It’s good to be a nerd these days. A new generation of gamers, punk rockers, and fantasy sports fanatics have found strength in numbers and we’re pushing back against the establishment. I am old enough to remember a day when a certain silver screen antagonist named Ogre hunted nerds for sport; but the game has changed. The tight pants and suspenders of yesteryear’s Lamda Lamda Lamda have practically become the skinny jeans and suspenders on today’s run-of-the-mill hipster bartender. The pendulum has swung so far in our direction that thick-framed designer eyeglasses are sold without lenses to superstar athletes who match the specs to their bow ties for post- game press conferences. Nerd power is enjoying a halcyon age at the top of the pecking order.
Classic nerdiness has always been an expression of one’s true self, fueled by a passion for some endeavor that alienates a nonconformist from the rewards of popularity. Carl Sagan was entranced by the stars. Stan Lee unlocked Peter Parker’s potential with an iconic red and blue mask. Mario Batali made magic with his pots and pans. All of these household names paid their dues at the back of the pack before they rose to stardom, undaunted by those with more popular passions. By its very definition, nerdiness has always defied the crowd.
I rub elbows every day with a unique breed of new-age nerd: the “foodie.” Culinary endeavors like craft beer, fine spirits, and cocktails provide fertile ground for foodie nerds to stake their claim to a little corner of the good life. Social media gives these articulate souls a forum to record their experiences and share their passion. Facebook is rife with photos of last night’s dinner and it seems like everybody on the block has a blog or Yelp profile. I am completely in favor of this self-expression, but it walks a fine line. Jedi foodies too often turn to Sith critics, and nefarious antics inevitably ensue. Once entrenched in the dark side, these poor souls lose sight of what inspired them in the first place.
My honest advice to those who seek culinary self-expression in a multimedia sphere is simple: beware the tipping point at which your enjoyment of being the critic, blogger, or self-defined “expert” exceeds the enjoyment you derive from the thing itself. Keep your ego in check. Stay in tune with the version of yourself who knew nothing but enjoyed everything. Your tastes may change. Your palate may grow more acute. This is fine. Go ahead and nerd out. Just don’t be a jerk about it.
It will be tempting to get caught up in the barrage of new products that appear on your scene of choice. If you enjoy the thrill of talking about these products more than actually drinking them, you are dangerously close to the dark side. Resist. Make sure that each special product you taste doesn’t become merely the next thing in a line of fleeting experiences. Always remember that limited release bourbons will come and go, and one collaboration beer will give rise to the next. It is more important to enjoy yourself than to upload a bangin’ blog post.
I assure you that the sweet spot is where your passion meets your palate. If you seek a broader sphere of influence, be sure to wield your power to positive ends. If you must blog, do so with the unabashed enthusiasm of Poindexter jamming on his electric viola. Don’t do it for the crowd. Do it for that most vibrant nerd residing within you.