The Levels of Foodies

“I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

great quotable movies aside, I am so glad people are writing about the “foodie phenomenon”. As you know from my earlier post, I very much dislike being called a foodie. Although the term is not really controversial, I think its meanings are different for different people. part of my complaint is that people use the word “foodie” to describe the tip-top, best-of-the-best home cooks and the guy who figured out provolone cheese works just as well as american cheese in a George Foreman grilled cheese sandwich. don’t get me wrong, in college the only reason I ate well was because of my foreman. the word has little specificity, and therefore, little value.

Las Vegas 2010 - Restaurant Guy Savoy

I have written for you a (satirical) version of Dante’s Inferno. Each level progresses to a lower circle of “foodie hell”. although people may waver between circles, a lot of foodies I dislike tend to spend most of their time in one of the following:

Roasted Artichoke

    Level 1: Limbo.

What do they cook at home? whatever’s tasty. lemon pepper chicken, pasta and pre-made sauce, call for delivery pizza, whatever satisfies their craving. there is no worldly desire to pursue exotic flavors or textures.
Where do you find them? eating anywhere from fast food, Chili’s, TGIFridays, Mortons, anywhere there’s food to be had.
You might hear them say:it’s good” (to EVERYTHING)

I don’t actually dislike anyone just because they’re in limbo. being interested in food is kind of like a hobby in a lot of respects – and this isn’t the hobby for everyone. Limbo is just the starting point of reference for the rest of the levels. Most people fall into this category. They tend to not be aware or really educated on food in the context of social, environmental, or even personal arenas – but they also don’t really care. They are the “blissfully ignorant” when it comes to food – it is necessary for sustenance and little else. These are the people who can’t tell you what a “locavore” is or what “USDA Organic” really means – but they do know all the places to grab a bite in their neighborhood. They like what they like, and they’re happy with that. You can’t really fault them, but you also can’t sing their praises either way – that’s why they’re in Limbo.

northside social - crispy pork belly sandwich

    Level 2: the Hypocrites.

What do they cook at home? ramen, recipes on the back of soup cans, microwaved frozen veggies
Where do you find them? at a coffee shop or other trendy wi-fi place blogging while having a giant mug of cappucino with a bistro sandwich
You might hear them say: something about the uses of “cream of tartar”, “sodium bicarbonate” (not “baking soda”), “ascorbic acid”, “carnauba wax”, or the all-time favorite “xantham gum”. they are a talking reference book for any and all topics concerning food.

These are the bookworms of food. they are the ones who read and read a lot about food. They read magazines, newspapers, and blogs about restaurants and food trends – they probably have a blog of their own. They will watch food network and other cooking shows and absorb “how easy it is” to cook. These are the people who read recipes and books on food incessantly, comparing differences and seeing how one chef does it differently than another. They can tell you the purpose of each ingredient in a recipe and possible substitutions if you don’t happen to have it in your fridge. Their expertise, however, remains confined to knowledge they acquired not through experience. They can talk your ear off about food, but likely can’t cook you a meal reflective of their food knowledge. They are all bark and no bite. These hypocrites cite Kitchen Confidential without having ever stepped foot on the line. They will instruct you, with un-scarred hands, on how to properly cut, slice, dice, and chiffonade, but have never done it correctly themselves. The only thing these people are good for is as a reference, or for trivial pursuit.

CSA 2010 - Week 1

    Level 3: the Blind.

What do they cook at home? something that meets their ovo-pescetarian, macrobiotic, vegan, atkins, zone, detox, flexitarian, gluten-free, kangatarian, low-glycemic index, lutein-free, raw, low-carb, low-protein, low-salt, or low-taste diet.
Where do you find them? eating the latest tofu-rkey soy burger with alfalfa sprouts or sucking down cranberry juice like its the ambrosia of the gods
You might hear them say: “I can’t eat that, it’s got [carbs, meat, dairy, fertilizer, wheat, legs, eyes, sugar, salt, taste] in it” or “you’re actually going to eat that? it’s got [meat, dairy, fertilizer, cyanide, citric acid, lactulose, etc] in it!”

This level is reserved for the food-restricted – but it comes with caveats (the people restricting their diet for a real reason):

Caveat 1: Religious reasons (Lent, Kosher, Buddhism, etc)
Caveat 2: Medically necessary (allergic reactions, celiac disease, hospitalization) – note, this is medically related, not “health” related like most diets claim to be.

Most of these eaters are doing it under the guise of being “healthy”. They restrict things like red meat, MSG, or preservatives. They will even restrict food based on source, locality, and by the store it is sold in. they look down on you with your regular “tainted” broccoli” as they pick up their “healthy” organic variety. They value their food choices so highly, it doesn’t make sense to them why other people choose to do otherwise. They naturally speak with an air of snobbery that seems normal to them because they are typically surrounded with like-minded eaters. They claim their choices are helping them lead a healthier lifestyle, fuller hair, foodgasms (a term they coined), and a unicorn at the end of a double rainbow. The worst part is that these eaters are (if you couldn’t already guess) not as well-educated about food as they should be considering their claims. They don’t understand that restricting food comes at a cost that must be made up for in other ways (specific amino acid combinations from beans or legumes, gelatin and calcium from sources other than meat, etc). The irony of this “healthy” lifestyle is they are more likely to incur illness from eating so poorly. don’t follow these peoples’ example – its ultimately unhealthy and you’re likely to go back to eating how you used to anyway. think about it, when the zombie apocalypse comes, are you really going to care if the food you’ve foraged to survive is organic or not? or when you do turn into a zombie, you’ll be the first one to ever die of starvation because you didn’t find the organically fed brains you “need”.

Sol's Birthday 2010

    Level 4: the Trendy.

What do they cook at home? homemade desserts, rich flavorful soups, seasonal dishes
Where do you find them? standing in line for over an hour to pay $5 for a cupcake, or some other equally dumb idea
You might hear them say: “you gotta try a cupcake, [nevermind the hour-long wait to get something pre-made] it’s SO worth it!”

as the name implies, they are concerned with what is trendy and what is “so hot right now”, they are the hipsters of food. They are also the ones who keep trends alive that should have died a while ago (like cupcakes). They get introduced to the next trend by reading the latest food reviews in the paper or online. They shout to the heavens about its awesomeness and how cool it is that they got to eat it – even if they aren’t really that awesome to begin with (like cupcakes). They tend to only be locally aware of trends – they assume their city was the first to get it, and act that way. They tend to stay on the superficial side of the trend – they don’t want to know if there are any secrets (like the Pinkberry live-culture controversy). These trendy eaters may or may not cook at home, but most likely do not cook the trendy things they rave about.

steak - check out the beautiful grill marks!!!

    Level 5: the Name Droppers.

What do they cook at home? canned soup + chicken entrees, slow-cooker foods, overcooked meat and veggies and eggs
Where do you find them? if not at a fancy restaurant, then surrounded by people who are politely listening to the latest story of lavish dining.
You might hear them say: “that’s a good steak, I’ve eaten at Charlie Palmers, so I know steak”

These are the people you know who have regaled you of stories of the fancy places they have eaten and base their food expertise on having dined at these haut-cuisine establishments. These are people who spatter pictures of them with chefs all over their social networking sites, posing as if they’re BFFs. These eaters (like the Trendy) are really only aware of themselves and the immediate circle around them, when asked about other comparable restaurants, they may reply “never heard of it”, with an air of snobbery – as if because they have never heard of it, it doesn’t exist. These eaters use restaurants and chefs to validate that they, too, belong among the food-minded. They claim they know what good food is, but in reality, they only know what the chef who cooked the food thinks is good. and if they cared to learn about the restaurant business, they’d know its likely the chef who created the dish isn’t the one cooking – it’s his/her sous. these people are the least trustworthy when it comes to food and cooking. If you want to know what to get at XYZ restaurant, they’ll be more than happy to give their opinion – because when it comes to food it’s the only thing they have of substance to share.

Bobby Flay Me Pamela

    Introspection.

so obviously, I have fallen into each of these categories at some point in time. I’ve waited in line to get my hands on some tasty treats (that really were not worth the wait); I’ve made the faux-pas of commenting on the restaurant business prior to working in it; I’m sure I’ve tried eating a restricted diet for some stupid reason at some point; and I’m sure I’ve doled out information about cooking or food without actually having the experience behind it. I’d like to think I’m getting better, and I’m trying to move beyond “foodie purgatory”. I like to think my food posts are more than the “OMG, I just met this celebrity chef and now we’re besties” post, or a post on definitions and chemical properties. I like to think I treat food as a craft, and not just a hobby. I try to get better and improve my technique all the time while keeping my ear to the ground for anything new and interesting. my goal is not only to present food or recipes in a way people can replicate it, but to also note the pitfalls and mistakes – as well as improvements to those recipes I thought worked. sometimes I like to highlight details that the cookbooks tend to gloss over with fluffy adjectives that really don’t help you understand what you’re about to make.

and if I have for some reason offended you. lighten up, its a satire. watch Zoolander to help yourself get over it.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I am like you. I do not really consider myself a foodie. More appropriately a gourmand

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  • By Food: The Yelper Phenomenon | Wade Chi on January 21, 2011 at 7:10 am

    […] themselves comfortably. They are most likely to call themselves foodies, falling quickly into the Trendy group of foodie […]

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