Every day I evaluate what I’m eating. Whether I’m reviewing a meal for this publication or eating a doughnut, I think about what I’m eating. What does it look like? What does it smell like? Which of the recognized five flavors am I tasting? Is this better or worse than other versions of this dish? How much am I enjoying it and why?
“Mommy, you’re so critical,” my daughter, now 30, used to say to me. She’s been accompanying me as I reviewed restaurants since she was a baby. And I am critical (and now, so is she). Sometimes the word critical is taken to mean fault-finding, but it’s just as accurate to say it’s merit-finding—it comes from the Greek word meaning “judge.” Though these days “judgmental” is a maligning word, I maintain that experiencing without judging loses all meaning.
Yes, I actually ponder this kind of stuff when I put together the Dining Awards every year.
Partly because, like every writer, I’m an expert procrastinator, and asking the hardest journalism W, why, is the best way to postpone anything.
But also because that’s what this magazine is about, really. The word “curated” is nauseatingly overused, but we are flooded with so much unsorted, too often “fake,” information, it helps to have a source for substance gathered and sifted by someone with experience. For his article about Salt Lake’s controversial homeless shelters, Glen Warchol talked to dozens of people connected with the issue and attended many public meetings. For our piece about aging, writers Susan Lacke and Eric Peterson visited assisted living centers, talked to gerontologists, and visited with the elderly.
To decide which restaurants get named “best,” I eat out almost daily. I also talk to restaurateurs, chefs, servers, wine and beverage experts and you, the eater-reader. And I ruminate on all this information, filtered through 35 years in the food business. You may or may not agree with this year’s assessment, but it wasn’t made lightly. We hope it sets you meditating on the whys and wherefores behind your idea of the “best” when it comes to what you eat, drink and experience.
In a way, writing and thinking about food is an example of the way we should approach everything—with a critical and questioning mind. Otherwise, we are sleepwalking through life.
The unexamined life isn’t worth living, said Socrates. And the unexamined experience, or meal, is not worth remembering.