False contempt

Matt Yglesias points out just how affected most of the wide-eyed contempt put on by New York snobs is:

Ezra Klein's right to bemoan the sneering condescension in this NYT piece on suburban chain restaurants. For me, this is made all the worse by the knowledge that the attitude of contempt is almost certainly fake. I was actually born and raised in Manhattan by fancy-pants parents who wouldn't dream of darkening the door of an Outback Steakhouse. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge by father has never tasted the joys of Chili's (those two are my favorites).

All of which has mostly made me aware of how rare this is. Most of New York City's elitists grew up in very conventional middle class suburbs and then moved to the city sometime after college. They may look like -- indeed, be -- Greenpoint hipsters now, but they come from the same places as all the other college educated white people in this country.

I was raised on the Upper West side by a woman who made her own croissants. I am actually one of the three people in the country who is neither an Orthodox Jew, nor living in a vegetarian cult, and yet has never eaten in an Outback Steakhouse. And there is nothing--nothing--more grating than born again food snobs writing articles like this.

First of all, as Matt points out, the odds that you grew up like we did, without darkening the door of a chain restaurant, are slim-to-none. I probably meet someone else who was raised in Manhattan an average of once or twice a year. Raising two children in a six room apartment and paying half a million dollars to educate them is the province of a few dedicated hobbyists.

Second of all, if there's anything sadder than people who act like having grown up in New York makes them the apex of the social universe, it's people who act like this when they grew up in Shaker Heights.

And third of all, those of us who enjoyed that rare experience have a genuine sense of the exotic when confronting a suburban chain restaurant. I've been on multiple first-time excursions to various chain restaurants with native New Yorkers, and the modal reaction is to wriggle with joy like a small puppy. I have no idea why it should be so exciting to eat what is basically decent hotel food, but I suspect we all have a lingering sense of having been left out of some vast national shared experience.

Besides, I have eaten perfectly good meals at places like Ruby Tuesday's, Friendy's, Legal Seafoods, and Chili's. I like Pizza Hut breadsticks, KFC mashed potatoes, and Houlihan's stuffed mushrooms, even though these things were not easily available when I was growing up. In fact, that article made me so indignant that I'd march out right now and eat at Outback Steakhouse right now, if they had more vegan options.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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