Whenever I hear the word “foodie”, my first impulse is to douse myself in bleach. Like “cupcake” or “moist” or “classy”, it is a sequence of letters which makes me feel unclean.
“Michael, you’re a foodie,” I hear from out-of-town friends. “Any great restaurants we shouldn’t miss when we’re in San Francisco?” My typical response is that I haven’t the faintest idea, owing to the fact that I work in one of them and the last thing I want to see when I’m done for the week is the inside of another eatery. I am probably the last person in San Francisco to whom one should ask this question.
Because I am not a foodie.
This doesn’t mean that I do not enjoy food. Of course I do. I can eat with the best of them. And with the exception of a brief stint selling surf wear and fitted tees as a teenager, every single job I’ve held for the last 20+ years has been food-related: waiter, assistant pastry chef, food stylist, behind-the-scenes cooking show cook-guy, recipe developer, Disneyland orange juice-squeezer/de-concentrator, and food writer. My life is food, so I can understand how one might mistake me for a “foodie”. But, in my estimation, it is such an unpleasant, lazy word. And I’m not even precisely certain as to what it means. The only thing of which I am fairly certain is that it does not mean me.
Here are several examples of why I have the feeling that I am not a foodie:
1. Unless there is something truly interesting/odd/horrible about the food that is put in front of me, I tend not to Facebook, Tweet, Instagram, Pin(terest) or otherwise broadcast the food which is served to me in public spaces.
2. I couldn’t care less about the latest ingredient du jour. There is nothing inherently wrong with kale or quinoa or burrata, but they are things I could never get truly excited about. And I want to give anyone who hails any of these things as “amazing” a time out. Preferably in an undetonated Cambodian mine field.
3. Though I am not an avid follower of food trucks, I wish their owners all the success they can muster, chiefly so that they can one day afford a stationary home with a couple of tables, a few chairs, and a liquor license so that I might enjoy their culinary delights in relative comfort.
4. I think canning and jamming are marvelous, but I haven’t the patience or the cupboard space to perfect my techniques. The only pickling I do in the privacy of my own home is that which I do to my liver.
5. I eat ice cream over the sink in my underwear. And it is not necessarily locally made. Nor is my underwear, for that matter.
6. I happen to think that anything which calls itself “underground” isn’t.
7. I think organic is ideal, but I don’t always pay attention. Sometimes, I go for the bananas which are less expensive, but my enjoyment of said bananas is diminished when my Catholic guilt forces me to consider the person who labored to pick them. And not to think of them in their underwear.
8. I don’t feel like getting up at 7am to go to the farmer’s market on Saturdays and I’d rather stick leeches on my eyelids than go there during peak hours.
9. I love to cook in other people’s’ houses, but at home I often don’t cook unless I have to.
10. I don’t read cookbooks for their porn value. In fact, I rarely read them at all.
11. As the operator of a blog, I do not believe the food I make and consume part of my “lifestyle brand.” What I do believe is that this term and the people who use it deserve to be driven out to the nearest food desert and abandoned.
After working all week in and around food, it isn’t surprising to me that my enthusiasm for the latest restaurant or the hottest food trends pales like a corseted, 19th-century consumptive next to that of my self-described foodie friends, who spend their own professional lives in office chairs, sitting behind culinarily-bereft office desks. For them, food is escapism, a hobby. For me, it’s often a reminder of work, which is sometimes an unpleasant thing to be reminded of.
But certainly not always. Otherwise, I suppose I wouldn’t be writing about it.
I have absolutely no idea what it was, but something drew me to food a long time ago– something beyond the simple consumption of it– and I don’t see myself getting away from it any time soon. Or possible ever. Was it because my father was born above a butcher shop? Or that my grandfather was popped into a warm oven the moment he was born? Whatever the case, it’s in my blood. It’s part of who I am. And, more importantly, the scent of it has permeated my entire wardrobe. I love food. Just maybe not quite like everybody else.
Call me whatever you like: a gourmand, a gastronome, a glutton, an epicure. You can even call me an asshole, if you feel the need to after reading this. But, whatever you call me, please don’t make it “foodie”.
There has got to be a better term.
If you’ve got one, I want to hear about it. I think people who love food, but who do not fetishize it deserve a better term than this cloying, baby word we’ve all been saddled with for far too long.