Combating anti-foodie movements

Published on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 23:27 - Written by Christine Gardner, food@tylerpaper.com

Interest in food is at an all-time high and it’s obvious the trend will continue to rise. There are food shows on every channel, new restaurants opening each week and lots of pictures on social media of what people are cooking, eating or craving.

Each day is some type of national food day ‑‑ bacon day, ice cream sandwich day, last Saturday was national Margarita day ‑‑ who knew there was so much food that needs to be celebrated.

Chefs are as cool as rock stars ‑‑ come to think of it, with all the tattoos and crazy hair ‑‑ they even look like rock stars. Everyone wants to be a chef, but would probably run screaming for the hills if they knew what hard work it is.

It’s even cool for chefs to run errands around town wearing their chef’s jackets as though it were a cool fashion trend, such as a Gucci purse or Ralph Lauren sweater. I used to laugh when I would attend chef’s meetings and the room was filled with chefs wearing their jackets but nobody was there to cook.

It’s similar to doctors wearing scrubs in public. You start to wonder how sanitary it is, and should clothing that’s supposed to stay germ-free appropriate as part of an all day, every day wardrobe?

So, if all the chefs, shows, restaurants, recipes and food products are so cool, then why are people offended when they are labeled as a foodie? The word is shunned in industry circles, food magazines and on social media.

You wouldn’t dare refer to a chef or food industry professional as a foodie even though their career obsession with food categorizes them as foodies more than most people. This faux pas would be met with dirty looks and some reciprocated insults.

Perhaps the food writers, chefs, culinary professionals and restaurant industry folks need to show some respect to the foodies.

It’s their enthusiasm that’s spreading the good word about your food, products and shows, making you popular, and, don’t forget, paying your bills.

A recent food industry newsletter evaluated the stigma surrounding the word ‘foodie’ and asked well-known chefs, magazine editors and cooking show hosts how they viewed the word. Here are a few quotes from the article:

“Nowadays, calling yourself a ‘foodie’ is like saying you’re an intellectual. It’s somewhere between pompous and clueless.” ‑‑ Food writer

“I have very publicly derided the use of the word foodie every time I hear it or read it. It’s awful. It diminishes and undervalues the very people it’s meant to applaud and makes the user look foolish for not speaking proper English.” ‑‑ Cooking show host.

“I think one reason ‘foodie’ rubs so many people the wrong way is the word itself: It just sounds juvenile. It’s like a food version of ‘cutie.’ If you’re a grown man, are you really gonna identify yourself as a ‘foodie?’ And why is it that any time someone is a foodie, he or she is ‘such a huge foodie!’, or a ‘total foodie!’? Um, so yeah — I’m afraid I’m not a foodie. But I really do like food, and I eat it every day.” ‑‑ Popular cooking magazine editor

“For longtime food obsessives, today’s foodie is like the person who just discovered the band that you’ve been loving since the ‘90s, and who tells everyone, with no sense of self-awareness, how great this new band is. The foodie controversy is rooted in the disdain of the longtime, devoted fan for the obnoxious new adopters.” ‑‑ Producer for a celebrity cooking show

foodie groups

Another article described seven types of foodies. It was funny and somewhat true. I have borrowed the categories and added some anecdotes of my own. I definitely recognize each of these foodie groups, but add a few to recognize some other identifiable foodies.

The Hipster Foodie: Takes a picture of their food before eating and puts it on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. Goes to all the new restaurants before anyone else. Will always order the most creative and unusual dish on the menu. #openingnight #delicious

The DIY Foodie: This foodie grows it, makes it, forages it and cans it. Everything from cheese to stock is homemade. Rarely eats at restaurants.

The Food Intolerant Foodie: This foodie is not allergic to anything, but has lots of sensitivities. A very sensitive stomach creates multiple physical and mental reactions.

The TV Foodies: Celebrity chef name droppers, knows the entire cast of Top Chef and what they cooked in each episode, only cooks recipes they’ve seen on television. Can’t wait to buy the latest celebrity chef endorsed food products, cookware and gadgets.

The Tourist Foodie: Traveled to somewhere once and is now an expert on that region’s or country’s cuisine. Will also make sure you pronounce foreign foods correctly and with a proper accent.

The Farmer’s Market Foodie: Also what I like to call the purist foodie, all of their food is organic, non-GMO, unprocessed, artisan and as close to its natural state as possible. This foodie knows the origin of all the food they consume and probably also knew the cow before it became a steak.

Soapbox Foodie: This foodie is on a mission to win you over to their idea of food and cooking. Be it vegetarian, gluten-free, modernist, traditional or organic, you must eat as they do or risk the chance of ailments, discomforts or a looming dark cloud of disease.

Anti-Food Foodie: These are the foodies who are always on a diet. Whether its carbs, calories, butter, sugar, cholesterol, red meat or preservatives ‑‑‑ there is a thin line between love and hate and they fight every day against an enemy called food. Their daily struggle with a balance between the food groups is a frequent topic of conversation.

Experimental Foodie: If there is a new food trend or ingredient to try, they’re on it. They will seek it out, buy it, cook it five ways and have a full report before anyone else noticed it on the scene. They’re the keepers of the restaurant buzz and enthusiastic about new things on the menu.

Traditional Foodie: Eat it like mom used to make it, or not at all. You might not consider these folks as foodies, but they’re just as passionate about their cornbread, baked beans and grilled cheese sandwiches as the Experimental foodie who just discovered truffle oil.

Catch It & Kill It Foodie: This category of foodie I had forgotten about until my nephew became very involved in hunting. This group is typically male and has an unfathomable enthusiasm for consuming the hunt of the day. I suppose this is a native instinct, but when I am asked to put squirrel on the grill next to my steak I tend to shudder.

But that’s okay. We need to embrace all types of foodies and learn to live with their idiosyncrasies. It’s part of what makes life, and what we eat, more interesting.

I’ve made a special sauce for the grilled squirrel, cooked creative entrees for the vegetarians, left the mushrooms out of a recipe for the sensitives, tried eel sushi to appease the experimentals, been told how to pronounce pho by the tourists, limited certain food groups because of the soapboxers, and eaten lots of cornbread and baked beans for the traditionals.

They’ve all taught me to appreciate and embrace the many personalities of food. Sometimes it’s fun to try new things, but other times, potato salad, just like mom makes, is awesome. Don’t roll your eyes when someone wants to take a picture of their food or orders grilled chicken when they could have had lobster.

There are many choices to embrace and to be honest, I recognize myself in most foodies on the list. Whoever you are ‑‑ chef, cook, food industry worker, housewife or a regular person who just wants to eat a good meal, there’s no shame in being excited about food.

After all, some of the most-inspired people in history could be called foodies ‑‑ Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Ernest Hemmingway and Julia Child. Their passion for new ingredients and cooking helped change the playing field for food.

So the next time someone calls you or someone you know a foodie don’t be ashamed ‑‑ embrace it, share it and best of all, eat it.