We’ve all heard the term; it’s as common in everyday language these days as “internet” or “Kardashian” (scary, I know.) And while we all know – in general terms – what it means, on another level it means something different to everyone. Like so much slang terminology, it began as something completely different than what it is now. And this week, I’m going to talk about its brief history, and what exactly it means to me. So prepare yourselves: I’m about to get a little philosophical, and probably ask a whole lot of questions.
The term “foodie” is really only around thirty years old. It was coined by a pair of writers in England for a book they were putting together about food and food lovers, and it managed to slowly gain a foothold in the pop culture lexicon, but only in the past decade or so has it gone spiraling out of control. Initially it simply meant that you were into food – rather heavily. If your friends called you a foodie, you probably didn’t eat a lot of processed or fast foods, you maybe cooked with ingredients that at one time were considered exotic: and when I say “at one time”, I mean somewhere in the era of the late seventies and into the eighties. Back then, the average home cook was probably not familiar with ramps or black trumpet mushrooms. They might been too involved with their Rice-A-Roni to know that quinoa would have been far more delicious, and just as easy to prepare. But we learned (thanks, Food Network) and restaurants and supermarkets began to expand and develop their offerings and our knowledge (and palates) did the same.
So why did the term suddenly become this thing that arouses such passionate reactions in people? Why does it get used in such a cavalier fashion? There are numerous other terms that apply; gourmet, gourmand, epicure, gastronome, even gastronaut – if you’re especially adventurous. At one point it might have actually been a mark of distinction to call oneself a “foodie”, but it seems as though more and more people of distinction, who have garnered a healthy amount of respect in the food world, consider it something of a scarlet letter. It’s becoming an empty word; it doesn’t really refer to anything meaningful, and those who refer to themselves as such are superior and might be a little more into themselves than they are into food. Not meaning to insult anyone who does use the term; one interesting point about being a foodie is that it can mean something totally different to you than it does to me, or to your next-door neighbor, or to my aunt. It’s open to interpretation, and I’m not here to cramp anyone’s style. Have at it, ya foodies!
I also recently watched a documentary with the same name. It certainly was clear about one definition of “foodie”; a group of people from various countries and backgrounds who made it their mission in life to attend – and dine – at the highest of high-end restaurants around the world. Some do it merely for the pleasure of it, while others are food bloggers (ahem) who thrive on eating, and then proclaiming, the dishes worthy of attention – or not. While I certainly agree that we are all entitled to our opinions, I don’t believe that aggressively denouncing the work of a chef is commensurate to gaining pleasure from food. That is what being a “foodie” is all about, right?
So what about me? Well, I definitely have and idea in my head of what it means to be a foodie. And I definitely would not refer to myself as one; actually I don’t refer to myself in any particular terms when it comes to food. I love food (as you can tell.) I like to cook it, and learn about it, and talk about it, and especially eat it. I love food that is considered “exotic” and “gourmet”, and I love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Campbell’s Soup. I think it’s crucial that more of us take steps to be in control of how and where the food we eat is grown and handled. Whatever meal I’m eating, I’m thinking about the next one; when I travel, I always do research ahead of time to find out where I should eat – and it’s always more important than where I stay. If that makes me a foodie, I guess that’s what I am.
If you are interested in reading a little more about, and maybe getting a few expert opinions, check out this State of the Union article. It’s informative, entertaining, and not nearly as wordy as I am! Hopefully this post got you thinking a bit about your relationship with food and how you define it. Feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below, and have a great week!