourmet popcorn was Trotter, Joho, and Roland Liccioni. Now we have no fewer than half a dozen “Top Chef” stars operating out of Chicago, and we order “crispy pig face and smokey whipped fat back” at Stephanie Izard’s The Girl and the Goat. With a straight face.
Our city has been considered to be in the vanguard of extraordinary eating for a good decade now. You’d think that local diners would have developed a bored, “been there, eaten that” attitude.
Nope. The foodies have lost their minds, behaving as though they have personally been stir fried in a nutty soy. The foodies have gone too far.
In restaurants, they will slap away the hands of anyone who attempts to eat their meal. They first adjust the lighting and, if necessary, stand on the brick oven to get a photograph of their luscious dish. They allow time to live blog, Tweet, Instagram, Yelp, Facebook, and invite a roaming tattoo artist to the table to render their meal in full color on their neck, so that they may never forget this one moment of gastronomic ecstasy. Then they finally pick up the absolutely correct fork. And start moaning.
A growing number of Chicagoans spend their day incessantly refreshing their Facebook page in the hopes that a table at Next will open up. They wait in line at Doughnut Vault to devour the freshest dough possible.
The table turnover at any restaurant has ground to a halt as ordering entrees has become an inquisition. Was the mangelista pig raised on a local farm and only fed acorns for the last two months that it was alive? Does that hamburger have the correct ratio of skirt steak, brisket and New York Strip, or does it need to be recalibrated? Has the wine been grown on the same property as the olive oil?
As restaurant bucket lists get longer, our patience is getting shorter.
But the obsession with food shows no sign of slowing. The Sprinkles cupcake ATM on Walton delivers gourmet sugar 24 hours a day, provided no one gets their hand stuck in it. The words “artisanal” and “organic” are met with gasps. And now Chicago magazine reports that we are raising a new breed of “koodies” – kid foodies — who get cranky when they can’t get a reservation at Sepia.
Does no one else fear the future?
A few years AD, the historian Livy pointed to the celebrity status of cooks as the first sign of decay in the Roman empire. We doubt he would approve of pink pastry ATMs, either.
Foodies, reclaim your souls! Go to a 7-Eleven. Eat an aged taquito. Keep your iPhone in your pocket, and tell no one what you have done.
Just digest. Be.
Heed the words of Livy, or the wisest woman of all time: Your mother. How often did she tell you, “Don’t play with your food”?
It’s now necessary to add, “Don’t fetishize your food, either.”