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I was, at the time I started this blog, part of a class at Kalamazoo College on food and travel writing. So if you like food, or travel, or participating in interesting discussions having to do with both or either of those things, you are in the right place. Also, you should check out my classmates' blogs because they're awesome.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reading Response: Restaurant Reviews

So, for these, I was fascinated at the descriptions of the food. Everything was “tangy” or “robust” or “sharp” or “aggressive” and all sorts of things I wasn’t aware food could be. I'm used to thinking about what makes the flavors—for example, something may have a nice cilantro flavor but need more garlic while a different dish might have too much salt and not enough almond—it would seem that I’ve just been assuming that people understand how these things taste. I’ve never had to describe something like that before, because I've always been around people who knew what I meant if I said something along the lines of “next time, more cinnamon, less vanilla.” I also have to say that I was flabbergasted at the prices of the food—I mean, who pays $24 for a single scallop?—and while I understand what a wine list is, my total experience with wine includes one sip of a very, very dry red at my grandfather’s funeral a couple of years ago so all the studd about mixed drinks and wine lists went way over my head. Reading these articles was also kind of amusing though, because I just kept thinking…what would it be like to make that?...or…if I made that would I be able to charge the same amount, or would it have to be cheaper because I have no formal training?
The best part of reading these though, at least in my opinion, was also getting to see how the critics formed each restaurant as if they had personalities; habits and quirks that made them sound almost like people. There was the over-the-top restaurant, the minimalist one, another that was full of dishes that were a teensy bit insane (that was the Il Matto one and probably my favorite next to the one about Kenmare); places where the people eating the food are more interesting than the food itself, the list goes on. The fact that each restaurant had a particular “personality” really brought home for me the fact that it’s not just the food that the critics are looking at, it’s the entire package deal, the whole part and parcel. It made me wonder about just how much if the chefs get any say in how the restaurant looks. This seems unlikely, but one would think that the chef would be the best person to ask about what sort of environment would most compliment the food that was going to be served within it. At least, that’s what makes sense to me. But maybe chefs have really bad senses of style when it comes to interior design, I don’t know.
            Finally, I think the fact that each review also had a specific voice that was always engaging and sometimes downright hilarious really emphasized that the way one tells a story is almost as important as the content of the story itself. In reading these, I have discovered a new respect for food critics. They are in fact very good storytellers who don’t actually have to imagine any of their material, because they simply go to a restaurant and their material comes to them. Being a writer of mostly fiction and fantasy, thinking about the simplicity of this is causing pangs of jealousy. However, I think that having to eat like that and write like that ALL THE TIME in order to earn a living would probably drive me nuts. Not to mention that there’s probably a lot to restaurant critiquing I don’t know, seen as I have exactly zero experience doing something like that. There’s probably a lot more to it than going to a restaurant, eating food, and writing about it. I bet it’s harder than it sounds. Most things usually are.

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