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Gene Weingarten: You can’t make me eat these foods

(Alex Fine/For The Washington Post)

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Indian cuisine is based on one spice, curry, and that Indian food is made up only of curries, types of stew. In fact, India’s vastly diverse cuisines use many spice blends and include many other types of dishes. The article has been corrected.

Some people feel that I am a food snob, but that is calumny. It is simply that I have an unusually sophisticated palate, broadly eclectic tastes supplemented by the lack of an “ewww” factor, and a huge appreciation for culinary inventiveness. All of this sets me apart from, and above, lesser persons, such as you.

Recently, though, I have been dealing with personal criticism from my editor, Tom the Butcher, who contends that my palate is actually immature, because, he says, like a toddler I seem to categorically dislike, and whine about, many foods. Outraged, I began to list the foods I do not like, and, indeed, I discovered there were more than a few. What Tom does not understand, though, is that this is a matter of mature, informed discrimination, not childish biases. I therefore Proclaim that a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that I should declare the causes which impel me to these opinions. Let Facts be submitted to a candid world:

Old Bay seasoning. I won’t belabor this because if you read my columns, you know where I stand. I have written that this appalling seafood additive tastes like dandruff from corpses mixed with the rust from around the toilet fixtures at a New Jersey rest stop. I retract none of that. In fact, I hereby double down: They also apparently throw in some dried ostrich guano.

Balsamic vinegar. Okay, you take some perfectly good vinegar and infuse it with perfumes that make it smell like the anteroom of a 19th-century San Francisco bordello. Then you declare it elegant, charge a pretty penny and ruin an otherwise fine salad in seconds flat. Also “balsamic” has no literal meaning in this context, it’s just a word the industry invented because it sounds soothing. It’s like the Hyundai “Elantra.” I contend that balsamic vinegar is a mark of the Devil. Balsamic vinegar likely broke up the Beatles.

Hazelnut. Hazelnut in Frangelico. Hazelnut in coffee. Hazelnuts are one of those things that exist but you don’t know why anyone would even try to sell them. It’s like a fake nut, to make other nuts feel better about themselves. I know I am not alone here: Nutella is not likely to overtake peanut butter in popularity any time before the Heat Death of the Universe.

Indian food. The Indian subcontinent has vastly enriched the world, giving us chess, buttons, the mathematical concept of zero, shampoo, modern-day nonviolent political resistance, Chutes and Ladders, the Fibonacci sequence, rock candy, cataract surgery, cashmere, USB ports ... and curry. If you like Indian curries, yay, you like one of India’s most popular class of dishes! If you think Indian curries taste like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon, you do not like a lot of Indian food. I don’t get it, as a culinary principle. It is as though the French passed a law requiring a wide swath of their dishes to be slathered in smashed, pureed snails. (I’d personally have no problem with that, but you might, and I would sympathize.)

Anchovies. I just put this in here for your benefit, so you will say, “Okay, he’s finally right about something.” Anchovies are great, when intelligently deployed. You really need to improve your palate.

“Bleu cheese.” Rhymes with “eeuuu cheese.”

Pizza or hot dogs with more than two toppings. Drowning good food in wildly disparate other tastes is — I do not mean to exaggerate — like drowning puppies in a toilet. ’Nuff said.

Corollary: Cooked green peppers on anything. Even if it is the only topping. It overwhelms everything with its nasty, rancid presence. Add cooked green peppers to anything, and you have a new, crappier dish. Coq au vin de bourgogne becomes “green pepper with chicken chunks.”

Garbage sushi. Sushi is my favorite food. Phony sushi is my least favorite. “California rolls” are a joke among the Japanese, a pathetic sop to Americans who can’t get their brains around raw fish, which is what sushi is. Consider: A fancy steak restaurant will have a kids’ menu featuring macaroni and cheez. We get that. But this is for adults. Do you eat California rolls? Know shame.

Sweet pickles. Okay, I am ending with this one for the simple reason that no sane human being can disagree. You don’t take a food celebrated for one property alone — pickles are sour — and adulterate its central character and declare it brilliant. Imagine jelly beans that taste like chicken.

I feel I have answered Tom and other critics. And if you still find me immature, you are just a bunch of poopyfaces.

Email Gene Weingarten at

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