The New York Post posted an article today on what it means to be part of the Fat Pack. If you’re thinking that this is another common newsbite on the life of unhealthy, over-weight Americans who love McDonalds, you would be quite mistaken. At least about the McDonalds part.
The Fat Pack is actually a reference to the army of taste testing gluttons making up the food writing, culinary and review industry. It’s an exclusive club of sorts that meets at fine dining establishments, espouses secretive French lingo and gushes over the wonderful qualities of… fat.
The journalists, bloggers, chefs and others who make up the Fat Pack combine an epicure’s appreciation for skillful cooking with a glutton’s bottomless-pit approach. Cramming more than three meals into a day, once the last resort of a food critic on deadline, has become a way of life. If the meals center on meat, so much the better.
Even to those who have been in the game long enough to have seen more than a few cycles of food and diet fads, the Fat Pack culture is a shock.
“Most of us who are in this profession are here as an excuse to eat,” said Mimi Sheraton, the food writer and former New York Times restaurant critic who has chronicled her own battle with weight loss. Still, she said, “I’ve never seen such an outward, in-your-face celebration of eating fat.”
Research has shown that Americans generally take a dim view on their obese counterparts. The overweight are paid less, make negative first impressions and denied more services when compared to their thinner counterparts. Yet in the food industry, being fat is almost looked on as proof of one’s passion of eating. Portly bellies proudly attest to years in the gladiatorial arena of silver forks and spoons. Looking in the mirror each morning, I can attest to the fact that my own body is slowly working it’s way toward the uniquely dubious honor. Ironically, I mention this all the while chewing away at a coconut pastry passed my way (bit firm, too much coconut flakes on the outside, not enough taste infused into the actual bread).
I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll say it again: it’s actually not that fun eating for a living. Don’t get me wrong, I love food. This job would be a living hell if I didn’t like food. Not to mention, I wouldn’t ever hear the end of it from the throngs of would-be critics. After all, who wouldn’t be jealous at a life of gluttony when compared to a life of bland prix fixe: the hour commute appetizer, eight to five entree and casual Friday desert. Like any fantasy however, the illusion disappears when the wizard yanks away the curtain.
For a food critic, the magical revelations come in the form of jeans that no longer fit, uncomfortably tight shirts, a rise in cholesterol and increases in blood pressure. Then there’s the sudden aversion to any restaurant we have already sampled (it’s our version of repeating work). However, the true icing on the cake rears it’s mouthful of glory when we’re in our prime environment- a new, virgin restaurant. Prior to peeking at the menu, comes the fore knowledge that no less than three plates are sure to grace the table for consumption. Damn if those overstuffed, caloric soaked stomachs plead to the contrary. Just like you wouldn’t miss out on pizza in Chicago, we’re not about to pass up the tour du jour of antipasto, primi, secondi and dolce.
As if motivations for over-eating aren’t around each corner, there’s a never ending list of restaurant recommendations. We certainly appreciate suggestions, though it has become an impossibly long list. Imagine yourself a cook walking through Costco, only to have every customer shove a cart full of food for you to prepare. That’s about the gist of our interactions. The definition of awkward occurs when we do take someone up on a recommendation, only to find that the food is quite awful to our palettes. As politically correct as I can spin the tale of different tastes for different people, I’m still don’t find myself above lying to avoid a few embarrassing situations.
Yes, I know, I’m bad. But please, don’t stop sending recommendations. I swear, I totally love those sweet and sour pork globs at the karaoke bar down the street. Honest :)