Foodies: why everyone loves to hate them

Foodie_why_everyone_loves_to_hate_them

Foodies: why everyone loves to hate them (iStockphoto)

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.

  1. 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.
  2.  We flounce around farmers’ markets carrying hand-woven, leather handled, French-style market baskets, bundles of heritage carrots, smug looks, and depleted wallets.
  3. 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.
  4. We use words like artisanal, seasonal, local, sustainable, and ethical. A lot.
  5. We have a camera, we have a blog, we have a Twitter account. Say no more.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. We have a KitchenAid and/or a Thermomix and would quite like the world to know it.
  9. We’ve “discovered” nettles and dandelion leaves.
  10. 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?

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30 Comments

Filed under Reflections

30 responses to “Foodies: why everyone loves to hate them

  1. bizzylizzycooks

    LOL…. another really great post Rachel. I don’t like the term ‘foodie’ either… I agree that it’s derogatory. Call me food writer, food enthusiast, cook, cookery writer… any of those are ok. And I agree with your list… however number 10 isn’t relevant to me…. I’m snobbish enough to prefer my own home cooking.

    • So you’re food snob … for your own cooking, that is! Wonderful. You’re home cooking does seem to be top-knotch, so i’m not surprised you don’t subscribe to number 10! Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Well you know….I’ve never thought about it but I don’t care much for labels, they put people in unnecessary ‘boxes’. I can tick all items minus 7 to 10 above (vegetarian and haven’t been to Michelin starred restaurants) but think that’s just because I love my food. I love anything fresh, straight from a producer if possible and happily spend all my spare time in the kitchen creating with it. Also very conscious of food’s healing properties so think it quite magical. Funny isn’t it? People may want to tag types like us as foodies….but they’ll never turn down a dinner invite!

    • Ah, yes … the dinner invite. My friends don’t knock them back, either. Thanks for sharing your comments. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog.

      • Conversely, it’s very hard to get a dinner invite. People often worry that their food won’t meet our alleged high standards yet all we want to do is get together and have a laugh over a good meal with friends. They don’t see the failed hazlenut meringue or the pissaladiere that doesn’t brown because we practice, practice, practice! So friends and family, start sending those invites because we are very hungry and forgiving.

      • Yes, hurry up and invite us over everyone!

  3. I don’t care much for the label, either, though it’s really all in the perception and intention of the person using it, which can range from innocuous to sneering. I enjoy food, and I enjoy other things too, so I don’t feel the need to be defined by specific yet subjective terms like “foodie”.

  4. I agree with leaf’s comment – it definitely depends on how the word is being used. I don’t mind fondly being called a foodie by my friends and family, but when it’s used in the sense of “oh, you wouldn’t want to eat late night Maccas (substitute whichever other food) because you’re such a FOODIE” then that rankles a bit. And hey, they’re wrong: there’s a place for a late night maccas run in my heart.

  5. grabyourfork

    I was never averse to the word ‘foodie’ until so many other food enthusiasts began to resent the tag. I like fried chicken and I like Stilton. Maybe even together. Good food shouldn’t be about snobbery but an appreciation and celebration of all that’s delicious, from the humble carrot to the mum-and-pop eatery down the road. Especially if they make fried chicken :)

    • Hi Helen – You’re right good food is about embracing the cheap and the cheerful as well as top-notch tucker, which is why I wouldn’t class foodies and food snobs as the same thing (though they’re certainly confused as the same). Maybe a food snob is a category of foodie. Wouldn’t be happy categorised as either, frankly.

      • I love fried chicken too… yummy! In fact, ate some wonderful fried chicken at a noodle house in our China Town. I am not really a food snob, but I really do prefer a good home cooked meal to dining out. I am a really good cook and my partner and I simply love eating at home. Oh, and it’s partly cost related too. Dining out can be, not surprisingly, expensive and we are saving our pennies for retirement.

      • We eat at home more than we eat out, too, Lizzy.
        Got to say, we love a home cooked meal, and I enjoy
        making them. I think we appreciate eating out more because of it.

  6. You articulated my own thoughts so well here Rachel. I’m the person who hesitated over writing an article for a food magazine because it had the word “Foodie” in its title. I still squirm when I hear he word and bristle when it’s attached to me.

  7. The label doesn’t apply to me, I’m afraid because although I don’t enjoy junk food, it’s not because I have a refined palate! As a mere “food eater” (and farmer) who shares many of your values, I think of “foodies” very affectionately! Wine snobs are another matter!

    • A food eater and farmer – great title! And thanks for thinking of “foodies” affectionately. We’re not a bad bunch … whether we like the label, or not!

  8. hahaha, yeh i think i’m a ‘foodie’!

  9. I think it would irritate me if someone were to introduce me as a “foodie”. Unless they’re also introducing others with a label, like “wine snob” or “toy robot collector”, then I wouldn’t mind. Otherwise, I would be self-conscious that they have labelled me for a reason, and probably not a good one!

  10. Great post. I’m torn on this one.

    On one hand, I don’t really care what anyone calls me… I love food! I think about it a lot, write about it a lot, photograph it a lot and talk about it a lot. I’m not a snob (I’ll eat pretty much anything) but I love a good meal. Maybe I’m a foodie? Maybe that’s ok?

    On the other hand, I don’t like being labelled. People with other interests (like my friend who’s a very keen knitter) don’t get called knitties when they write / photograph / talk about their hobby. There’s something about food (and maybe it’s the stereotype of “foodies” with their French baskets and organic strawberries judging you at the grocery store) that can be quite polarizing.

    Having said, I’ve just come back from months travelling the world and I can tell you that in every country I’ve been to, food matters to people. The fastest way to start a conversation with people the world over is to compliment the local food. I’ve met “foodies” in Vietnam who lived in shacks and earned $5 a week. But, they cared deeply about food.

    Maybe it’s not about the French baskets or the Michelin stars. It’s the joy of a great meal with good friends. And that is universal.

    (Sorry! Longest comment ever!)

    • Important points SarahKate – I agree at the end if the day it’s about the food, sharing it and the commonality of enjoying it with the people we know/meet.
      I think being classified as a stereotypical foodie is annoying, but I guess I can live with it. Thanks for dropping by!

  11. Great post. While I fall into nearly every one of the definitional aspects of the above, there’s something about that word that makes me choke on my dinner- and I’ve hated being described as one. I think the infantile ‘ie’ does it. Even though it has an awful connotation in of itself- I’m pretty happy when someone calls me a ‘feeder’…

  12. Matty

    It’s better to be a cook who tried than a foodie who dined.

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