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The Eggs Factor
October 1, 2012 1:43 AM   Subscribe

"Like a racist or a sexist, a foodist operates under the prejudices of a governing ideology, viewing the whole world through the grease-smeared lenses of a militant eater."

Steven Poole is annoyed by foodies. Guardian readers disagree (link to the article's comments).
posted by MartinWisse (137 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Overthinking overthinking a plate of beans.
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 1:47 AM on October 1, 2012 [22 favorites]


"Like a racist or a sexist, a foodist operates under the prejudices of a governing ideology,


No, it really isn't very much like racism or sexism at all, actually. I can't speak to the racism, I guess, but the sexism? No, really doesn't resemble it in any way.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:00 AM on October 1, 2012 [20 favorites]


They are definitely pretty annoying though. And there is a lot of classicism embedded in it. I've seen plenty of comments here from people ranting about how poor people are lazy or even immoral because they don't eat only home cooked organic food or whatever. It's similar to how racists talk about poorer members of minority groups.

It's actually similar to sexual puritanism, really. Hate directed at those who take too much pleasure from eating or from eating foods they deem "impure", as if the fact that they, personally, don't like snickers bars or french fries means that people who do like the are somehow morally weak.

And of course, sexual puritanism tends to be linked with sexism.
posted by delmoi at 2:14 AM on October 1, 2012 [47 favorites]


People self-identifying as "foodies" makes me cringe in the literal, physical sense.

That said, this doesn't half come across like "Hi, my name is Steven Poole and I'm going to have a big old whine about people being super into something I don't particularly care about."
posted by ominous_paws at 2:19 AM on October 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


That said, this guy really needs to figure out how to stop reading websites that bore him. Or is this the result of watching too much television? Sometimes it's like people who complain about cultural trends they don't like don't realize their TVs have an off button.
posted by delmoi at 2:23 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


And there is a lot of classicism embedded in it.

The Greeks eat like this, but the Romans eat like this
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:24 AM on October 1, 2012 [110 favorites]


I find the idea of comparing foodies to racists and sexists to be offensive in a way that I can't quite articulate.

Candy bars and HFCS-based sodas make me ill.

I enjoy plenty of cheap food.

Not sure where that leaves me, but I'm sure there will be a post in the next few weeks that pigeonholes me properly based on the above.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:24 AM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ, how long is this fucking article? A combination of the whimsical, the impenetrable and the irrelevant, it is some magnificently, indulgently bad writing.
posted by howfar at 2:26 AM on October 1, 2012 [14 favorites]


And there is a lot of classicism embedded in it.

There is also a lot of classism embedded in the statement that "foodism" as it is defined here is like racism or sexism. I think that the people he is addressing are not the same people who direct bile at people for being poor or overweight. His is aimed at people with pretensions at culinary expertise. It seems more of an anti-poseur rant than anything aimed at people who are of approximately the same class.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:29 AM on October 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


There's something ironic about an article deriding pretentious foodieism being so gloriously over-written, but that said as someone prone to over-writing I'm not sure I think its necessarily self-evident that all writing needs to be completely efficient & unadorned, and sometimes its ok for the sense to be subservient to the prose, not matter how many times we're told its not ok at all (oh please let me find a publisher who agrees).

what i mean is I quite enjoyed the article, despite the fact that its erudition isn't matched by its aim
posted by criticalbill at 2:33 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find the idea of comparing foodies to racists and sexists to be offensive in a way that I can't quite articulate.


I'm trying, but I should be asleep, so maybe I can't quite articulate it either. Mainly it's because he is comparing something that is a minor annoyance in one sliver of his life - one that he can easily escape - with historic, systemic patterns of abuse and marginalization based on something people cannot help about themselves that should not diminish their humanity.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:34 AM on October 1, 2012 [52 favorites]


louche, I think that's exactly it. Like the guy saying "God, there was no hot water for my shower this morning. It was like Auschwitz."
posted by ominous_paws at 2:36 AM on October 1, 2012 [22 favorites]


"Hi, my name is Steven Poole and I'm going to have a big old whine about people being super into something I don't particularly care about drumming up 'controversy' for my new book."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:42 AM on October 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


I agree. Foodism is just like racism. Me, I hate the Scottish. That's why I never go to McDonald's.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:45 AM on October 1, 2012 [29 favorites]


Don't insult the Scotch!
posted by howfar at 2:48 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: A combination of the whimsical, the impenetrable and the irrelevant

Sorry.
posted by metaBugs at 3:01 AM on October 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


The use of the words "drizzles" and "kale chips" are actually a dog whistle signifying some sort of eminent foodist takeover.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:11 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: A combination of the whimsical, the impenetrable and the irrelevant.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:13 AM on October 1, 2012


I think that this article is great. I very much enjoyed pondering the questions it poses about the dominant (media) culture of food in the UK and the ways in which language is used to present a paradigm about the meaning of food.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:14 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kale chips came from the lower regions of Hell.
posted by HuronBob at 3:16 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


"My 20th birthday party was all about booze, my 30th birthday was about drugs, and now I realise that my 40s are about food." And he is not alone. Food replaces drugs in the gently ageing food-fancier's pantheon of pleasure, and brings along with it traces of the old pharmaceutical vocabulary. You hear talk of taking a "hit" of a dish or its sauce, as though from a spliff or bong; and a food-obsessive in hunter-gatherer mode is thrilled to "score" a few chanterelle mushrooms, as though he has had to buy them from a dodgy-looking gent on a murky Camden street corner. Food is valued for its psychotropic "rush"; Nigella Lawson refers to salted caramel as "this Class A foodstuff".

I'm pretty sure that buying drugs from a "dodgy-looking gent on a murky Camden street" is code for "black guy in a hoodie" which is overtly racist and, of course, the idea that drug dealers are always male is pure sexism. So yeah, foodism, racism, sexism, it's all the same bouillabaisse.

Which says more about how the left wing media in the UK views the culture of food in the UK rather than the culture of food itself.
posted by three blind mice at 3:17 AM on October 1, 2012


Welp, I guess the only way to out-ridiculous this guy was to try and blame it on The Left Wing Media. Congrats.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:19 AM on October 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


Every person has a positive, constructive side. It is reasonable, responsible, slow to anger. And then there is the other side which defies description in words.
posted by deo rei at 3:19 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


This reads to me like he was going to write an article on the current state of food culture, but after it was done he decided it was too boring. He needed a controversial opinion, so he re-wrote it so that it gave the subject a jab in the ribs.

He's comparing over-enthusiasm about food to racism and sexism...how could he possibly be serious? You people let journalists push your buttons too easily.
posted by victory_laser at 3:22 AM on October 1, 2012


I'd say he needs to get stuffed, but he'd probably complain about my resorting to foodie language when I should have said he needs to fuck off.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:52 AM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


The terrifying thing is that he appears to have written an entire book like this.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:07 AM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


People self-identifying as "foodies" makes me cringe in the literal, physical sense.

...Um, I sometimes do.

But I get the sense that you have the "foodies" who are more like gourmands, and then you have the foodies who are more like gourmets. I think it's the gourmets who are the snobs about things, whereas the gourmands are just "yay food cooking is fun yummy nom nom nom". I actually only started calling myself "foodie" because no one knew what the hell a "gourmand" even was.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:12 AM on October 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you don't want the Judeo-Christian overtones that come with biblical foodism, you can instead attain communion with the druids, a possibility noted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the late 1990s: "I suspect the fact that wild mushrooms (and the pursuit of them) have become popular alongside the burgeoning interest in New Age spiritualism may not be entirely coincidental."

I don't think the writer quite got Hugh's little quip here.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 4:12 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Pssh. Everybody knows it's "Trekker."
posted by cribcage at 4:13 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Empress, to me "foodie" is definitely tied up with judging other people's food preferences to some degree, and has some connotation of snobbery. This may not be entirely fair.

If there is a more commonly understood term than "gourmand" I can use for "I love cooking and eating more than is entirely healthy or sane", then I need to hear it. I usually settle for "greedy bastard."
posted by ominous_paws at 4:23 AM on October 1, 2012


Ditto that, EmpressCallipygos. I'm a gourmand and proud of it. It doesn't matter to me whether a dish is high class or low class, whether it comes from the finest restaurant or someone's tiny kitchen. I'm here for the flavor. Food is a great sensual pleasure, just like sex, and the only way to do food wrong is if you don't enjoy it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:24 AM on October 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


While the comparison to sexism and racism is nothing short of ridiculous, I'll admit that the particular brand of "foodie" that is constantly telling other people what is and isn't good enough to eat, irrespective of those other people's tastes, economic status, geographic location, and cultural food experiences, do get annoying at times. And yes, it often does come with a whiff of classism about it. Just the other day, someone went after Gravy Master on the green (something about chemicals, artificial flavor, blah, blah, blah), the same harmless little bottle that grandmas everywhere have been using to make their gravy taste like liquid awesome for generations, and yeah it made me roll my eyes. I roll my eyes a lot in food threads around here. But like the guy brought up in his own article, it's just human nature. 25 years ago it would have been Indie music (and there's still a subset of those people, thanks), now it's food. And even if we rounded up all the annoying, elitist, holier than thou foodists, locked them in a defunct McDonalds with a vat of HFCS to divide amonst themselves for sustenance, it wouldn't change anything. There's always going to be a subset of people that are going to find something to be superior about, whether it be music, or food, or religion.
posted by katyggls at 4:27 AM on October 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


Food is a great sensual pleasure, just like sex

Ok, so here's an assumption I pretty much always make: People who are massively not into food / outspokenly don't care about food / say things like "food is just fuel to me", are pretty much always going to be dreadful in bed. Thoughts?
posted by ominous_paws at 4:30 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Perhaps. Or perhaps people who compare food to sex aren't having very good sex.

Seems like it could go either way: interpersonal utility comparisons are notoriously difficult. It's a sophomoric puzzle of "What if other people experience blue the way I experience green?" proportions.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:40 AM on October 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I thought up until this very moment that 'foodie' meant someone who loves food, eating, cooking, etc. I figured it existed on a spectrum and that there were better foodies than me, but that my enthusiasm for eating and cooking made me a foodie. No wonder people are always like 'NO you're not!' when I talk about what a foodie I am.
posted by marimeko at 4:43 AM on October 1, 2012


My parents had a small hand-drawn sign hanging in the kitchen: "A gourmet is a glutton with brains."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:52 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]



I wonder how he feels about People who Hate Hard Things in their Soft Things.


I sometimes used to refer to myself as a foodie, but I disliked the connotation that came with it- there is definitely a pretentious/ snobbery thing that is associated with the word- so now I just say that I love food.



There's always going to be a subset of people that are going to find something to be superior about, whether it be music, or food, or religion.


Relevant XKCD
posted by windykites at 4:53 AM on October 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


The article itself seemed oddly out of date with food fashions in the Uk (well.. ok, in London, sorry). Whilst restaurants boasting both fancyness and shmancyness are still very much in business the hipster foodie types that I know tend to rarely eat there, preferring food trucks or pop ups or what have you with no reservation policies and menuless websites.

And while a restaurant in a back street with no sign out front (but full of t-shirts and hair cuts) is good the most favoured are those vendors with no main location, who advertise where they are and when on twitter and no where else.
This could be the hipster element in them rather than foodie element, I admit.

Rarely are things resting on beds of other things, but they are sometimes 'proper'.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:59 AM on October 1, 2012


He's comparing over-enthusiasm about food to racism and sexism...how could he possibly be serious?

It was clearly written to push yer average Guardian reader's buttons and seeing it had well over 180 comments when I first saw the story, it clearly succeeded. So I thought it would be a good fit for MeFi as well, earnest outrage being something we're good at.

(And, let's face it, this kind of innoceous trolling is as good for the trollee as it is for the troll, the former getting to indulge their own sense of moral superiority and two minute hate peevishness.)
posted by MartinWisse at 5:13 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Thoughts?

Very few people eat parsley.
posted by jfuller at 5:19 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thoughts?

People who are massively not into food sex / outspokenly don't care about food sex / say things like "food sex is just fuel functional to me", are pretty much always going to be dreadful in bed.

FTFY.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:25 AM on October 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Read those all as "foodsex", thought of the Tampopo prawns, shuddered.
posted by ominous_paws at 5:28 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


So I thought it would be a good fit for MeFi as well, earnest outrage being something we're good at.

Yeah, I wasn't criticizing the post so much as the sincerity of most of the comments here.

Sometimes, Foodies : food :: Mefites : outrage. I'm included in this...but at this particular moment, I happen to be outraging at people not getting a joke. Pardon the pun, but this article is a Roast -- harsh criticism dished out for the enjoyment of everyone within earshot.
posted by victory_laser at 5:36 AM on October 1, 2012


If there is a more commonly understood term than "gourmand" I can use for "I love cooking and eating more than is entirely healthy or sane", then I need to hear it. I usually settle for "greedy bastard."

*shifty eyes* Do you accept that there is a word for "someone who loves food and thinks cooking and eating new things is fun, and is equally likely to get excited about trying pressed duck as they are about trying a really really good burger, but isn't excessive or snobby about it"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:36 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Glutton.
posted by spitbull at 5:41 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like this thread is conflating health nuts with foodies. They are distinct. A foodie will take pleasure in a foie-gras hot dog topped with escargot and ketchup made from a rare breed of tomato that only grows near the summits of the three tallest mountains in India. A health nut is afraid of bread.
posted by deathpanels at 5:43 AM on October 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


"someone who loves food and thinks cooking and eating new things is fun, and is equally likely to get excited about trying pressed duck as they are about trying a really really good burger, but isn't excessive or snobby about it"

For clarity, I'm talking about using "greedy bastard" to self-identify, not criticise others!

I'd pretty happily categorise myself under your description quoted above, although in all honesty I could probably replace "trying a really really good burger" with "drunkenly scarfing three Mcdonalds double cheeseburgers in a 2a.m. drunken stupor."
posted by ominous_paws at 5:44 AM on October 1, 2012


(And I'm totally down with the food/sex analogy.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:45 AM on October 1, 2012


A foodie will take pleasure in a foie-gras hot dog topped with escargot and ketchup made from a rare breed of tomato that only grows near the summits of the three tallest mountains in India.

...Hmm. That sounds more like "poser" (unless you're using "foodie" in the gourmet sense). Maybe it's time for the gourmand, "I don't care where the ketchup comes from, because it ain't goin' on THIS hot dog because Chicago-style dogs are the best anyway, dammit" faction to sort of take the word back?

For clarity, I'm talking about using "greedy bastard" to self-identify, not criticise others!

Gotcha. Carry on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:50 AM on October 1, 2012


gourmand is (or was) a pejorative.
posted by JPD at 5:51 AM on October 1, 2012


A gourmand is a greedy bastard in French. Perhaps someone has made up a new meaning in English.
posted by Wolof at 5:53 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


And while a restaurant in a back street with no sign out front (but full of t-shirts and hair cuts) is good the most favoured are those vendors with no main location, who advertise where they are and when on twitter and no where else.

And there's the classicism which might have been the root cause for Steven Poole's rant in the first place. That sort of thing, where it's deliberately made as difficult as possible for the non-cognoscenti, to find, let alone recognise a good restaurant is just as exclusive as dining at Le Snooter, white tie required.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:55 AM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think what the writer is pointing out is how loaded food has become, how much of a signifier it is now, signifying wealth, status, taste, style, all the things we used to buy clothes or music to signify, now we can do it with food. And also perhaps how food has taken on a key role in post-millennial notions of cleanliness and health. But I don't think he wants us to return to a modernist view of food as a uniform industrial product, I think he just wants us to buy his book.
posted by criticalbill at 5:55 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's an interesting counterpoint: Grace Dent bemoans the quality of food outside the M25

"Until last week, I firmly believed I was bored with the bespoke burger trend.

All those hipster patty-purists, gangs of bearded Tarquins in their skinny-fit trousers with their pop-up burger truck/speakeasies, their ‘today’s burger’ Tweet updates, scribbled menus containing a fulsome biography of this week’s unlucky cow, their no reservation policy and their brash names like ‘Spank Slider’ and ‘Burger Bang-Bang’. Enough!

But then I returned to the North for a week and was reminded how spoiled we capital-dwellers are. I had good intentions to seek out fresh, fibrous, flavoursome dinners, but 30 miles past the Watford Gap and I was living on microwaved pub food, Wild Bean Café muffins and those mini-bar hotel chocolates worth £3.60 that wouldn’t keep Wee Jimmy Krankie going. Ordering a burger outside of the M25 will remind you why you crucify yourself rent-wise and sacrifice your sanity to live here."


Both have a point, but I suspect Grace spends more time away from London than Steven Poole does.
posted by DanCall at 5:57 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any article ranting about some straw-man "hipsters" is an immediate turn-off to me. It comes off as a form of thinly-veiled resentment.
posted by crazy_yeti at 5:58 AM on October 1, 2012


I think the main problem here is that Poole is trying to apply the formula of his previous book, Unspeak, to a fundamentally unsuitable subject so he ends up aimlessly whining instead of saying anything of substance.
posted by ninebelow at 6:07 AM on October 1, 2012


Both have a point, but I suspect Grace spends more time away from London than Steven Poole does.

Warmed up provincial nonsense about how grim oop north is does not a point make.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:15 AM on October 1, 2012


Ordering a burger outside of the M25 will remind you why you crucify yourself rent-wise and sacrifice your sanity to live here.

Heh. Thats an exaggeration too of course. We moved out of London last year and, in many ways, eat better and cheaper than we did in London. Two rules really:

1) Cook it yourself. The farmers markets out here in the countryside are tremendous, full of delicious, locally grown beef and other meats. Take it home and you can have the best burger ever.

2) You can't rely on Tweets and other social media out here so - guess what - you have to do your own research. As I pointed out in another thread, the best roast pork sandwich I've had in my life was from a small producer in Herefordshire who we chanced upon while at a market in Ross-on-Wye near the Welsh border.

There's a distinction between someone who follows trends or is looking for rare things and what I think of myself as. I am someone who loves good food, hates bad food, and will go out of his way to seek out the former. The thing about good food is that it can pop up anywhere. Sometimes at great restaurants but just as often at a hole-in-the-wall.

My mentor in this is my father. He was born and raised in Mexico and will go out of his way to find delicious food. I still remember trips in Tijuana with him, going into the sketchy outer boroughs where he had found a tiny place that made the most mouth-watering carnitas. They had a huge copper pot with someone stirring it constantly. And the carnitas that came out of there - crispy outside and moist and tender and flavorful inside - were a vision of pork heaven. My dad and I still reminisce about the place. He does not follow any trends. And he is a humble man who grew up dirt poor so he is not some epitome of a privileged class pastime. He just loves and appreciates good food. It is a passion he has passed on to both his sons and something that binds the three of us very closely.
posted by vacapinta at 6:15 AM on October 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


Warmed up provincial nonsense about how grim oop north is does not a point make.

Like Dent, I'm from the North and currently live in London. She is exaggerating for comic effect since that is what she is paid for but there is no denying the vast difference in the quantity of quality food easily available betweent he two. Poole bemoans the use of the adjective "proper" to describe things like burgers but the reason for this is simple: they didn't used to be proper, pubs used to serve horrible frozen food. In a lot of places that is still the case.
posted by ninebelow at 6:31 AM on October 1, 2012


I met someone who had made the mistake of ordering a pizza in a pub, once. It was grim - that's the only word for it.
posted by thelonius at 6:40 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have said it before but if you like food and have an interest in food you are a foodie but if you judge others based on what they eat and tell others what to eat you are an asshole.

Here endeth the lesson.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 6:56 AM on October 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


At the risk of sounding resoundingly ignorant...is the "foodie" concept an exclusively American / Western thing? Here in Japan it goes without saying that good food is Good, and that the "goodness" of food is entirely contextual. In the early hours of the morning after long karaoke session a bowl of Jiro ramen can be as exquisite as anko nabe in the most exclusive Kagurazaka ryotei. McDonald's is not bad food per se; people enjoy it and therefore it has its place. It may be unhealthy - but then all foods are unhealthy if eaten exclusively. It may be immoral - but that's a different conversation. McDonald's has its place. If people are eating unhealthy foods too much it's not because they are inferior, but rather because the entire culture doesn't promote a healthy understanding of cuisine and gustatory aesthetics. I can't help but think it would be better if everyone were a "foodie" rather than no-one.
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:58 AM on October 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, all admit it- heck, I'm proud of it! I'm a food supremacist.


French toast is a mongrel food that isn't fit to be on the same plate as decent, God-fearing foods like pancakes or waffles.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:02 AM on October 1, 2012


*I'll* admit it. durnit

I'm also kidding- I love French toast. Especially Monte Cristo sandwiches. But not cream cheese stuffed French toast, which is an affront to the LORD.

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:05 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like to eat. I like good food. I also eat Nutella with a spoon, and infrequently take my kids out for fast food when it's the only option and we're far from home. But I look at the American food system as basically unhealthy and manipulative, and every bit of food that I make or raise is a way of participating in it less (me, in my particular class-inflected and location-dependent life; this isn't a universal prescription, or a condemnation of folks who don't do it. This is what my conscience dictates that I do.).

I know a little about supermarkets and how their design works in favor of the store; a little about how meat and poultry are raised and slaughtered; a little about human rights issues and field workers, transportation costs, chemical additives, grocery store data tracking, and hard-sell marketing. Added up, it makes sense for me to grow and raise a good percentage of my own food, because I have a farm and I can. Partial list: pork; turkey; berry preserves; lettuce; tomatoes; Brussels sprouts; beans; corn; leeks; garlic; onions; herbs... and I have learned to can, freeze, dry, save seeds and generally hold over the harvest like my great-grandparents might have. The other thing is that I *like* to do this. I get a kick out of learning to grow tomatoes from seed (and eviscerate poultry, and make bread, and...).

I believe that work has meaning. That the work of the hand still matters. I am a foodie, in that I love good, well-made food, but I am a peasant because I think of it in terms of the sweat and the time and the hope that went into bringing it along from egg or seed to plate, and I know what that is because I do it myself. Food and skill are deeply unmagical: they take unlovely commitment, unfashionable hours of labor, dirt, sweat, error, failure, hope and perseverance. I think those things have worth. To eat without recognition of those facts, and in willful ignorance of the issues mentioned above... well, that's fetishizing one aspect of food at the expense of its whole context.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:07 AM on October 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


to add to jet_manifesto's comment, Japan is obsessed with food. Chances are, if you're flipping channels during prime time, you'll end up with at least two or three channels (basic channels) showing food of some sort. Let's see, today is Monday. That means Otameshika is on at 7, and today it was a three hour special. The goal is a group sits in a restaurant overnight ordering dishes until they manage to order all of that restaurant's (usually a chain) top ten most popular dishes. At ten, on another channel, one member of SMAP interviews a celebrity (tonight was Beat Takeshi, new movie and such) while the other four members work in teams of two to create the best meal for the celebrity in question.

Any show about travel inevitably centers on the food available. Travel brochures to various hotspring resorts tend to have larger pictures of the food available than the rooms or baths. It's a culture obsessed with food, with people who have no qualms about lining up for two hours to have legitimately good food, and food that's not legitimately good tends to be outed as such. Seasonal food still exists here, and it's just about Matsutake mushroom time, where obscenely priced mushrooms ($40 for a box of two or three) are displayed in balsa wood boxes, and TV programs show various celebrities eating them in all sorts of really, really nice presentations (seriously, though, grill them over fire with a little oil, sprinkle on some salt, and you're good).

The thing is, it's nice to live in a culture where food is appreciated, where cooking is treated like the legitimate art form that it is. That guy behind the sushi counter? He probably spent five or more years as an apprentice. What he's doing carries the weight of tradition balanced with the expectation of perfection. Hell, I don't even like most Japanese food, but I respect the hell out of the people who make it.

And at the same time, most likely due to the cratered economy, there's been a huge rise in what's called B-q gourmet, or essentially b-grade food. It's traditional homestyle Japanese food in new presentations, in large portions, and cheap. It's almost exactly like the grilled cheese thing, or the macaroni and cheese resurgence (that's mine, I called it, best band name ever). It's old stuff, remade by people who have an idea. Some of it is amazing, and it's just as well loved as the high end cuisine.

On the other hand, of course, Saizeriya, one of the most popular family restaurant chains, doesn't even have knives in it's kitchens. Everything comes out of the freezer and goes through the oven/conveyor belt. It takes all kinds.

their 'milan' style rice gratin with meat sauce is delicious, and something like 290 yen
posted by Ghidorah at 7:15 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think the writer quite got Hugh's little quip here.

This is the problem with the whole article. Poole seems unable to understand that other people have a sense of humour and irony. Quoting Nigella Lawson, a performer whose comedy is so broad it's a surprise her shows don't come overdubbed with a laugh track, as if she is wholly serious is deeply suspect. A little more reading reveals the problem, Poole is involved in a particularly worthless version of post-modern social theorising. He appears to believe that Derrida's "il n'y a pas de hors-texte" means nothing more that a simplistic "there is nothing outside the text", without recognising the fact that a vital part of the text is its context. He's working on the most superficial level and presenting his intellectual dilettantism as social insight, describing his gleanings in terms offensive to anyone who happens not to be a white man.

Poole appears to have studied English at university. Paying a little more attention to his studies might have helped him avoid landing this festering turd of an article on the desks of the reading public.
posted by howfar at 7:19 AM on October 1, 2012


Christ, can't I gorge on delicious foods without wading into a political statement!? I'm hungry, not a hipster!
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:27 AM on October 1, 2012


"a foodist operates under the prejudices of a governing ideology"

Um, all human behavior operates under ideology of some sort. The idea that a life is sacred is a kind of ideology. The notion that elitism is unfair is a kind of ideology. And the belief that food should not be the object of affective/emotional investment is also ideological. There's a tendency in pseudo-academic argumentation to apply the label "ideology" only to those world-views of which the speaker does not approve. There are lots of valid reasons to criticize "foodie" values and practices, but the fact they value food is not one of them. That's sort of like saying that the problem with elitist music hipsters is that they allow their tastes in music to inform their lives. The problem isn't that their values inform their lives, it's how they shape their lives and reinforce/contradict other values that we esteem important.
posted by LMGM at 7:29 AM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm obviously a philistine... my eyes started to cross somewhere around paragraph 3 and I gave it up to go make myself an egg & bacon sandwich. With real cheddar.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 7:45 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article is just a yawn-inducing attempt to get a rise out of people who care about food.

On the other hand this

I've seen plenty of comments here from people ranting about how poor people are lazy or even immoral because they don't eat only home cooked organic food or whatever.

is just flat out untrue.

Put your links where your mouth is, delmoi.
posted by dersins at 8:04 AM on October 1, 2012


Here's an interesting counterpoint: Grace Dent bemoans the quality of food outside the M25

When I was in the North for a week, I had stunning food - the best I ever had in Britain (London included). Of course, I really like fish and chips, and Lincolnshire sausage (and chine! amazing stuff), and black pudding (the hotel in Manchester had no idea what they were in for when they offered an all-you-can-eat full breakfast to grad students). In Scotland, they have Scotch meat pies which are a little bit of savory heaven (NB: not made from real Scotsmen).

Thing is: you don't go to India to find good Southern USA Barbeque, and you don't look for London-style food in the North. The whole "eat local" thing also applies to cuisine: eat the local specialties, and they will probably be much better than trying to keep eating the same stuff as where you're from.

Also: in the whole of 3 years in Britain - most of it near London - I didn't have a decent hamburger that wasn't home-made; no good donuts either. Clearly, you have to go to Canada for both. Our bacon butties are pretty damn good, too.
posted by jb at 8:05 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kale chips came from the lower regions of Hell.

Hey! I don't know how to cook anything beyond ramen, but I recently learned how to make kale chips and they are fucking amazing.
posted by brundlefly at 8:08 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Travel brochures to various hotspring resorts tend to have larger pictures of the food available than the rooms or baths.

This I did not know. And it was a great surprise to me in my ryokan last week to see the quality, breadth and sheer quantity of food that got served up. It must have been something like 10 or 11 courses each of the two nights.

Incidentally, Japan is a gourmand and a gourmet's paradise. I dined like a prince and when I came home I had actually lost 3 pounds. This is, in holiday eating terms, like finding the philosopher's stone.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:08 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


We are all made of food.
posted by srboisvert at 8:14 AM on October 1, 2012


McDonald's is not bad food per se; people enjoy it and therefore it has its place. It may be unhealthy - but then all foods are unhealthy if eaten exclusively. It may be immoral - but that's a different conversation.

McDonalds is only immoral if you take into context the social, economic and political consequences of eating there and its existence, not so much the food itself, though it could be healthier -- but then again the reasons it's not is economical and political, not gastronomical.

The problem with a lot of foodies and especially food representation in the media is that aesthetic and aspirational choices are sold as moral choices. Puritianism sells, even (especially) to hedonists. Eating your twentyfive quid hamburger made of handreared whole wheat bread and homegrown calves is even better if you're doing it because it's low in food miles.

Aspiration as ideology, sold to people who often genuinely care about ecology and sustainability and localism and all that, but lack the nous to see that just consuming different products is not going to work. Especially when many of the solutions sold this way are not really all that scaleable.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:21 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


We are all made of food.

"People have always eaten people, what else is there to eat?
If the juju had meant us not to eat people, he wouldn't have made us of meat."

From The Reluctant Cannibal, by Flanders and Swann.
posted by howfar at 8:32 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the problem with the whole article. Poole seems unable to understand that other people have a sense of humour and irony. Quoting Nigella Lawson, a performer whose comedy is so broad it's a surprise her shows don't come overdubbed with a laugh track, as if she is wholly serious is deeply suspect.

Where does he quote her as if she's wholly serious? He just says 'Nigella Lawson refers to salted caramel as "this Class A foodstuff"' to illustrate his own point that people are using drugs terminology to talk about food. Of course - obviously - they are doing so in a tongue-in-cheek way - but they're not using antique-dealer terminology, or rag-trade terminology, or something else they could have chosen.

I don't think the writer quite got Hugh's little quip here.

Again, says who? The point of Hugh's quip is the same as Poole's. The "communion of the druids" is surely a reference to New Age types who bang on about their mystical experiences under the influence of magic mushrooms, not any actual historical druids.
posted by rory at 8:33 AM on October 1, 2012


He just says 'Nigella Lawson refers to salted caramel as "this Class A foodstuff"' to illustrate his own point that people are using drugs terminology to talk about food.

If the best he could come up with to illustrate the claim was someone whose tongue is habitually buried so far in her cheek it's a wonder she can talk or eat at all, perhaps it's not really a very strong claim?

The point of Hugh's quip is the same as Poole's

If agreeing with F-W's scepticism is the point of the quote then why is the very next sentence "Food, then, is considered the appropriate sustenance for all kinds of spiritual snackishness"? That doesn't follow from your reading of Poole's intention in quoting.
posted by howfar at 8:44 AM on October 1, 2012


That doesn't make any sense, though. Hugh's making an offhand joke about hippies gathering hallucinogenic shrooms leading to people doing the same for edible mushrooms.
Poole takes this as Hugh asserting that there's some genuine connection between the rise in popularity of mushroom foraging and pagan spirituality. Poole seems completely obtuse to the fact that Hugh was just making a gentle, meaningless joke. The "new age" part in Hugh's quote is just an allusive way of saying "hippies", not actual social commentary. You have to be almost wilfully dense to read it the way Poole did.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 8:49 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bad.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2012


Is the U.K. behind the trend on "hipsters"? I ask because it feels like we went through this in the U.S. three years ago when the "foodie" thing got started, and people went around saying "Oh, all these hipsters crowding around with their skinny jeans and their quinoa burgers, drinking classic cocktails and eating their wild boar bacon truffle fries. I.. I just don't like them very much!" And that was the cultural exchange for a year or so until it became apparent that "hipster" had come to be a wildcard term for anyone whom the speaker wished to disparage as a pedant, and that pretty much everybody was a "hipster" about something, and that we'd have to talk in detail about why we don't certain things instead of just thumbing our noses.
posted by deathpanels at 8:51 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: You have to be almost wilfully dense
posted by ominous_paws at 8:53 AM on October 1, 2012


Steven Poole has a lean and hungry look; he starves his brain; such men make fools of themselves.

If you look at the larger picture of him on his profile page, which I've linked, you can see that his eyes are extraordinarily puffy, to the point that the right one is almost closed, which is often a sign of food sensitivity of one or a number of kinds-- likely undiagnosed in his case, if so.

No wonder he hates food.
posted by jamjam at 8:55 AM on October 1, 2012


Is the U.K. behind the trend on "hipsters"?

I don't think so. Not London at least. There's nothing new in Poole's piece at all. People have been whining about foodies for as long as there have been foodies. It's not like there's nothing to whine about, food snobs are as grating, unpleasant and tedious as any other kind of snob.

The fact that this article isn't even timely is just another reason why it's so shit.
posted by howfar at 8:55 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Poole lost me with the suggestion that being enthusiastic about food, and thinking quite a bit about it, is a bad thing. I'm wildly into food, high or low-class. I don't really use the term foodie for myself, but I'm sure plenty of my friends would call me that and I don't take issue. I'm into food the same way I am into everything I enjoy. One of the beautiful things about the modern era is the access to options and information about our passions (even in the apparently "eliotated" sense, according to Poole, whatever he means by that).
For lack of a better term, I "nerd out" about tons of things. Food, drink, music, books, heck, even the sourcing of my furniture now that my wife and I are investing in higher quality stuff. It's fascinating and thrilling to be able to delve into subjects, however trivial they may seem, and to (try to) make informed decisions on that basis. It is also very much of a luxury resulting both from the times, and the particulars of what's available to me.
It enhances my enjoyment in many areas of my life, and I just can't see that as anything but good. Plus, I'm excited to see how my home-made apple bitters turn out.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 9:15 AM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


The moment you invoke "hipster" your old-man complaining falls on deaf ears. Yes, some food geeks will cross from oddly obsessive to somewhat annoying. Perhaps it finds its way to snobby or classist assumptions. We should call that out wherever we see it.

Regardless if it happens to come from a self-styled gourmand, or a self-style journalist writing about gourmands.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:37 AM on October 1, 2012


What @staccato said, BTW.

And it bothers me that people with the disposable income to choose all sorts of food make value statements about so-called low-class food. There is a time and place for all sorts of food choices.

For example, there is nothing like frying up fresh-caught walleye by a Northern Ontario lake after rolling it in a crust of potato chips. This is perfectly acceptable, not ironic and one of the tastiest things you will ever have. (Pre-ground) Pepper and a long Canadian dusk by the water are all the seasonings you need. A true gourmand, or journalist, recognizes this.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not a foodie! Some of my best friends are Velveeta!
posted by wcfields at 9:44 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the foodiest thing I ever did was: purchase a whole chicken and roast it solely so I could have pre-cooked chicken and a chicken carcass to make stock from, simply because I had a hankering for ramen soup but wanted to do better than the kind you can get in the back of the supermarket for 10 cents an insta-pack.

In my defense, I realized I was being really stupid. But that was some fucking good ramen, I'll tell you what.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


At ten, on another channel, one member of SMAP interviews a celebrity (tonight was Beat Takeshi, new movie and such) while the other four members work in teams of two to create the best meal for the celebrity in question.

Further evidence of my theory: You can turn on a television in Japan at any time, day or night, and by flipping through the channels you will find at least one program with Beat Takeshi on it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


purchase a whole chicken and roast it solely so I could have pre-cooked chicken and a chicken carcass to make stock from

Nothing wrong with the idea, but just using wings will be quicker and cheaper. I also seem to get a good jelling stock from wings, although I've no idea why this might be.
posted by howfar at 9:59 AM on October 1, 2012


just using wings will be quicker and cheaper.

Oh, if I were just making stock, yeah. (I've made a mix of wings and feet and it was cheaper still.) In this instance I also wanted the cooked meat from the chicken proper to put into the ramen as well.

Although this all may be trumped by my seriously entertaining the thought of trying pigs' feet at some point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on October 1, 2012


> I also seem to get a good jelling stock from wings, although I've no idea why this might be.

Lots of cartilage in wings, I imagine.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:17 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing that always bothered me about "foodies" (which should have been a forbidden word of 2009) is, well, doesn't everyone like to eat? What makes you so special? Oh yeah, that's right, you can afford exotic types of food that other people can't. The classism is built right in. It's kind of horrible.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:19 AM on October 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Pigs' feet (as well as ears) are great in stocks and stews. Lots of jellin'.
Both are cheap too. I usually ask the butcher to split the trotters for maximum effect.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:21 AM on October 1, 2012


For example, there is nothing like frying up fresh-caught walleye by a Northern Ontario lake after rolling it in a crust of potato chips.

Similarly: crushed Corn Nuts make a pretty good breadcrumb/fry breading. If you have a spare grinder or food processor, I guess you could use those, but they break up pretty nicely when you whack them a few times in a plastic bag.
posted by kagredon at 10:23 AM on October 1, 2012


<>a href="http://www.metafilter.com/120434/The-Eggs-Factor#4593948">Jess the Mess: Oh yeah, that's right, you can afford exotic types of food that other people can't.

I dunno. People who know me do classify me as a foodie. However, the foodier I get... the less money I spend. There's a lot of cooking at home. There's growing a bunch of veggies and herbs from seeds in cheap reused plastic pots. We're subscribed to a coop where we get a weekly crate of seasonal local stuff. More than we can possibly eat for ~$20. I buy great organic/free range/pasture raised meats from local butchers for less than the stuff in the supermarket costs. Occasionally we go out but we don't spend a lot of money on that even though we eat great food at great places popular with the foodie crowd. Once or twice a year we treat ourselves to a fancy expensive place if we have the money but that's it.

Compared to before becoming a foodie has saved me tons of money.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:28 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoops. Screwed up the link formatting there. Apologies.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:29 AM on October 1, 2012


Oh, if I were just making stock, yeah.

Ah. What I'd do is roast and strip the wings and then stock the bones. But wing meat has always been my favourite anyway.
posted by howfar at 10:35 AM on October 1, 2012


But, to play devil's advocate for a moment, Hairy Lobster: you wouldn't be able to save that money if you weren't already in a position to spend time cooking/growing, or if you lived in a place where you had little or no access to independent butchers or farmers, etc. Food as a hobby (no judgement there; it's my hobby too, and one I love) is something that's really only possible for the middle class.

I don't know if it's inherently a bad thing (there's lots of hobbies that are really only accessible to the middle class), but it gets...complicated...because the same thing is a matter of survival for one class and a hobby for another.
posted by kagredon at 10:35 AM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


you wouldn't be able to save that money if you weren't already in a position to spend time cooking/growing, or if you lived in a place where you had little or no access to independent butchers or farmers, etc.

And to really play devil's advocate on that - there are foodies and there are foodies. Sometimes today's food trend is yesterday's "poor folks" food - offal is big now, and my own supermarket has always had that on hand, it's just that before it was the people who couldn't afford the better cuts were getting it. (I got tempted to try pigs' feet for the first time when I was curiously looking at a package, and this old local guy spontaneously offered me a recipe. Same thing happened when a Jamaican grandmother saw me checking out the oxtail.)

There is a certain dilettante attitude, though, towards wanting to try these things only when some outside force "approves" them. There's food that some people have been eating mainly because they've had no choice, but they just managed to make something fantastic out of it, and then the richer folk came in and started making it fashionable. I like to think that I'm broad-minded enough to arrive at these food choices independently, but I'm sure that others could make a case of my being a culinary "gentrifier" nevertheless. (I'm from lily-white New England and I look it; I would never be able to convince someone that I grew up eating oxtail stew.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:09 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just hate the word "foodie" so fucking much. There was already a perfectly good word "gourmet" for people who were interested in food the way philatelists are interested in stamps, but the faux folksiness of "foodie" allowed people to pretend they were just regular people who happened to grind their own cardamom pods in an expensive cardamom pod grinder they saw in a magazine.

As for myself, I just like to eat delicious things, most of which I cook (or my Largely Mythological Husband cooks). The idea of describing myself as a "foodie" makes me flinch.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:56 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


My grandmother (a member of the DAR and the Mayflower Society) used to cook oxtail soup, EmpressC. It wasn't very good--nowhere near as good as the oxtail stew I get at Jamaican restaurants--but there is a white New England oxtail tradition. I think oxtail soup used to be a Campbell's Soup flavor back in the day, even.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:00 PM on October 1, 2012


I think oxtail soup used to be a Campbell's Soup flavor back in the day, even.

Still is a Heinz and Baxter's soup flavour in the UK. My dad used to make good oxtail stew, but i think kinda got out of the habit when you couldn't buy beef on the bone. Oxtail, being deliciously full of spine, doesn't seem to appear much in butchers these days. I better hunt some out,
posted by howfar at 12:08 PM on October 1, 2012


As for myself, I just like to eat delicious things, most of which I cook (or my Largely Mythological Husband cooks). The idea of describing myself as a "foodie" makes me flinch.

Actually, I think maybe the word "foodie" got coined to differentiate "I just like to eat yummy things" people FROM the "I insist upon grinding my own cardamom from locally-sourced spice gardens" people.

My grandmother (a member of the DAR and the Mayflower Society) used to cook oxtail soup, EmpressC. It wasn't very good--nowhere near as good as the oxtail stew I get at Jamaican restaurants--but there is a white New England oxtail tradition.

Huh. My family missed out on that. Actually, I think the furthest we got into "New England" was in catching our own seafood and doing cranberry things, but that was more about "grandpa has a boat and it's fun to fish" than it was "we want to be ecologicaly responsible" or anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on October 1, 2012


I'd say one of the big differences - the critical one, maybe - between foodism and other isms is that if you don't eat every day, you will eventually die, whereas in most climates you can survive without exploiting differences in gender and ethnicity and such for years on end. Not surprising some of us make a big deal out of something that people in every human society in the history of our species have had to do every single day since we crawled out of the primordial slime, is my point.

That said, there is a local food mag here that sponsors a sort of package tour series called "Foodie Toodles," and the phrase makes me want to sew my mouth shut and then attempt to howl until I choke on the bile and die. I don't think that negates my point about this foodism riff being ridiculous upper-middle-class-twitbait, but it seemed worth noting.
posted by gompa at 12:21 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


It appears to be hibernating or defunct, but the blog shut up, foodies seems relevant here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on October 1, 2012


But still, why do we need this word, except to distinguish oneself or others from the great unwashed? Seriously, do not the vast majority of human beings everywhere, enjoy food? It suggests that the people who are just discovering offal or whatnot are better than those who've eaten it all along.

It's not people preparing and eating whatever food floats their boat that bothers me, it's the need to separate themselves that bothers me. Like people who have less time or money than them could not possibly share such exquisite taste. The attitude seems to be that even if they're eating the exact same goddamn thing, there's no way they're getting the same rich enjoyment out of it that a true "foodie" would. It just bugs.

On the other hand, "gourmet" as a term seems acceptable, because it owns up to the snobbery and exclusivity right off the bat. Gourmet is better because it's supposedly higher quality - it's not that the eater is more enlightened. If you can't afford gourmet food, that's cool, it doesn't make you a lesser person. But with "foodie", the impetus is on the eater, with the implication that people are joyless and unimaginative if they are not feeding themselves fashionably.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:52 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


But still, why do we need this word, except to distinguish oneself or others from the great unwashed? Seriously, do not the vast majority of human beings everywhere, enjoy food?

There are people who actually don't care much about food other than "something that makes me not be hungry". They don't care too much about trying new things, they just wanna eat and be done with it. Maybe there are a couple dishes they like more than usual, and they save those for special occasions, but that's it.

There's a difference between "meh, I'll just make myself a baloney sandwich" and "I wouldn't DREAM of having a sandwich when I could have foie gras." But then there's also a difference between both "baloney sandwich" and "foie gras for me", and "oooh, you know what I could go for? A cheesesteak!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:19 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's one of those irregular noons isn't it? I'm a gourmet, you're a foodie, she uses a whole chicken to make ramen stock.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:22 PM on October 1, 2012


There are people who actually don't care much about food other than "something that makes me not be hungry". They don't care too much about trying new things, they just wanna eat and be done with it. Maybe there are a couple dishes they like more than usual, and they save those for special occasions, but that's it.

I once had a boyfriend who would only eat pizza and beer, so I know this is true. However, I still believe the default for human beings is "enjoys food".

I think it's just one of those things (like parenting) where people at or above a certain social strata all of a sudden have a bunch of options open to them that they never had before and some of them use this position of privilege to hand down judgement from on high.

Honestly, I have more than a couple friends who openly call themselves "foodies". I know they're not doing it to be judgmental but to share their excitement about food. They don't mean it in an offensive way, yet it's obnoxious nonetheless. The word takes the focus away from the qualities of the food and puts it on the virtues of the person eating it.

I'm sure most so-called "foodies" just want to express their excitement about food but I think there are others who do see it as competitive and a way to set themselves apart. They pretend it's about taste, when it's really about privilege.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:10 PM on October 1, 2012


The thing that always bothered me about "foodies" (which should have been a forbidden word of 2009) is, well, doesn't everyone like to eat?

No, not really. I know people who are indifferent to food, people who find food tedious and would prefer to get their sustenance via a pill if it were possible, people who are such picky eaters that eating out would be a waste of time and money for them, and more. And even considering only those people who like to eat, some people like to eat and some people REALLY like to eat.

I get irritated by the backlash against the word "foodie" because IMO "foodie" does NOT mean "gourmet" — a gourmet can tell you which multi-star restaurants are worth waiting for a reservation at, while a foodie may be able to tell you that and will almost certainly be able to tell you which taco trucks have the best burritos (and which one has mediocre burritos but the horchata is out of this world). As vague memory has it, "foodie" originally had a meaning much closer to "gourmand", but using a frou-frou word like "gourmand" seemed more pretentious than something cheerfully diminutive like "foodie".
posted by Lexica at 2:49 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just hate the word "foodie" so fucking much. There was already a perfectly good word "gourmet" for people who were interested in food the way philatelists are interested in stamps.

I really disagree that these words have similar meanings. A foodie is a person who makes food a major hobby of theirs, a gourmet is a person who makes rare and expensive food a major hobby. I didn't eat a sheep eyeball to show off my refined palate, I did it because it was THERE, DAMN IT
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:56 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The biggest beef (ha!) I have with foodies and all that is the gentrification of food. The fact that lamb shanks are fucking expensive now, thanks to cooking shows. That the 'cheap cuts' are no longer actually cheap because they are trendy. What is cheap is nasty stuff - waterlogged, factory farmed and full of junk. That's what I object to, the irritatingly smug co-opting of cheap food to support a lifestyle of 'foodie' that ultimately means it isn't supporting someone's actual life.

Is there a cure for that? Nope. It still shits me though.

I have a friend who is on the orthorexic end of foodie - sure, she'll eat junk but she will be guilty about it, and guilt you for it and so on and so forth. It's irritating because as much as I prefer to eat healthy, seasonal, local and cheap when she visits I inevitably end up eating Maccas once she's gone in retaliation for the foodie BS.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:18 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


So food is great and all, and some people are really into it, but some people take it way too far, and get all snobby about it, and then the media and popular culture follow suit, and gee why can't people be exactly as interested in food as I think they should be? Yawn.
posted by Rykey at 3:51 PM on October 1, 2012


But still, why do we need this word.

I still feel confused about the word foodie linguistically. Because technically, why wouldn't EVERYONE be a foodie, unless they were born without taste buds? How can you be a "fan" of something that everyone likes? That we are genetically conditioned to like?

I guess it's a word meaning sort of like "fashionista..." someone who doesn't just love clothes but knows a lot about them, knows that is good taste vs. bad taste.

I have always preferred the more PC term "hedonistic eater."
posted by kettleoffish at 4:05 PM on October 1, 2012


Heh, and to redeem my unproductive knee-jerk comment above, I'll recommend An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies. Yes, the F-word is in the title, but it's actually pretty evenhanded. The author, an economist who loves good food, talks about why some aspects of foody-ism are ridiculous, how to shop smart at different places for the best ingredients, and how the government should tackle the obesity epidemic, among other things.
posted by Rykey at 4:06 PM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still feel confused about the word foodie linguistically. Because technically, why wouldn't EVERYONE be a foodie, unless they were born without taste buds? How can you be a "fan" of something that everyone likes? That we are genetically conditioned to like?

We are genetically conditioned to need to eat. That's different.

Look at it this way -- we all need to clothe ourselves in some way. But you have the people who only wear designer labels at one end, and the people who'd be happy wearing the same thing every day because "meh, all I care about is that i'm not naked."

But then, in the middle, you have the people who treat clothes like a big fun silly game of dress-up, and some days they wake up and think "hmm, I feel like wearing a dress today," and other days they're all "I think a plain t-shirt and jeans would be rockin'" and some days they're "I think tweed and boots," and some days they're "lemme dig out my dad's sweater" and some days they're "awesome, lemme get that AC/DC t-shirt I got from the Salvation Army".

Gourmets are the "designer clothing only" people. "Foodies" are the "some days I'll dress up and some days I'll wear an AC/DC t-shirt" people, the ones who actively enjoy thinking about what they're going to wear. The people who just wear clothes so they're not naked are...kind of like the people who just eat because they get hungry.

And -- for the record, at least as far as this self-confessed foodie goes, it is totally fine if someone doesn't get all excitedhappy about food. I mean, I don't get into sports that much, but some people do, and I also don't get into classical music much but some people do, and I get into food but not everyone does, and that's just that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:28 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


That kind of makes more sense to me. I can relate to the clothes example for sure. I think it's vague to me because food isn't my thing, though the way you described it makes perfect sense and sounds like fun.

But this article is actually pretty darn insightful about a certain crossover that seems to have happened culturally. Like not so long ago places of high culture like theaters and art venues would have been defined as places where one DIDN'T eat. Plus all these taboos against eating in public. I sort of feel like there used to be more class taboos about openly eating and enjoying food because yea, everyone needs food. Maybe the extensive preparation of gourmet food is a way to escape this?

When I look at my grandma's recipe books from the past, they are chock full of ideas about how to stuff calories into your family. So it's sort of the opposite thing. Home, heart, the desire to feed loved ones old favorites. But they don't really focus on "yum yum, food is an adventure."

But now like the food actually has the legitimacy of culture. Art books and shows and festivals... People use it to express IDEAS through it, sort of. Artisan food. Free-range food. Fusion.

That's what is strange to me. Because ok, food is delicious and it is a hobby. But why is this happening right now of all times!!? Do we just have better food???
posted by kettleoffish at 5:10 PM on October 1, 2012


But why is this happening right now of all times!!? Do we just have better food???

I literally just today got an anthology on food writing, and in the introduction Molly O'Neill says that there's actually a "food revolution" of sorts in every generation, where people get all het up about "what the hell are y'all eating that crap for, THIS other stuff is WAY classier." Hell, even back in the very first days of the U.S. there was a whole big back-and-forth between the Americans who wanted to eat refined "European" food and the Americans who wanted found their own "American" cuisine. Early Americans were kind of that way about everything, though (they also did that about music and art and manners and theater and such), and you also had the people who tried to synthesize both (Thomas Jefferson was all gung-ho about establishing an American Identity on the one hand, but then on the other he was playing around with French recipes and trying to "Americanize" them).

Maybe it just seems more in-our-face now because more people have a bigger platform to talk about it. It's only just now that people can start blogs and start 'zines and that there's a whole network devoted to cooking, rather than there just being a few columns in different local newspapers and a couple magazines and reruns of Julia Child on PBS.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:55 PM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


To the extent there's foodie backlash, a lot of it is coming from the snobs of other media/genres/subjects/whatever. Think of it from their point of view.

They've been investing in highbrow stuff all along. They read the big books, watch the best films, attend classical concerts, and go to the avant-garde exhibits. And that shit is work. It's expensive. It takes up a lot of time. They've done their homework, and they've earned their "refined person" merit badges.

And around them are everyone else...the people too lazy for subtitles, and the ones who made "beach reading" and "top 40" a thing. Sometimes the snobs judge them and condescend to them and look down on them. But sometimes the snobs are happy to live and let live. To each his/her own. But their identities are wrapped up in their elite culture diplomas, and they don't want those diplomas watered down.

But now the lazy/stupid/unwashed have done something different. They've taken food -- a pleb hobby, something from the lower rung of Maslow -- and convinced everyone it counts as high art. Now some of the snobs are upset that a mere food connoisseur is seen as being on the same level as a literature/film connoisseur. It's unfair! And some of the snobs are just annoyed that now they're going have to start learning about food, too, just to keep up.
posted by aswego at 7:03 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Empress, to me "foodie" is definitely tied up with judging other people's food preferences to some degree, and has some connotation of snobbery. This may not be entirely fair.

Hi, I'm actually one of those horrible sort of foodies and I'm working on it. Nonetheless, I still find myself perplexed why on Earth people even go to places like PF Changs or Applebee's when there is just better food out there. And cheaper. I get it if you live in the middle of nowhere and there's genuinely no other place to go. But here in Philly there are people who actually get in their cars and drive specifically to eat there.

I don't even think it's pure snobbery in my case. I love eating crap food too. I enjoy a good Philadelphia Takeout Chinese (honestly can't be sure whether it's snobbish or not that I like getting fried gizzards from those places). I love me a PB&J on cheap grocery store white bread (or a fluffernutter!). I love a nice crappy greasy pizza.

What I don't get is people going to restaurants where all the flavor has been leached out of the food. If that makes me a crappy foodie, oh well.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:15 PM on October 1, 2012


I have a "foodie" relative who just can't eat fast food or junk food or anything else, because he eats local and organic and ethnic and authentic and not necessarily expensive, but always and only well-prepared. Most meals he eats take at least two hours. And at first this is fine and great and the food and wine we have with him is always out of this world.

But what this means in practical terms is, whenever we do anything with him, the whole freaking visit revolves around food, every time. We have to figure out, in advance, what restaurants will be adequate to his tastes (and of course there are secret rules, because just "fancy" or "five-star" or whatever isn't enough, and then we can't repeat within a particular time period, so when we find a good place, we can only do it once per some time period that is also secret). And every meal takes two hours. So when we go to a museum, we can't just grab a pre-packaged sandwich at the cafe and go back to looking at art. When we do something with the (small) children, we have to figure out some way to remove the children before dinner because they can't sit through a three-hour dinner, and usually it means some adult has to miss out. We can't just stop at a McDonald's on a road trip -- there's research involved in road trips through the back ass of beyond -- and we can't pack a picnic that takes 20 minutes to prepare and spend the day at a park and we can't grab a fast lunch at home. He resists visiting places, no matter how awesome, that don't have an adequate restaurant nearby.

It's really tedious. It doesn't feel like An Exciting Food Adventure; it feels like when we're with him, we miss out on all the non-food adventures the world has to offer, because of the laser focus on food. I have had some of the best meals of my life when I've been with him, but what sticks in my mind more is a four-hour dinner where I just wanted to go to BED because we'd been traveling all day, or an hour-long wait for food when I was STARVING, or cutting short a visit to a cultural attraction so we could make it to our lunch reservations, or having my home-cooking sniffed at because I use prepared pesto from the supermarket when basil's out of season (it's both prepared food AND I'm eating pesto out of season!).

It reminds me a lot, actually, of this friend I have who is always tightly controlling calories, so when we go out for lunch, we can only go to places that list their calories online (which practically means large national chains) so she can pre-select her meal and make sure it falls within her calorie limits. The effect is the exact opposite -- for her, food is oppressive and when I'm with her we can only go to big chains; for him, food is life's greatest sensation and when I'm with him we can only go to the best places -- but in the end, with either one, it means we can't go watch a movie and then grab a burger at whatever random chain or hole-in-the-wall happens to be closest to the movie theater and sounds good and has lit-up neon late at night.

Anyway, food snobs make me sort-of laugh on the inside, but it's okay, a little harmless snobbery can be an amusing personal quirk that we all tolerate because we enjoy the person's company and maybe even appreciate their expertise, especially if we know that person isn't generally clueless and classist. It's when food becomes this all-consuming Way Of Life that it becomes really rotten, no matter whether it's food-love or food-hate that's the way of life. I like to eat good food, but it seems really sad to me to be just unable to ever, ever eat just for fuel and get back to some other awesome part of life.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on October 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've found that the thing that keeps me from getting too carried away into taking food too seriously is remembering that, at the end of the day, we're talking about something that's all going to be poo within 24 hours anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:53 PM on October 1, 2012


Everywhere in the ideology of foodism we see a yearning for food to be able to fill a spiritual void. Food is about "spirituality" and "expressing our identity", claims modern food-knight Michael Pollan.

Well....he's right.
posted by Miko at 9:34 PM on October 1, 2012


The biggest beef (ha!) I have with foodies and all that is the gentrification of food. The fact that lamb shanks are fucking expensive now, thanks to cooking shows. That the 'cheap cuts' are no longer actually cheap because they are trendy.

DINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDING

Although there's a guilty realisation of my own NIMBYism here, too. *I* sure as hell want cheap lamb shanks, but all you other middle class bastards can back right off.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:23 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just have to find the right stores. I regularly get asked "Wait, someone buys those?" and " How did you learn to cook that?" and "Those are actually edible?" when I pick up oxtail, veal shanks, skirt steak, short ribs, and other delicious pieces.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:47 AM on October 2, 2012


Yeah, I commented on this yesterday. These days the once-worthy Guardian seems to be all about trolling the readership.
posted by Decani at 2:11 AM on October 2, 2012


But why is this happening right now of all times!!? Do we just have better food???

I think it likely has to do with the recentish explosion of cheap travel combined with advances in food storage and shipping. If you look at recipe books from the fifties, a lot of things are canned, or prepared. More and more people are traveling widely, and they're encountering new foods, flavors, and textures. We're all more connected, and we share what we experience, and other people get interested in it, an want to experience it too.

Meanwhile, setting aside miles per calorie for a second, the barriers of seasonal and regional food are fading due to demand and the advances that allow it. I can get Italian coppa in delis in Tokyo (and that is a good thing). Mangoes aren't something that existed in supermarkets in the Midwest when I was a child, and bananas were something we ate in season. Now, bananas, mangoes, and pretty much everything else is right there at all times. Considering that, when I had my first taste of Thai food at 30, I had this amazing rush of pleasure combined with a realization that I'd lives for thirty years without that joy, I'd never want to go back to fish sticks being the standard for seafood, or believing that Little Ceasers was actually good pizza.

On the other hand, a passage from the novel Stones from the River has always stood out to me. The protagonist, having grown up in wartime Germany, has a bite of banana for the first time in years. It's a strong scene, and made me realize that, not too recently, things I took for granted were treated as rare delicacies in many parts of the world.

For my own part, I hated broccoli for about fifteen years. When I moved to China, there was none to be found. It was out of season, and in the city I lived in out of season = not available. After three or four months never seeing it, I began to crave it. The first thing I made when I moved to Japan, where the markets were full of stuff I hadn't had in a year, was broccoli. It was new again, yet wonderfully nostalgic. While I love that I can get root beer in Japan, or fresh lemongrass and galangal in Kalamazoo, I do miss that feeling of wonder at food that I can't get easily, that flavor I remember and want again.

I guess I'm a bit conflicted. Pardon me, I'm off to have some chicken fried octopus, some aji sashimi, and some awesome steak fries with ketchup and mayo.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:55 AM on October 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ahem. My goal is to try every kind of food the world has to offer. At least once. It makes me happy!
posted by Omnomnom at 4:52 AM on October 2, 2012


Come to Japan. We just had raw horse diaphragm, followed by charcoal pork diaphragm. It's like a diaphragmapaoolza!
posted by Ghidorah at 5:08 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had fried crickets. They tasted bitter and looked like cockroaches (it was dark). So I had them once, but not again.

on posting -- hey, temporary edit window for typos! Awesome. Not that I'll notice mine until too late.
posted by jb at 6:25 AM on October 2, 2012


Ghidora, what's it like?
posted by Omnomnom at 7:44 AM on October 2, 2012


Ahem. My goal is to try every kind of food the world has to offer. At least once. It makes me happy!

I used to say the same, then I learned about casu marzu. Now, I want to try every kind of food the world has to offer, except casu marzu.
posted by kagredon at 8:49 AM on October 2, 2012


*I* sure as hell want cheap lamb shanks, but all you other middle class bastards can back right off.

Maybe that's the real issue here, like folks wanting to keep Grade B syrup priced lower.

But why is this happening right now of all times!!? Do we just have better food???

Internet is a powerful thing.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:17 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll see your casu marzu, and raise you some (a?) balut. I can't even look at IMAGES of that stuff. It just hits all my phobias. (Warning: chicken/duck fetus image).
posted by jb at 9:26 PM on October 9, 2012


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