How to be a Foodie

foodie evolutionNow 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: foodie (slang) a person keenly interested in food, esp. in eating or cooking All right then, it's a slang term that replaces: gourmet a connoisseur of fine food and drink epicure a person who cultivates a refined taste, esp. in food and wine and bon vivant 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 or refinement. 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? Brillat-SavarinOK, 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.” Iron ChefIts 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). Oz DiplomaSo 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 1In France a gourmet is a food connoisseur while a gourmand is a glutton. 2I can be so generous since they're no longer under copyright protection.

7 Comments

Arnie Eisen
Arnie Eisen

June 16, 2014

I wouldn’t worry too much about the debates on food and/or wine terms. They are transient descriptions of taste and preference associated with status and hierarchy
and subject to constant change. The real issue is what role does ‘drink’ have in a society at a given moment., in turn related to the agriculture, economics,science and geography of the prevailing culture. At a time when water source and storage was problematic wine
became a useful beverage, especially when stoppers allowed longevity.Not too long ago beer was for the proletariot, wine was for the elite, both representing varying economic strata. Now much wine is produced for the masses, and Belgium beer imbibed by the cognicenti. In a private wine group I organized 25 years ago (the BOORs) we disallowed participation by those who drank wine labels. Call us what you want, the name explains:BACCHANAELIAN ORDER of OENOLOGICAL RECIDIVISTS
Not surprisingly I learned early on to consider wine as part of my meal, and not to
treat wine as a ‘totem object’ to be drunk only on special occasions.VIVAT BACCHUS

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Hi Eric,

Yes, all of the terms are pretty much horrible. I would never refer to myself any of them just as I would never call myself a yuppie. The problem is that other people do use these labels so it would be nice to have a decent one. Maybe bon vivant’s not so bad. . .

Mario Batali plays rock music at his restaurants but it’s hard to tell under the general din. I also remember a seafood restaurant in downtown NYC that played a very loud guitar-power soundtract that I asked to be turned off. The owner, who was there at the time, refused saying it was part of his “concept.” The scary thing was that nobody else seems to mind. They all must have their ipods turned up to 11 the rest of the time.

Then there is the extreme of foodie fundamentalism that you’re alluding to where the worse the environment, the better the food must be. If the plates are paper or better yet styrofoam, the utensils tiny brittle plastic and the lights flickering fluorescents the food could only be to die for. Call me old fashioned but blade runner style restaurants just aren’t my bag.

Eric Lecours
Eric Lecours

June 16, 2014

I have never liked terms like “foodie”, much less “wine geek”, “stickies”, etc. Do foodies dine at Alain Ducasse? It seems like a contradiction. These terms may be an effort to combat the snobbery of fine food and wine. Maybe this burgeoning demographic seeks to want to take some ownership of it and redefine it. In California you can see diners without a jacket at some of the top restaurants in the Bay Area. I wonder if the French Laundry should start playing rock music, or maybe the food should be served on paper plates at picnic tables.

strivectin stretch marks
strivectin stretch marks

June 16, 2014

An interesting dialogue is price comment. I believe that it’s best to write extra on this matter, it might not be a taboo subject but usually persons are not sufficient to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers

Arnie Eisen
Arnie Eisen

June 16, 2014

I wouldn't worry too much about the debates on food and/or wine terms. They are transient descriptions of taste and preference associated with status and hierarchy
and subject to constant change. The real issue is what role does 'drink' have in a society at a given moment., in turn related to the agriculture, economics,science and geography of the prevailing culture. At a time when water source and storage was problematic wine
became a useful beverage, especially when stoppers allowed longevity.Not too long ago beer was for the proletariot, wine was for the elite, both representing varying economic strata. Now much wine is produced for the masses, and Belgium beer imbibed by the cognicenti. In a private wine group I organized 25 years ago (the BOORs) we disallowed participation by those who drank wine labels. Call us what you want, the name explains:BACCHANAELIAN ORDER of OENOLOGICAL RECIDIVISTS
Not surprisingly I learned early on to consider wine as part of my meal, and not to
treat wine as a 'totem object' to be drunk only on special occasions.VIVAT BACCHUS

Marcus
Marcus

June 16, 2014

Steve,

While we’re on the food topic, I’d like to hear a response from you on the Five Things to Eat project called Foodblogger’s Guide to the Globe. Check it out here. Cheers, or bonne appetit (I bet you’re thoroughly enjoying Paris and its gastronomy).

Marcus

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Thank you Arnie, for the voice of experience to put everything into perspective. Cheers to the BOORs!

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