Is the essence of snobbery when you notice that one thing is better than another and you prefer that one thing? Or are snobs only those people who prefer to associate only with those who with the same preferences?
Keep in mind that in a spiritual sense, I love you all. Yet, if you invite me over to drink Bud Light that spiritual love will be just enough to keep me from wishing upon you some physical hurt. During our visit, I will spend much of my attention and effort on smiling and making conversation as I choke down the swillacious bottled water you’ve given me. I will see your lips moving but won’t be able to make out your words. If I’ve been having a good day up to this point I’ll be able to remind myself that most folks don’t like to hear that drinking their beer is an experience much like drinking warm spit.
Of course, there are other consumables to have an opinion about. Even more than beer, I have an opinion on single malt whiskies. Since I’m part Scottish and I saw myself as an inexperienced drinker during college I decided I had to try Scotch and see what the fuss was all about.
I found out that developing a taste for something like straight hard liquor is a developmental task. You’re not likely to be successful the first time you seek to look down your nose at others who don’t have the refined tastes you aspire to. The first thing I learned is Scotch burned and made me shudder as my body struggled to allow the poison down the back of my throat.
To fight the burn I next tried scotch over ice and realized that there was a taste but the cold ice was killing it. I think it was my third or fourth time drinking it before I realized that I could drink the stuff straight and could tell the difference between Johnny Walker Red and J & B. Then I tried everybody’s “starter” single malt Scotch, Glenlivet, and the rest is a pleasant-tasting history of neuron-killing toxins. Two favorites that I wish I had the money for today are the Glenmorangie 12-yr. Port Wood and the Balvenie 12-yr. DoubleWood
In looking up these whiskies online I ran across some decent prices and was tempted to pull out my debit card.
Even better that the true “snobbist” pleasures, like Djarum clove cigarettes, are some of the anti-snob favorites, like smoking a Swisher Sweet with your chums on the night of high school graduation. This produces a pleasant buzz and sense of camaraderie that is only broken by having your stomach do the flip and flop for hours the next morning while you sweat and wish to God, Jesus and every blessed saint that you could somehow vomit the burning rock out of your stomach.
Other blue-collar tastes are really the best of all worlds. Cheap, readily available, and the taste, smell or just the words send you on a nostalgia trip that has its own reward beyond the sensory. Dairy Queen ice milk is one such item. The vanilla is the best though sometimes I don’t want to miss out on anything and I get a twist cone.
There are not a lot of things that my mom gave me as cooking memories to treasure (ever have leftover mashed potatoes made into fried patties?), but I would love to eat her liver and onions again. There is something sweet and pungent about that meat and even the soft, chewy texture that brings me back to when I was eight or nine and in the safe cocoon of my family–even if they weren’t as young as David Felstul’s parents, who actually had a couple of ABBA albums.
The last nostalgic snobbism I’ll rave about is Nitzie’s. Mr. Nitzkowski owned the candy/convenience store on the corner of our block. He sold a little of everything from the front room of his house. All I remember, clearly, is the candy counter he had. It had every candy I could imagine existing at the time. My sister’s favorites were the Pixie Stix and the multi-colored candy necklaces with hard candy disks on an elastic string. As she sucked on them and turned the necklace around, she would get an acid rainbow of colors banded around her neck, hair stuck to it, attracting dirt until she looked like what my mom called an “urchin.”
I went for the half-penny candy (yes, kids, there really was half-penny candy). They were red coins with the liberty bell molded in relief on them. And they were gummy and chewier than any bears or fish or worms that folks want to sell you now. As you chewed, you could lose a tooth if one of them was loose. And it would stick in the coin so you didn’t end up swallowing it and losing it.
My dad has always had his own “Occam’s Razor”: do you want that or do you need it? To someone else, snobbery is always about wanting something, not needing it. But just watch for it in your own kids. Skittles or Starburst? Kool-aid or Gatorade? The Sprite you’re willing to get them out of expediency or the suicide mix they want to create on their own? Oh, yes, many of us have little snobs in the making.
The next time my son sees me drinking 12-year-old Macallan, I’ve got to remember to make a very sour face. Gummy coins and Pixie Stix are enough for any nine-year-old.