Review of The Food Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge by David Kamp and Marion Rosenfeld, Broadway Books.
Let’s start off by pointing out what The Food Snob’s Dictionary is not. Those familiar with David Kamp’s previous works, The Film Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Filmological Knowledge and The Rock Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Rockological Knowledge know his latest “dictionary” will not be a ponderous compendium destined to gather dust on your reference bookshelf.
Rather, it’s a witty little collection of who’s who and what’s what in the exclusive world of the Uber foodie.
While it’s not really a dictionary, you will probably want to keep one handy, as Kamp and co-author Marion Rosenfeld pepper their prose with words like “amanuences” and “viand,” which go undefined. (But then, two paragraphs later, something gets described as being “weird ass.”)
Kamp and Rosenfeld begin with a brief history of food snobbery which they say first made its way to the United States during the aftermath of World War II, when the French populace, “in gratitude for the war effort, restrained its urge to condescend” and initiated Americans “into the ways of its culinary riches.”
If you aspire to join the ranks of food snobs, the authors let you know which chef’s names you should casually drop in conversation, and that you should refer to them by first name as “Wolf,” (not Wolfgang) and “Jim” (not James) Beard. You’ll learn about “farmstead” blue cheese and “dry farmed” fruits and how to pronounce the names of important French chefs and French cheeses.
Kamp and Rosenfeld are clearly having fun here, devoting special sections to categories such as “Food Snob Guilty Pleasures” (Cheese Whiz?) and “Faux Food Snobbery” foods that non-food snobs mistakenly believe are snobworthy. They relegate Chilean sea bass to this latter category, so buyer beware.
Hard to tell if the authors are looking down their noses at food snobs or consider themselves members of this posh circle. We’ll let the reader decide. But if you’re a culinary aficionado and prefer your humor on the dry side, you’ll enjoy this factoid-filled confection Kamp and Rosenfeld have cooked up, garnished with delightful illustrations by Ross MacDonald.