The Dining Chair Critic

Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 22/01/2022

We are all familiar with the armchair critic – the one who considers himself to be an authority on everything happening in the world – who theorizes endlessly but never gets into practising what he preaches. Many of us educated citizens are guilty of being one some time or the other. We love to comment but do not want to sully our hands to improve the system.

However, what my post is about is another kind of critic whose chair is different too. I refer to the ‘dining chair critic‘. He/she sits on the dining chair and offers expert comments on every meal. I may be the first one to coin this term. This critic is a family member who takes great pride in mincing no words about what the food tastes like. What makes this critic more interesting to analyse is that he or she has never stepped into the kitchen even to boil water. Yet, when it comes to commenting on food, this person is always raring to go.

Sometimes, opinions are formed and the verdict is pronounced (about the food) by using sense organs other than the tongue. The lids of the dishes are lifted, a glance is stolen and the nose is all screwed up. There are times when this critic has to eat his words after actually tasting the dish. I am not saying that visual appeal of food is not important. It is – especially because we live in times where the cover of the book has to be as attractive and interesting, if not more, than what is written inside. But to be fair to the person who has cooked a meal, one must remember that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. There are times thus when the Brahmastra is used and the critic is asked to cook for the family since he is a culinary expert. What ensues is silence, with only the sound of the cutlery being heard, but not before a barb is hurled that you do not need to know how to cook to judge the food.

The critic at the dining table could be troubled by more generic issues like the way food is eaten or how common serving ladles are being handled. In traditional South Indian households, food is eaten only with the hand and that too generally the right one. Further, handling the common serving ladles with the soiled (jutha /जूठा) hand is considered blasphemous. Patriarchs and matriarchs lose sleep over such faux pas. There is no single English word that can capture this concept in the right spirit.

There is another extreme that I know of- the silent eater. This is that family member who will eat anything that is served stoically, in complete silence, opening his or her mouth only to eat. This person perhaps believes that silence speaks louder than words. The problem is that this person is so poker faced that you would not even know that salt has not been added to the dal.

While armchair critics swing into action only occasionally, the dining chair counterparts are in action at least three times a day. It is these critics who make meal times boisterous and interesting. Imagine how dull it would be if all of us are silent dining chair critics. There is no fun in silencing the critic who is already silent.

4 thoughts on “The Dining Chair Critic

  1. Very well articulated Trivia. Not quite trivial .A tasty food is what the tongue longs for. A good book is what the mind longs for. But armed chair experts are on rampage. Their field has expanded exponentially.
    I must plead guilty of a silent eater But for an altogether different reason. It has been said that the hunger is a disease and the food the medicine 😳🤣

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  2. But, the Dining Chair Critics, sometimes, are too judgemental and make life miserable for a younger family member. Some can be sadistic, too.

    Of course, many Jolly Good Uncles/ Aunties add spice to the food and enliven the eating experience.

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    1. It is great to have you commenting on Trivia after a long gap! I presume that you have the joint family set-up in mind when you refer to the younger family member being tormented. That is a scenario that I did not explore. But the others in the family should rally around and support the younger member.

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