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“I’d expect better, from a foodie!”

Posted on: January 18th, 2011 by Rodney Hartwig 1 Comment

View Rodney’s original article on Adventures in Cuisine

The term ‘foodie’ is bandied about a lot lately, quite excessively when you really get down to it. In response, I’ve begun to observe a backlash against the term. Many people have even begun to shy away from, and even express displeasure bordering on disgust for the term.

But really, what does it mean to be a foodie? Is there a recognized definition? What credentials must you possess? What accomplishments must you have in order to be known as a foodie? Is there a set of standards to be upheld once you reach this title? Can I possibly ask any more open ended questions before I get to the point?

The conclusion that I’ve come to is… there is no answer. Not really.

I got to thinking about this during a recent evening with friends. As talk turned to relationships, it was mentioned that my first date with my wife was at a T.G.I. Fridays. At this point I was greeted with, “A chain restaurant? Rodney, I’d expect better of you!”

And while she would seem to have a valid point (I write about food occasionally, and I try to go out of my way to learn more about local restaurants and the people who make those restaurants living breathing organisms), at the time I was in my early 20’s with a crap job, no money, and not the slightest inkling that one day I would find my passion in food.

I freely admit that I have spent my fair share of nights at the Applebee’s, Chili’s and IHOPs of the world. Does that count against me? Even today I’m more likely to hit a Subway or Chipotle or even Little Caesar’s (Hot and Ready FTW!) for dinner than I am to go out to a dinner somewhere perhaps tastier or less mainstream. Convenience and geographical abundance sometimes outweigh the knowledge that salt is overwhelmingly used as a substitute for true flavor and passion. Does this kill any chance I may have at becoming a somewhat respected voice?

My question here is this; does this pedigree (or lack thereof) disqualify me from consideration as a ‘foodie’? Does a genuine love of food, but a lack of the means to indulge as frequently as I would like create an acceptable excuse?

When I asked friends how they would define ‘foodie’, the ones in the food industry were quick to pan the term. Their reasoning touched on the same concerns I hear quite often.

  • A)    The use of the term has been wildly overused which has made it mainstream and chic, and;
  • B)     It creates a group of people who believe they know more than they do, and have no business in a professional kitchen.

Reason ‘A’ is what most people refer to when expressing their displeasure. In fact I was told by one person “I’m embarrassed to use the term ‘foodie’ sometimes… I secretly loathe it, but I’m a follower of trends!”

Even I get squeamish when my wife refers to my ‘foodie friends’, because in my mind, why are they not just friends who happen to share a love of good food. This then leads me to wonder… well never mind that, back to the topic at hand.

Those who are ‘in’ the club look down upon those who are not. But, at the same time they scoff at the term that was coined to set them apart from those who do not have such a passion, from those who do not want to give their heart and soul to food. When this happens, it creates a schism, a sort of modern day caste system between those who can, and those who desperately are trying to.

And really if there is a disparate class system of the haves of the foodie world and the have-nots who are often excoriated for being on the outside looking in on the most luxurious meals, then has the system failed?

I like to think that this is not all an exercise in conjecture. I also like to think that the class system I describe does not truly exist. I like to think this because I know that I have seen people with a simple passion for food and flavors be embraced as brethren regardless of the list of establishments they can list of as having dined at. I like to think this because as someone with no formal training, with no food service industry experience, doesn’t that make me a have-not?

Written by Rodney Hartwig, Adventures in Cuisine

Visit Rodney’s site and read more of his articles at adventuresincuisine.net.

About the Author - Rodney Hartwig

Rodney Hartwig is a Phoenix native currently living in Portland, OR. He sometimes eats crazy amounts of food, and always enjoys it. When he is not writing for Phoenix Bites, he is wondering what he will write next, eating, or running half marathons. Follow him on twitter at @thatrodneyguy.

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One Response

  1. Bobbi Spargo says:

    I too, am avoiding the “foodie” word. Not sure that I would qualify as one either. My philosophy: Have food, have friends, have at it! We’re all “in”, no matter what the professionals think. And besides, I think having “Certified Taco Judge” on your resume should count for something!

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