Tuesday, October 5, 2010
On Snobbery , Books and Food
My latest blog entry, the one on the COCOR was by far the most read and appreciated one. With one exception....
There was this guy (turns out he's my age) who commented on my blog saying that he doesn't understand why I can write on a topic which concerns mostly Romanians, in English. He was saying it like if I had commited a crime, and pointed out that he will not read it in sign of protest (buu-huuu) and that I would be snobbish. I laughed innerly because I rarely see such narrow-minded statement, still he reminded of what I was going to write next: snobbery!
After deleting that guy's comment (hey, it's a free country!), I went over some definitions and quotations from various famous people on the topic. Why does this interest me so much? Because It has always been linked (falsely?) with luxury and wealth, and it is seen negatively while luxury is such a wonderful thing, an art, a way of life, a way how to breath...but is it a snobbish one?
"We must never confuse elegance with snobbery". Yves Saint Laurent says. But how do we tell them apart? "The true snob never rests; there is always a higher goal to attain, and there are, by the same token, always more and more people to look down upon."(Russel Lynes) Another statement which is so true, but isn't a society with diffrent social classes something of normality? This is exactly my point: even normal (activities) can be seen as snobbish, such as eating.
I've come lately across a book which speaks about the history of snobbery (how convenient), and the author draws his conclusions on humanity almost from the beginning of the book: we all are snobs in one way or another, just by trying to be above someone or just going with a fashion that all do at a certain time,...we feel we want to be part of the group, to belong in a way, hence we become snobs to everything else around. Short demo: to the guy who posted that comment on my blog entry, I was someone who went over his group, his understanding, therefore I was a snob! "The true definition of a snob is one who craves for what separates men rather than unites them."John Buchan
So why all this attention towards this book and snobbery? Well, the author speaks about the snobs of the gastronomic field, and this, being one of my passions, made me read through the book. It is quite fascinating how he (the author) goes back in history mentioning this behaviour I am talking about even in times of the Roman Empire and before. And how this behaviour repeats today in almost the same manner: certain people think that a type of food is good, even great for them because it is expensive, while the chefs explain that the price comes due to the quality.
The wonderful example this book brings on snobbery is on the beloved caviar. Even I was surprised to read that this food was not appreciated in Europe until the 1920s. Dictionnaries in France in the year 1874 were describing the caviar as something "consumed only in Russia, where it would bring benefits to poor people due to its low price". Indeed, it was looked upon as a rather commun nourishment, put in the same category as salted fish or hering. Sometimes fishermen would cut their catch and throw the caviar back into the sea, which were summed to 10-15 tonnes a year of thrown away caviar. What a shame! It is only after the October Revolution that this nourrishment becomes scarce and starts winning its fame. Russians such as the Petrossian brothers or the Kaspia House bring bring Russian caviar to France and the boom starts. It's funny, how the attitude to one and the same thing can change over the years only due to its availability.
I'll keep reading the book and hope to get back to you with another update on it. After I will finish gastronomy, I'll go over to the fashion. "In order to acquire a growing and lasting respect in society, it is a good thing, if you posess great talent, to give, early in your youth, a very hard kick to the right shin of the society that you love. After that, be a snob."(Salvador Dali) I am. And I will!