Jun 6, 2007

Foodie agonistes

The dog-eat-dog world of the competitive dinner party circuit exposed.
“Entertaining and cooking have become an integral part of how certain people demonstrate their cultural cachet,” said Joshua Schreier, a history professor at Vassar College who lives in Harlem and says he is a victim, and a propagator, of culinary anxiety. “There is a specific cachet that only a fiddlehead fern can convey. Saying, ‘I got this olive oil from this specific region in Greece,’ is like talking about what kind of car you have. And people don’t want to be associated with the wrong kind of olive oil. It becomes less about having people over and more about showing off your foodie credentials.”

Colleen McKinney, a freelance food writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn, said: “Food is cocktail party conversation. You cook it and then you talk about it all night long.”

Ms. McKinney is generally confident in the kitchen, except when it comes to one particular couple. When they have her over, dinner might be asparagus three ways, fresh pasta with sausage they made themselves and rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream — homemade vanilla ice cream. When they go to her house for dinner, they take their own pickled ramps.

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