Everyone’s a critic, they say, and that’s certainly true of the food world today. Of course, everyone has always been a critic, in the sense that customers have always made the most basic judgment of all: Do I want to come back to this joint? But there’s a contemporary development with respect to volume, in the dual sense of quantity and loudness. The volume of all this critical chatter is turned way up, and it’s harder than ever to ignore. Food is my favorite thing to talk about and to learn about, but an interest that is reasonable on a personal and an individual scale has grown out of all proportion in the wider culture. Imagine that you’re fascinated by model trains. You’re on fire with interest, you think about them all the time, they’re your consuming passion. But then, over about twenty years, the entire culture becomes obsessed with model trains. The model-train blogosphere grows exponentially. Model-train makers are plastered all over the covers of magazines, and stage train-building smackdowns on TV, and are treated as the new rock stars. Might you, in your private heart, think that maybe the whole model-train thing, still of tremendous interest to you, has somehow got a bit out of hand? That’s where I feel food is today.