Bad Chowhounds!

Way back in the day, my friend turned me on to Chowhound, which was a basic message board that discussed cooking, restaurants across the nation (and worldwide), and food in general.  I used to go there to figure out which restaurants to try during San Diego Restaurant Week.  I don’t think I ever posted there when it was nice and civilized.  You could get simple restaurant reviews and people would say if they truly loved a place or if it was just a good place for a good meal. 

Then, Chowhound got a makeover and got more popular.  Posts were everywhere and there were more opinions than ever.  Then, Chowhound merged with and (something like this), the format changed again, ads and articles appeared, and even more people started posting.  I started posting somewhere in the middle of all that.  Sometimes I was looking for answers or suggestions on dinner meals.  Sometimes I was giving my own advice.  Sometimes I looked for new places to eat in San Diego, chimed in on the request for San Diego to break away from California, and added my 2 cents when we found a restaurant I truly loved.  Even if other people didn’t.  Chowhound is where I first learned of The Linkery and Anthropology.  It’s where I searched for places to eat when we went to Napa and San Francisco.  It’s where I tuned out of the ridiculously long discussion of why Phil’s BBQ is not true bbq and not worthy of all the crowds and long lines.

In the last year, I have fallen out of love with Chowhound.  There are a few “people” who do genuine posts, admit that sometimes they enjoy a meal that is not gourmet, seasonal, or high-end, and talk about where to go for a good sandwich.  I like these people and pay more attention to their posts.  Then there are the people who put down our city because we don’t have the dining scene of LA or NY, put down other people’s opinions of food/meals/restaurants by saying others obviously don’t have the refined tastes as they do, and throw out generalities like telling people that Mission Valley is a wasteland for good food.  I won’t even start telling you my thoughts on any of those, it would take too long.  If one of the “bad” posters has entered a thread, I typically walk away from it and pay no more attention.  Why annoy myself or risk getting drawn into the argument? 

However, I had to mention a post I read regarding biscuits in San Diego.  As long as the thread lives (those Chowhound moderators can get so tricky), you can find it here.  Someone was looking for a good biscuit, using Popeye’s biscuits as a reference point.  Someone else pointed out that Hash House has outstanding biscuits.  And then it just went all wrong from there.  First, let me say that Popeye’s does have good biscuits and I, personally, find the biscuits at Hash House a tad bit too dry for my tastes.  Would I call it “bland and uninspired”?  No, I would just say they’re dry, but if you slather on butter and the homemade jam the experience gets a lot better.

Now, just in case the post gets deleted (see: tricky moderators), here’s what the reply was:

“Maybe it’s just me, but I also think “bland and uninspired” is sort of an odd criticism for biscuits.”
I have a feeling that anyone from the southeastern US will COMPLETELY understand my statement. Just as well-executed BBQ needs no sauce to be enjoyed, a proper biscuit does not need jam to be cherished. An “inspired” biscuit is delicate, flakes at to the touch, has a buttery (but not overly so) flavor. The perfect biscuit is feathery light with a light brown crust on the top and a moist interior. It tends to have slight indentations on the sides where it has bumped into other biscuits as it baked.
I see nothing wrong with calling a poor biscuit bland and uninspired, as I spent many years refining my palate for this delicacy. Some may also think that delicacy is an improper, undeserved term for something as simple as a biscuit. I could easily say the same for a item I did not grow up with and is not a part of my familial history. Biscuits are an art form in the south.
Alice, I respect your opinions on this board, but the fact that you question my usage of bland and uninspired when referring to biscuits, tells me you are not the best resource for this item. Your comment is as offensive to a southerner, as saying the same about california burritos or fish tacos to a native SoCal resident.

I kind of wanted to reply that Pillsbury makes a flaky biscuit that is 1) buttery, but not overly so, 2) flakes at the touch (you know, with the layers that peel off, yum!), 3) is feathery light and 4) gets a brown top.  I also wanted to tell that person to back off and calm down.  I get that people get protective of their regional “delicacies” and that you can argue over bbq and bbq sauce and coleslaw types for weeks on end.  But don’t you think it’s a little overboard to say you’ve spent years refining your palate for a biscuit?  Yes, yes, part of your heritage and blah blah blah.  To me, this says you are a food snob who is unwilling to eat anything that does not live up to the expectations of your delicate palate.  If you were anything other than that, you wouldn’t have felt the need to point out your refined palate in a thread about BISCUITS.  I also notice that you admit you like Popeye’s biscuits, which is weird because most people like you look down on fast-food chains. 

As to you claiming Alice Q.’s remark was as offensive as commenting on California burritos or fish tacos, well, um… I’ve never seen anyone boast that they’ve spent years refining their palates for a fish taco.  Go ahead and complain, see if anyone cares.  Maybe that’s because we’re more laid back here in California. 

I like Alice Q.  She puts up good posts and has good content on her website.  She doesn’t come off as pretentious, but she shows that she appreciates good food and good food efforts (like the Slow Food movement and farmer’s markets and such).  She also has time to take baking and pastry classes, which makes me totally jealous.

I like the concept of Chowhound and I still look around here and there, but I don’t like feeling judged by people who think their opinions are better than others and if they don’t like something, then no one else should like it either.  That’s not the point of an opinion or personal taste. 

On that note, we are meeting with friends for free Chipotle tonight!  The burritos aren’t authentic!  The cow meat isn’t local!  They put corn in the salsa and cilantro in the rice!  Horrors!!


5 responses to “Bad Chowhounds!

  1. Thats interesting, I noticed this post, and thought it was pretty horrific the way that person totally kicked off at alice. I thought she had a good point really, and I made a comment later on, I mean they are only biscuits!! I think the comment before mine about people wanting to get stuff from home when they are miles away was good.

    Also, feel good that at least chipotle has happy pigs for their burritos!!

  2. I also saw this post and was stunned at the idiocy. Seriously, back away from the computer, take a deep breath and CHILL out. We’re talking biscuits here (flour, fat, rsising agent and salt), not world peace.

    I agree with how hard it is to enjoy Chowhound these days. I keep my eyes out for posts from certain people, like AliceQ, and try my best to ignore the holier than thou posters.

  3. Love your blog. I too have become bored with the snobbery on chowhound. I used to be very active, and now just occasionally when there are posts about places in my hood. I do a food blog for the Pasadena area and SGV, lots of times I will put my reviews up on the site and not get a single comment ! Prolly cuz its not the Westside or a tasting menu.

  4. to jennywenny: Yes, I also liked the post that said it’s unlikely you’ll find your hometown favorites here in San Diego. We may get close (or close enough), but it’s never going to be the same.

    to soulshine: I know! I understand there are good biscuits and bad biscuits, but in the end it’s still a biscuit! There are some posters that I just won’t read because I know I’ll get annoyed. That’s just sad.

    to rantsnravesnreviews: Food snobbery is just not a good thing. I think Chowhound has turned more people into food snobs because they feel if they aren’t eating where the “foodies” eat, they aren’t getting a good meal. I wish I was in the Pasadena are more often… I remember having lots of good food up there!

  5. I too love you blog. After living in San diego for a few years i do miss the places you speak fondly of. I am about to boycott chowhound, or at least posting anyway. People are so quick to mis-read your post and jump down your throat. I don’t find it a very welcome place for discussion at times. Thats my experience 🙂

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