When a friend introduced me to his other dinner party guests as a foodie i bristled. I love food. I wolf it down as if i’m still competing with three siblings for seconds as i did in childhood, I relish a good pan rattling, I have a small copse in my kitchen in the form of glossy cookbooks, and I grow my own veggies in organic beds that i compost diligently with leftover scraps from wholesome meals that i cook most nights from – that’s right – scratch. But a foodie, me? I don’t think so.
There’s something slightly derogatory about the F word, which was coined 30 years ago by Paul Levy and Ann Barr who wrote The Official Foodie Handbook. Their book was a satirical insight into the growing phenomenon of people taking an unabashed interest in food. “What is a foodie?” they asked.
“You are probably. A foodie is a person who is very very interested in food. Foodies are the ones interested in food in any gathering – salivating over restaurants, recipes and radicchio.”
I admit that i often salvage those awkward dried-up conversations at social gatherings by bringing up food (verbally, that is). Almost everyone has something to say about it, whether they’re a so-called foodie or not. They either love MasterChef or hate it, worship celebrity chefs or can’t abide them, love to cook or only have a kitchen because it came with the house. Food is to conversation what a few cheeky, extra egg whites are to meringue: a big, fat boost.
But as with the words like “groupie” and “schoolie” there is something trivial – silly, even – about the term foodie. Ever since Levy and Barr poked fun at foodies 30 years ago, the “ridiculous foodie” image has been difficult to shrug off.
Non food enthusiasts – those who eat to live, rather than live to eat – mention foodies with a sneer, and food professionals do so with a hint of condescension. Some people wear the term like a badge of honour, while others (reluctant foodies like me) hate being tarred with that same brush.
So what’s wrong with being a foodie? Why do people love to hate us, including ourselves?
Here’s 10 reasons why.
- We’re the work colleague who pulls home-made sushi rolls from the fridge, complete with pickled ginger garnish, as you tuck into last night’s leftover slice of Domino’s pizza.
- We flounce around farmers’ markets carrying hand-woven, leather handled, French-style market baskets, bundles of heritage carrots, smug looks, and depleted wallets.
- We eye your basket of processed goodies scornfully in the supermarket checkout aisle, while hoping our farmers’ market brownie points will offset our supermarket footprint.
- We use words like artisanal, seasonal, local, sustainable, and ethical. A lot.
- We have a camera, we have a blog, we have a Twitter account. Say no more.
- Go to a picnic with a bunch of foodies and we’ll be eating Oritz anchovies, sea-salt grissini, and white-crusted, ash-dusted, triple-creamed, imported French cheeses.
- Go to a barbecue with a foodie and we’ll squash together your snags to make room for our paprika’d, cayenne peppered, garlic and onion powdered, baby pork back ribs with chipotle barbecue sauce.
- We have a KitchenAid and/or a Thermomix and would quite like the world to know it.
- We’ve “discovered” nettles and dandelion leaves.
- We’ve eaten at all the three-hatted/Michelin starred restaurants in our region and have the menus – and photographs – to prove it.
NOTE: I’ve used the first person plural but emphatically deny having ALL of these traits (though i did make sushi rolls for my work lunches for a while and quite fancy myself carrying one of those hand-woven French style market baskets).
An entry in Urban Dictionary says the word foodie was once used to describe a person with an interest in all things food, but became a word to represent “the most snobbish, arrogant and pretentious of the food enthusiasts.”
A “cibo” (pronounced “chee-bow”), however, is a non-pretentious person who enjoys all food.
“Either talking about food, or eating food, a cibo is happy with all things food and takes minimal amount of pictures. Cibo is the ‘antithesis’ of a foodie,” the entry says.
But cibo also means food in Italian, it’s the nickname given to someone who is overweight, and is a coffee shop chain in South Australia, so i don’t think i want to be called that either.
In fact i don’t see why i have to be lobbed into a group, just because i’m interested in food. I’d rather just be Rachel, who likes to cook/grow veggies/read food related material depending on the nature of the conversation.
So, what about you? Are you a proud foodie? A reluctant foodie? A foodologist? A food activist? Or just a plain old eater and lover of all things food?