Monday, October 5, 2009

Foodie: Exclusion or Embrace?

If you click on this photo of celeb chef Rocco DiSpirito, you'll find an interesting article about his pitch at the recent BlogHer food blogger conference: he was representing Bertolli frozen foods. Rocco's presentation received quite mixed reviews amongst the audience, some of whom on principle rebelled against the idea of frozen pasta, and others who found it to be a satisfactorily convenient option for their lifestyles. The tension between these different responses brings to my mind some observations I've been making this past year about the foodie community, and I'd love to hear what others think.

For myself, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a foodie; I've always disliked the term because of the exclusive and often expensive taste it implies. I have to admit that it's hard not to judge other people on their food preferences the more time I spend trying different foods, but at the same time, I believe being a foodie should be about loving food.

As I meet more and more self-proclaimed foodies, I am realizing that loving food does not mean loving all kinds of food, having an objective standard by which to rate food, or knowing about all foods. Like anyone else, foodies usually have a few areas about which they know a lot, because that is what they love most, and as a result they spend a lot of time thinking about that food, trying related restaurants and stores, and making it in their own kitchen (hence all the baking posts on this blog...). As in other parts of life, very few people know something about everything, and even fewer are experts in it all.

Foodie status also does not mean doing away with personal preferences; for example, I do not usually care for tomatoes (often too acidic for me, cooked or raw) or for slippery slimy food (sorry, raw fish is not appealing to me yet). I am more willing than I have ever previously been to try things that I have not typically liked, but these proclivities haven't disappeared yet, and will probably be around a while. I know I am not the only food blogger about whom this is true!

We all also have different levels of appreciation of different aspects of food; I have a high preference for aesthetically pleasing food (visually, texturally) since I view food as art - that is, a sensory expression (right? all senses are involved!). As a result, I almost never post on food of which I do not have a photo, and am very unhappy if I only have a mediocre photo of it, because that is the only sensory experience that you as the reader get from a blog post on food. But I know others rate visual aesthetics and creativity of presentation lower than I do, which means that I have had meals that I LOVED with folks who didn't really care for the same meal.

Knowing all this, I increasingly prefer to hear from people why they have the opinions about food that they do. Why do you think the restaurant/dish/cuisine in question is good? If the answer to this question is not given, I am far less likely to put stock in the evaluative statement. I am certainly guilty of making blanket statements at times, but I TRY to be good about qualifying what I say, at least with "I like" or "in my opinion," if not a "because," just so it's clear that I'm stating my preference and not what I think is an unquestionable objective judgment about whatever food item.

I'm not saying this just to complain, but just to say that I hope that food for you is about discovering what you love, enjoying it, and sharing that passion with others. Shouldn't food be about inclusion and not exclusion? There are plenty of other ways to judge and classify people in the rest of life.


  1. i'd like to say that i've had many a foodie friend cringe when i've called them a foodie! i think that they, as you've mentioned, associate being a foodie w/being a food snob and lavishing their hard-earned (or not-so-hard-earned) funds on eating out at FDE's (or fine dining establishments, as my BFFF & i have termed high-end restaurants).

    i, on the other hand, am totally of the philosophy that a foodie is one who thoroughly enjoys food, whether it involves eating, making, or simply talking about it! that being said, i've actually been a little offended when people think i just like to spend lots of $$$ eating out. b/c i actually love my dives & i think some of the best foods are those that come from hole-in-the-wall joints.

    so i beseech everyone to re-evaluate the term "foodie" as they know it and as they've heard it used. i think being a foodie is about loving food -- in all its many splendid forms. and moving forward, i believe the term needs to be re-claimed by the food lovers of the world. :)

  2. Maybe we need a new term that doesn't have all the baggage? I'll have to work on that.

    I do admit that I sometimes have a hard time understanding people that don't care about food at all. I once had a co-worker tell me that if he could take a pill instead of eating food, he would. That just made me sad! Food is one of the great pleasures of life!