‘There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book,” wrote Oscar Wilde. “Books are well-written or badly written. That is all.” I would never disagree that professional creative efforts were designed to be observed and critiqued. Every audition, opera, screenplay, ballet, sculpture and film is subject to aesthetic consideration and, ultimately, judgment. We accept the inevitability of this cycle as resolutely as we accept the certainty of common failure. Moral judgment, on the other hand, will land you in a hot mess. And when disguised as an authoritative judgment, it can be particularly sloppy.
I guess that’s a long way of saying I’m sorry to my friend Beckie for the way I looked at her when she told me how much she loves her new George Foreman grill. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the infomercials, a Foreman grill (or, formally, The George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine) is an indoor non-stick electric tabletop grill that looks a lot like a laptop, with a lid that flips open and shut. As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with grilling, and even less to do with food. Oops, there I go again, being judgmental.
Anyway, the grill’s objective is to drain as much fat as possible from your food, draining it into a removable tray that you can later empty into the rubbish while curling your lips in disgust. Once the unsightly drippings are out of the way, you can take undistracted delight in a virtuous meal of, say, turkey burgers, which will be bunless because you’re going the extra mile in treating yourself right. There are other reasons why people invest in these grills (Beckie’s excuse is that it’s incomparably easy to use and clean and she sensibly incorporates those precious spent juices into a sauce) but low-fat cooking is still tops.
The brand trademarked the phrase “Knock Out the Fat”, a reference to Foreman’s distinguished former professional boxing career, although I can’t help but feel protective. What did fat ever do to deserve this? Punishing our ingredients because we don’t have the knowledge, patience or restraint to make better food choices is a miscarriage of justice – although wrongful conviction begins and ends with judgment.
But maybe a little judgment is in order. Beckie is hardly alone: more than 100 million Foreman grills have been sold since the product was first launched in 1994. If all the Foreman grills ever sold still existed and were distributed across the globe, 1.5 per cent of the world population could have a Foreman Grill. I can smell dissent like a juicy burger on a proper charcoal grill: we are the 88.5 per cent! In Foreman’s defence, he’s just a spokesperson for the product, but since he has 11 children and named all five of his sons George (Jr, III, IV, V VI) and one of his daughters Georgetta, I figure he’s used to a little ribbing. Besides, Beckie knows that the only smear that interests me involves mayonnaise, ketchup and pickles on a buttered bun.
It’s easy to judge things when we’re not trying to understand them – and I’ve certainly been snide more than once behind a vegan’s back, only to regret it instantly. There have been excellent arguments made in favour of eschewing meat, and I respect and appreciate them. What do I know? I don’t think I’m better than Beckie – I like the taste of American cheese on a burger, for goodness sake. Cast your judgments. Just remember that moral high grounds may make decent soapboxes, but they make lousy kitchen tables.
Nouf Al-Qasimi is an Emirati food analyst who cooks and writes in New Mexico