Now that there are more fat than starving people in the world
, there must be a lot more foodies as well. But what's a foodie? People who eat food? I took a trip to the dictionary to find out:
(slang) a person keenly interested in food, esp. in eating or cooking
All right then, it's a slang term that replaces:
a connoisseur of fine food and drink
a person who cultivates a refined taste, esp. in food and wine
a person with refined taste, especially one who enjoys superb food and drink.
It's certainly an improvement on epicure
(I'm thinking hands and feet), somewhat preferable to the pompous gourmet
however I still like the jaunty bon vivant
. But foodie
isn't just a trendy replacement term. There's an important distinction in the definition: it's more about a keen interest
than any type of connoisseurship
. A foodie
is just as likely to be interested in Taylor Ham as Prosciutto, Borscht as Bouillabaisse; much more akin to the adventitious spirit of a wine geek
as opposed to the refinement of a wine connoisseur
Then why is the term so cringeworthy? For shamelessly co-opting something practically everyone enjoys? Perhaps. Or because it shares both the flavor and negative connotations of “yuppie”, another cringworthy 1980's term? Let's face it: the 80's could be embarrassing. Anyone for a re-watch of St. Elmo's Fire
OK, I have a keen interest in food but I don't yet consider myself a foodie
. How can I become one? According to Amazon.com, “You can't properly call yourself a gourmand1
(or even a minor foodie) until you've digested Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's delectable 1825 treatise, The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy
.” I digested and surprisingly enjoyed this book but I'm not entirely convinced that it's the true foodie bible. For starters, it completely flops on its raison d'être to prove that Gastronomy is a science like Astronomy. No, that didn't catch on. It's really more of an over-the-top culinary romp through late 18th/early 19th century France (and the United States) full of the author's aphorisms and pompous self-evident postulations, written as if affecting a magisterial manner makes things true. A little like my 3 year old affecting a baby baritone: “I'm a big boy.”
Its popularity and endurance is probably due more to its entertainment value than anything else. An unwitting page-turner, I was in constant anticipation of just what the pompous buffoon would postulate or get up to next; like extolling the virtues of gourmandism in women or preparing copious amounts of punch to drink after a full day's feasting. Obsessive, haughty, self-indulgent, and snobbish but also enthusiastic, charming and generous Brillat-Savarin in many ways embodies both the good and bad aspects of foodie culture today. His aphorisms have also endured, most famously in the opening words of the TV show Iron Chef
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”
That line is one of the set of aphorisms that preface the book. They were so popular at the time of publication that every Parisian restaurant worth its salt had a framed copy hanging on the wall. Rival authors vainly attempted to capture the city's gastronomic imagination with their own versions but to no avail. Supposedly many Parisian restaurants still display a copy (we're off to Paris tomorrow so I'll be sure to do a little field investigation).
So to be a real foodie, reading The Physiology of Taste
isn't really necessary but having a copy of The Aphorisms
is. Just as the Wizard of Oz gave the Scarecrow a diploma, the Cowardly Lion a medal and the Tin Man a testamonial, I present to you Brillat-Savarin's Aphorisms2
, the only thing that authentic foodies have that you don't. Print it out and hang it on your fridge with the most pompous magnet you can find.
Download Brillat-Savarin's Aphorisms
In France a gourmet is a food connoisseur while a gourmand is a glutton.
I can be so generous since they're no longer under copyright protection.
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