The Corruption of “Foodie”

25 Apr

When did “foodie” become a bad word?

Has it always been one? Does it always only mean someone who is too snobbish about their food to understand that peanut butter on toast is one of the greatest things in life and macaroni and cheese can be delightful without lobster or anything else in it but macaroni and cheese sauce?

Wikipedia says no. (And the Urban Dictionary agrees… kinda) In fact, it says that foodies are NOT the same as gourmets and epicureans.

Foodie is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink. The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook.

Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, foodies differ from gourmets in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste who may or may not be professionals in the food industry, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news. Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food.

I make no qualms about loving food. If you asked me what was my favorite food, I couldn’t tell you. If I had to tell you, I’d list off ingredients, not prepared meals. I just like food. Fancy food, simple food, late night food and breakfast food and lunch food and dinner food and snack food.

I’ve always thought that “foodie” was kind of an appropriate term, given how much I enjoy the stuff. Heck, I even grow some of my own food.

I love cooking, especially for other people. But then, I also love making a loaf of bread and eating it, just with butter, all by myself. I rarely make the same recipe twice, except for a few favorites that I know will be delicious and make me happy to eat them (like my mother in law’s amazing barbecue meatloaf).

I also have a pretty well established interest in the environmental and humanist elements of food, and the impact that the food industry has on the people and environments involved. I’m not sure that makes me a food snob more than it makes me concerned about people and their ability to make a living.

I’m not a gourmet, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. I eat cereal from a box (Cheerios, in fact) one morning and steel-cut oatmeal with fresh fruit the next, followed by black beans and salsa in a tortilla. I’m more than happy to spend a lot of time on food… and then almost no time on food after a long day at work. I use my crock pot regularly. I also make bread.

Wafting on and on verbosely about the particular qualities of my food isn’t something I’m prone to doing. But if I’m making asparagus roasted with balsalmic vinegar, I’m going to say that’s what I’m making. That neither adds snobbishness or tediousness to a recipe, it simply says that’s what I’m doing with the asparagus (as opposed to, say, steaming it. Or making it into an omelet with cheese).

Adjectives are nice, but as with any writing, they can be overused. And perhaps, as Bika says, many of them are overused. At the same time, ice cream should be creamy, potatoes should be steamy, vegetables should be crisp-tender, and apple crumble topping should be nutty and crunchy if you use pecans, and just crunchy if you don’t.

Maybe I’m just more concerned with making and eating food than I am about describing it in detail to someone who would never be able to understand the actual experience without  being there anyway.

Still, I think “foodie” has become something of a dirty word in some circles, as though to imply that by loving food, I’m snobbish about it or refuse to eat “low-brow” food or am putting on airs to “pretentious” tastes. It’s gotten confused with being a gourmet (which DOES involve having a refined and particular taste in food) as well as becoming a label that means some kind of elitist.

Maybe “food hobbyist” is more appropriate than “foodie” these days.

Either way, I love food.

Pass the platters.

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2 Responses to “The Corruption of “Foodie””

  1. Jason April 26, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    “Foodie” has carried a negative connotation for the most part for as long as I’ve been aware of it. I couldn’t really say why that is, I haven’t given it a terribly large amount of thought, but I’d wager it has something to do with people who self describe as such tending towards a certain attitude. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a hard/fast rule by any stretch.

    As for people who enjoy cooking, and feeding people and eating? I’d count myself into that category as well, although I’m not nearly so diverse as you seem to be. But I think of myself as just a cook. After all, half the fun of cooking something is getting to eat it. 😀

  2. Tami April 26, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Weird. You know, I don’t think I ever knew “foodie” as having a bad connotation (shows how little I pay attention sometimes, I spose)

    I always thought it just meant a non-professional who loved food.

    I LOVE this : ” If you asked me what was my favorite food, I couldn’t tell you. If I had to tell you, I’d list off ingredients, not prepared meals. I just like food.”

    Yes. Perfectly stated. Fresh onion is one of my favorite foods. Corn. Red pepper. Cinnamon. Maple syrup. Fire-roasted tomatoes.

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