I’m going to be honest, I have an irrational hatred of the word “foodie.” A visceral, foaming at the mouth, climb-over-the-table-if-uttered-in-polite-conversation hatred of the word. I honestly don’t know why. It elicits the same guttural response that mimes and hipsters elicit from me. Some primal urge akin to dogs sensing the coming of an earthquake—a lot of barking and I eventually hide under the bed.
But how has such a cute word escalated to such a response? The word foodie can be traced back to around the early 1980s, but has only recently picked up the momentum that it currently has. Replacing such words as “gourmand” or “epicure” that lost popularity around the same time Marie Antoinette did, foodie has become a very loaded term. The problem seems to arise out of its newfound ubiquitous use. Everyone and their mother is a foodie nowadays. It would seem that the only qualifying hurdle is the ability to put food in one’s mouth.
Phrases and fads are not a new phenomenon, and truthfully, are not that egregious of a sin. The term foodie creates a sense of belonging. That you’ve earned a coveted spot among elites and are now in procession of some secret handshake that only you and other foodies know. In its complimentary form, the term simply means someone who appreciates all things food—and loving food will never be a bad thing.
Everyone and their mother is a foodie nowadays. It would seem that the only qualifying hurdle is the ability to put food in ones mouth.
Groups, by definition, are exclusionary. People who congregate together by some defining quality that other people don’t have or share. People are going to like and value food more than others and that’s fine—we’re all beautiful snowflakes. It’s wonderful that you like good food, but don’t explain to me that only you understand what good food is. This, my dear friend, is where we find the problem. Foodie no longer means someone who appreciates food, but someone who appreciates food more than you do.
This sad label now seems to be intrinsically tied to the idea that food must be expensive and luxurious, and only they know what that is. They have eaten at enough high-end restaurants and are now graciously willing to teach the common people about food. The problem is food—like wine, like art—has nothing to do with the price tag or how much you know. Food has to do with the depth, the creation, the meaning, the profile and most importantly, the experience.
The death of food is the moment you decide what good food is.
But every time an arrogant foodie pins a shiny golden star on their vest and looks down on my instant-ramen-loving food ideology, I want to drag them across the table by their hair and drown them in my chicken-flavored broth. I’ve been a professional chef for more than a decade. I’ve eaten and worked around the world. If you asked me what good food was, I would laugh in your face. I have no idea. No one does.
Your instinctive reaction may be ‘why do I care what people call themselves?’ Because I care about you, dear reader. To me, you’re the proverbial child walking towards the power outlet with fork in hand—wide-eyed and curious, but doomed in your prideful ignorance. The death of food is the moment you decide what good food is. You should never have a favorite restaurant or a favorite food. It does nothing but handicap your experience—an arbitrary bar to measure the world against. Food and restaurants should be worn like a hat. Tried on, examined, worn for a day, and then set aside, only to make room for another.
All photography by Justin Barbour