Don’t Call Us Foodies

22 Feb

I know I’ve dangled this subject multiple times, and thought it was time to finally tackle it: why I (and many, many others) so strongly dislike the term “foodie.”

My good friend Steve wrote me, as a post-script to his “How I Became a Food Advocate” story, this explanation:

I cringe at that term.  It seems so contrived and pretentious.  People who care deeply about music are not called “Musicies” and people who love theatre are not called “theatreies.” I am not a foodie in the sense that I go to restaurants all the time and ooh and aah over the food of this chef or that.  I am a foodie in the sense that I am OBSESSED with food.  I think about food, and my next meal, and the next thing I can cook, and the last thing I cooked, and the next thing I want to eat… ALL THE TIME.  Does that make me a foodie?  I don’t think so because food is not a hobby for me.  Food is life.

I couldn’t agree more.

To my mind, foodie is the way that people who want to dismiss food’s importance use to dismiss the new food consciousness as elitist. These are the people who don’t understand the real and meaningful connection between defending local food markets, supporting artisanal producers and experimental chefs, and food as an issue of labor rights and social justice.

Foodie implies a gourmand, a snob, a high-brow eater who dines only at five-star restaurants and turns up her nose at anything cheap. What that distinction fails to recognize is that there are a great many of us in between, people like Steve and I, who I know grew up eating a lot of that cheap food–Kraft macaroni and cheese and cans of sloppy joe mix, among other delicacies–who ate it for a great portion of our lives, and who have begun to realize that the evils of that food are not limited to a low price tag.

In fact, the evils and dangers of processed food, industrially-produced, premade, water-packed food, lies in what the corporation who made it will do to sell it to you at such a low price tag. What it takes to make food that cheaply is not pretty. It is disgusting.

But foodies don’t turn up our noses at it because we think we’re better than that–we think all human beings are better than that.

And this is the core of why I dislike the term “foodie.” Aside from being intentionally dismissive, from making us sound like elitists, it limits our passions about food to its taste or quality. While I certainly do believe there is a significant difference in taste and quality between fresh, healthy, local food and processed food, my tastebuds are not my only — or even my primary — reason for wanting that fresh food.

My body is my reason: keeping it fit and healthy and fueled. My planet is my reason: supporting its ability to support us, keeping its rivers clean and soil invigorated with nutrients.

My concern for social equality is my reason: supporting everyone’s ability to access organic, healthy, whole foods, and supporting everyone’s ability to cook it. My concern for labor rights and fair trade are my reasons: ensuring that this whole, healthy food comes from a long line of whole, healthy people, who feel respected and are well-paid for the hard, crucial work they are doing.

My imaginary future children are my reason: protecting their future bodies and the future air they will breathe from poisons.

This is why I’m trying out the term “food advocate” (make it happen, people). Because I advocate for food in every way — its growth, production, taste and uses. Food is in every aspect of our life. As Steve said, food is life.

What do you think of the term “foodie”? Love it, hate it, never cared this much to think about it? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with your fellow food advocates!

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6 Responses to “Don’t Call Us Foodies”

  1. Cristina @ An Organic Wife February 22, 2012 at 12:04 PM #

    The term “foodie” has never bothered me, and I don’t mind when I am called it.

    Right, people who care about music are not ‘musicies’, they are musicians. We foodies are cooks, we’re writers, we’re creators, etc. I like ‘food advocate’, but that in itself has it’s own stigmatisms – there’s the potential to create a Peta-like character. The term doesn’t say to me, that at the end of a long day, I just go home and cook dinner for my family.

    Let’s say we can create and spread a new word for foodie, be it ‘food advocate’ or something else. In time, all the things, positive or negative, that go with being a foodie will be projected onto this new term.
    Many people now do not like the term “organic.” They keep trying to think of something else to call it. So you can call it whatever you want, but it’s still going to be organic food.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. If someone outright wants to call me a food snob, oh well. But if you don’t want to be called a foodie, more power to you, and you won’t hear it slip from me! :)

    • Steve Gravelle February 23, 2012 at 9:09 AM #

      Christina – People who care about music are not all musicians. Some of them are just passionate purveyors of record stores, or concertgoers, or even people who love listening to the choir at Sunday mass. There is no blanket term for people who love music in the way that “foodie” has come to describe “food snob.” I feel patronized when people use that term to describe me. “Oh, you’re such a foodie. Let me introduce you to _______, who loves going to ________’s restaurants. You’ll have so much in common.” People always seems surprised at how few restaurants in town I have tried. Because they assume that if you are interested in food–if you are a “foodie”–then naturally you’ll have eaten at every restaurant. I am a food advocate in how I am obsessed with cooking my own food. How I love swapping recipes with friends and family and acquaintances. How I read food blogs. Like this one. How I shop. Farmer’s markets. CSA’s. I’m sure many people who are called “foodies” don’t cook. So I hate that blanket term being used to describe equally someone who eats at restaurants often as someone who cooks fresh, local, organic food and is passionate about it.

      • Cristina @ An Organic Wife February 23, 2012 at 12:37 PM #

        I simply didn’t proofread. I was thinking more of the “DO” part of any hobby/career. So, people who play music are musicians. People who eat/write about food, etc. are foodies. We’re not just eaters or writers.

        And my point was, you can call it anything you want, be it foodie or food advocate. Eventually, people will think of food advocate as a food snob, just like they do with foodie.

        The corn industry is trying to change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup to Corn Sugar, in hopes that people will get confused and not realize they’re eating the same crap. And that will work for a while, but eventually most of us will catch on.

  2. Brad May 20, 2012 at 9:57 AM #

    Hey Marissa,

    Getting caught up with your blog, lots of good stuff here!

    “Foodie” doesn’t bother me. If that’s the label people want to give to the wide range of food obsessed individuals, so be it. Foodie can apply to the “elitist” who only enjoys upscale dining as well as those who enjoy a taco off a truck in South Omaha. It can describe those of us who care deeply about how our food makes its way from the farm to our plates, soil quality, ingredient quality, etc.

    Foodies are a diverse group, with a variety of motivations, but we share one common ingredient: an obsession with food.

    If my food obsession makes me a foodie, that’s fine, I’ll “own it”.

    Now, back to reading…

    • Marissa of We*Meat*Again May 20, 2012 at 6:41 PM #

      Hey Brad,

      I think that’s a great attitude — there’s room enough for everyone. And it certainly wouldn’t be the first or only time my beliefs got me lumped in with other people who cared about the same thing for different reasons, so…what’s the harm, right?

      On another note — there are food trucks in Omaha now?! Man, I have been wanting to write about the food truck movement, but don’t have access to any. Maybe I will have to swing through this summer to sample…

  3. Brad May 20, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

    Yes, the South O taco trucks have been around for awhile, but are now attracting “foodies” ;-)

    There’s another, newer food truck called Bomb Digs and I know of a BBQ truck too. Let me know when you’re headed this way.

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