May 2005

A friend and I, with the most whimsical of intentions, once tried to define a system for rating foods on a scale of 1 to 10. It was just a silly exercise, but the result turned out to be surprisingly useful. If someone familiar with this system tells me that an Italian cafe makes "8" pizza and "7" pasta and "5" desserts, I can visualize the place almost as clearly as if I'd been given a thorough description. It's weird, I know. And it works for anything....not just food.


Pushing the outer limits of edibility.

   Examples: Live mice. Raw spleen.

   Orange Juice Equivalent: putrid spoiled orange juice


Visceral negative reaction.

   Examples: any foods you particularly dislike

   Orange Juice Equivalent: syrup of melted orange lollipops


Lousy food you might eat if very hungry and without alternatives.

   Examples: School cafeteria food. Toast made from freezer burnt bread.

   Orange Juice Equivalent: Tang


Flawed foods eaten only mindlessly (includes most "guilty pleasures").

   Examples: Off-brand pretzels. Yodels. Commercial mac-and-cheese.

   Orange Juice Equivalent: Off-brand frozen concentrate


Utterly neutral. No particular urge to eat...or to stop eating.

   Examples: Chicken rice soup in an average diner. Typical Chinese-American takeout.

   Orange Juice Equivalent: Minute Maid


Bad versions of good things...or good versions of bad things. Flawed but marginally pleasurable.

   Example: Ore Ida Tater Tots.

   Orange Juice Equivalent: Tropicana

[Note: fair versions of good things would rate a 7, and fair versions of bad things would rate a 5. Great versions of anything rate highly.]


Soulless but good.

   Examples: Competent steak frites. Premium snack foods. Haagen-Dazs.

   Orange Juice Equivalent: Fresh squeezed from off-season oranges imported from Uruguay


Elicits vocal expression of pleasure. Appreciated with gusto.

   Orange Juice Equivalent: Fresh squeezed from good oranges.

[Note: you and I aim to live in the space between 8 and 10, and so we're extraordinarily sensitive to microdistinctions from here up.]


Rational thought breaks down. You don't analyze, you just want to keep enjoying, blocking out all distraction. Compulsion to evangelize ("you've got to try this!").

   Orange Juice Equivalent: Fresh squeezed from a carefully selected blend of great, fresh oranges


Absolute certainty that no one at this moment, anywhere on Earth, is eating anything more delicious than what you're currently consuming. Total contentment, tinged with the rueful acknowledgement that life can't always be this good.

   Orange Juice Equivalent: Fresh squeezed from a carefully selected blend of great, fresh oranges by the Sainted Arepa Lady.

Read my tale of The Medusa Gruel, the only "11" I've ever had. It's not for the feint of heart.

--- BACK ---