We go to restaurants for very different reasons, some aesthetic, some personal, some ethical, some psychologically alarming. I’ve been writing about food for 12 years now, and I’ve run into a multitude of food people. I’ve begun character sketching them. At various points, I am each one of these people.
The Street Artist
If the place has walls or a real physical address, this foodie is not only out, but would like to speak to you about food-media bias. He (it’s almost always a he, there seems to be a tractor beam to street food that latches especially hard onto testosterone) will only eat at places that force GPS apps to crash, whose address includes statements like "go past the bus stop and look for the shade tent in the auto shop parking lot—if you hit the check-cashing place, you’ve gone too far." Folding tables at his favorite food trucks are permissible, but must look as though they were pulled from back-room poker games where humans get real broken, ante up their children for a look at the river card. The Street Artist will eat approximately 34,000 tacos by the time of his untimely death. A meal without gastrointestinal distress is four stars. A meal with is five.
The F Scott
He or she can smell a well-reduced demi glace not just from his or her nose, but from a secondary olfactory mechanism in their soul. They don’t care where they are—church, a quinceañera, white-collar prison—any place is a good place for their soliloquy against truffle oil. They consider Maldon sea salt an essential electrolyte. They’ve lost friends when those friends ordered merlot. When dragged into a Baskin-Robbins by their uncouth children, they order the "Gold Medal Ribbon Semifreddo."
The Self-Appointed Conscience
He coughs a little when you say the toasted quinoa bowl looks good. Nothing, nothing, he says, except, well, quinoa is a staple crop of Bolivians who can’t afford to eat it anymore because ancient grain-obsessed hipsters have driven up the cost. The Mexican-ish street corn? Perfect, if you like GMOs and unfair crop subsidies that reward corporate mega-farms at the cost of real farmers he read about in Michael Pollan’s book. Forget it, you’ll just have the chocolate dessert and some coffee. Enjoy the fruits of slave labor, he says, pulling out his own set of reusable bamboo utensils to eat his satay of pole-caught sardines.
To her, the menu is a list of suggested terms to Google before ordering. She enters "French onion soup, The Smoking Goat, reviews" into her phone. Yelp user Frenchonionwarrior says they don’t brown the cheese well enough. She continues to work her way down the menu, certain that the Internet will reveal the perfect order. There are many ways to die, and being drowned in a communal punch bowl by a dinner companion is one of them.