I admit I’m genuinely annoyed by the occasional internet poster who suggests that whatever I might have to say about food, about travel–about anything–is somehow gravely diminished by the fact that I’m no longer working in a professional kitchen. That proximity to the line, the actual job of cooking dinner for the public enhances one’s powers of perception, focuses the mind and builds vocabulary and that “keeping it real” necessitates dying behind the stove, a broken, broken kneed and broke-ass geezer in his mid-fifties, long past it as a cook – finally succumbed to stroke or liver disease. It’s a point of view popular among internet nerds and cubicle geeks who’ve never done a minute’s physical labor in their lives, the same people who take photographs of every course at their favorite restaurants, convinced that it’s Jean Georges himself in there, personally boning out their squab.
My instinctive reaction to this kind of inverse snobbery is normally a raised middle finger and a “I had twenty-eight years of standing behind a stove – while you were arguing over bundt cake recipes in a chat room, motherfucker! Now, kiss my ass!!”
But the fact is, there’s a little voice in my head that completely agrees with their point of view.
All those years hanging out with no one but professional cooks, looking out at the world through the narrow tunnel vision of the kitchen – it alters, irrevocably, one’s value system and ties one’s sense of self worth inseparably and inversely to how bad, physically, you feel at the end of the day when you roll into bed. While I may want to reach through the computer screen and across the ether to strangle some snarky Comic Book Guy who’s basically sayin’ I’m a pussy, there IS that subconscious connection in my mind between flopping half-drunk on top of the covers, my back, knees and feet throbbing painfully, smelling like Charlie the Tuna after a hard day’s work – and the sense that I have completed a day of honest, virtuous toil.