Pity the poor food critic. Paid to eat out day and night for days on end, and then write about it. When I scour the internet reading other people’s blogs, I am always amazed at how many express an interest in becoming a food critic. I, on the other end, couldn’t think of a worst profession.

Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer prize winner who wrote for many years for the  “L.A. Weekly” and currently for the LA Times, said in an interview that 99% of his meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – are consumed out. A distinguished critic, before writing a review, will visit an establishment a number of times, to sample most of the menu and its consistency, in both food and service.

Frank Bruni, who was the NY Times food critic for five years, recently wrote in his blog about being diagnosed with gout. I always associated gout with King Henry VIII and wasn’t even aware it still existed. But it does, and it’s an inflammation of the joints, most often of the lower limbs, triggered by heavy consumption of red meat, alcohol and animal organs. You can see why Henry VIII was a long time sufferer.

Mr. Bruni was asked to cut back on all of the above, a minor sacrifice you might think, but not if those are some of your favourite food items.

Eating and drinking in such copious amounts is by no means my idea of fun. I could only stomach a “food critic” type of meal once a week. Maybe. The thought of having to eat, even if well and lavishly, for a living, makes me shudder and now food critics are finally coming out about the health dangers such a life subjects them to. Mr. Bruni is certainly not the first. Ruth Reichl also admitted to not being able to sustain such eating habits.

We have come to worship at the altar of famous chefs and think nothing of making reservations months in advance for a new restaurant that has received however many stars from whatever critic. But no matter how first-rate, or local, or organic, or sustainable the ingredients are, the reality of a restaurant meal will always factor in a sodium and fat intake we would never find acceptable if cooking at home. I know, because I work in a restaurant and lord knows how many times I said “It needs more salt” to bring out some flavor or haven’t batted an eyelid to the lavish amount of butter that goes into certain dishes.

Far from preaching giving up all the foods  that have shown correlation to heart disease, cancer or, as it happens, gout, I choose to indulge in such meals only once in a blue moon. Even if I could get paid to eat lavishly and write about it, I think I would miss my nightly bowl of cereal way too much….



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