I have a question for you, and it’s a straightforward one.
Are you a foodie?
Now before you go working yourself up into an excited tizzy, wielding your tender and juicy duck confit like it’s a vicious sword, allow me to take a couple of steps backward for a moment.
Call some people foodies and they’ll likely want to beat you so hard with a turkey leg that your grandchildren will feel it. On the flip side of the crusty buttered bread, say it to others and they’ll want to hug you like you’re the last pack of Twinkies on the shelf.
Foodie is a word that is putrid poison on the lips. It is also sweet music to the ears. How can one word conjure so much emotion—good and bad—amongst the masses?
Since the word foodie first worked its way into our language in the early 80s, it has been beaten to death with a big hairy, sauce-covered stick. We all know what a foodie is (at least we think we do) and the word is thrown about so casually and with alarming regularity that it now sounds oddly disrespectful.
“Oh her, yeah, she’s a foodie. Anyway…”
The Definition of “Foodie”
Merriam-Webster defines foodie as “a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads; a person who enjoys and cares about food very much.”
Dictionary.com regards “a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking” as a foodie.
“A person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet,” is Oxford Dictionary’s take on a foodie.
While the definition can be sketchy, there appears to be a loose and general consensus for what a foodie is. There are also more, uh, shall we say, colorful meanings as to what constitute a foodie, including these goofy definitions from regular, ordinary John Q. Public citizens on Urban Dictionary.
“A douchebag who likes food.”
“A person who has no actual interests or hobbies.”
“A fat kid pretentious enough to think up a special word to describe their desperate longing for anything to shove down their face. They’ll often claim to be “food enthusiasts” or to have “refined tastes,” but they’re usually lying.”
“A person who enjoys eating food, unlike everyone else, who hates food, thinks it’s disgusting, and would never consider eating it.”
Pretty harsh, right?
So Where Did The Word Foodie Come From?
There are at least two camps of belief when it comes to the etymology of the word foodie, and thus two schools of thought as to whom we can heap copious amounts of praise (or blame, depending on which side of the foodie fence you squat) for the word’s coinage. Etymologist Barry Popik cites two different and distinct sources, separated by the Atlantic Ocean, for the birth of the word: Gael Green in the U.S. and Paul Levy and Ann Barr in London.
In a New York Magazine article (June 2, 1980), Ms. Green wrote,
She offers crayfish with white feet or red…three ways, tends stove in high heels, slips into the small Art Deco dining room of Restaurant d’Olympe — a funeral parlor of shiny black walls and red velvet — to graze cheeks with her devotees, serious foodies, and, from ten on, tout Paris, the men as flashily beautiful as their beautiful women.
Conversely, Mr. Levy and Ms. Barr used the word in the title of their book, The Official Foodie Handbook, published in 1984. In a June 14, 2007 article in The Guardian, Mr. Levy sees things differently.
The American food writer, Gael Greene, may have arrived at “foodie” at about the same time, but I’m happy here to stake a formal claim to the word’s paternity.
Is Being a Foodie a Bad Thing?
Well, the answer to that question depends wholly on who you ask. Some people actually self-identify as a foodie. Not I, said Valerie. While I do enjoy food (immensely, I might add), I no longer call myself a foodie; I’m simply a woman who has an appreciation for delicious food (and drink) – I eat (and drink) it, I savor it, I write about it. To refer to oneself as a foodie sounds, well, a bit pretentious. True, there are other words that could stand in admirably for foodie: gastronaut, epicure, gourmand, in certain circles ‘glutton,’ etc., but you won’t find those words spilling from my mouth, either (well, at least as it applies to myself).
As ubiquitous and pervasive as the word foodie is, there are those who proudly stand behind the title. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay. True foodies beat a fast path to the newest restaurants to taste the latest gastronomic sensations. They know the places to eat and are keen to chummy up to chefs and others in the industry. They are infatuated with food. Food is almost always on their radar. They take pictures of every dish known to man that they come across—the good, the bad and the ugly—and share it with the world (or at least on Instagram). (See sidebar and my admission of guilt).
But enough about me.
In and of itself, being a foodie is not a bad thing. To some extent, there’s a little bit of foodie in all of us. We all eat, right? Food sustains us and we eat it to keep our bodies running like a well-oiled machine. That entails, at some minimalist level, the desire for food, even if actually enjoying it and the act of eating is low on the totem pole.
Long live foodies! Foodies are here to spread the good word about food … on blogs (yes, I have one of those), Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr … oh hell, EVERYwhere! And that is a very good thing indeed. Foodies can teach us all a thing or two: about how to embrace the food we eat, about trying new things, about social engagement and about being excited about food.
Not everyone is or can be a full-on foodie. For some, food is a means to an end, while for others, it is the be-all and end-all.
Now I come back to my original question. [Feel free to elaborate in the comments section]
Hey, if the fork fits . . .