Too Many Cooks, or What would Nero Wolfe have thought about pfoodies?
I’m less than a chapter into the book, and I’m already floored that Stout could make food a subject about which men can talk seriously without seeming in the least precious, frivolous, or cozy. At the same time, Wolfe, as continental a detective as ever starred in a mystery story, defends American cuisine against the condescension of a European chef. Come to think of it, though, I’m not sure how often the word chef occurs in the chapter; Stout prefers cook.
This is all a bit of a revelation. Not only do we live in an age that worships celebrity chefs — decidedly not cooks — but the city where I live, Philadelphia, has experienced a much ballyhooed restaurant renaissance in recent years, at least one aspect of which would have earned a vociferous Pfui! from Wolfe.
Philadelphia, you see, has restaurant concepts as much as it has restaurants, with names that include Fork, Supper, Jones, and Spice, the last of which has, in a handbill posted in its front window, actually referred to itself as a “concept.” Even the occasional restaurant named for its owner or chef converts the name into a brand. Thus Marc Vetri’s acclaimed Italian restaurant is called not Vetri’s or Ristorante Vetri, as it might have been in Nero Wolfe’s time, but Vetri.
I can imagine Nero Wolfe's disgust at such foolishness. He would have had no truck with restaurant concepts. He'd have glared if you demeaned a great meal by calling it a dining experience. And you can bet that the word foodie would have made Wolfe spit up his saucisse minuit. How about you, readers? Would you rather dine at a restaurant concept, or is a good, old-fashioned restaurant enough for you?
© Peter Rozovsky 2013