What is the definition of a foodie: are you one?

The term ‘foodie’ has been bandied around for a long time, but the definition is confused, and so loaded with polarising connotations that, depending on who you ask, it can be considered either a compliment or an insult.

When exactly the term first came into the vernacular is also under debate. The first print use was by former New York magazine food critic Gael Greene in 1980, and author and food journalist Paul Levy came up with the term independently in 1982. The term really took off when Levy and Ann Barr wrote ‘The Foodie Handbook” in 1984, a satirical piece on the nouveau riche. They mockingly call a foodie an aficionado of food and drink but a gentler version of gourmet (which they claim denotes snobbery).

Most people refer to foodies in the positive; it is anyone who enjoys food, and is interested in any aspect of it, be it cooking, eating, photographing, gadgets or food culture. To them, it is an inclusive term.

It seems trendy to demonise foodies; which smacks of “kettle, meet pot”. One of my food heroes, Mark Bittman, hates the term; he considers foodies to be obsessed with ingredients and restaurants but disinterested in the preparation of food. I like his alternative; ‘cook’. It’s simple, it’s correct and it is unusual to be a cook and not be interested in good food. In the same panel, Florence Fabricant, New York Times food and wine columnist called foodie a ‘food groupie’.

This 2011 Atlantic article by B.R. Myers “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies” deplores foodies and criticises foodie-ism as a culture of gluttony. Who knows, and more importantly do we care? Apparently a lot of people do because you could spend days reading the huge barrage of responses (just google the Myers article) which demonises the person who did the flagellating, and continues the never ending debate. About the only thing you can deduce is that everyone has a strong opinion about this.

It seems that everyone thinks the slightly more food obsessed person next in queue is the ‘wrong’ version of a foodie. I’m guilty of the crime. Yes, I’ll add quinoa and smoked paprika to my diet, but I’m not going so far as to cook with farro and smoked butter.

Or is the definition what the food marketers think it is; after all isn’t what the general population believes, based on (or enhanced by) marketing and advertisements. Below is the definition that Prof David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College presented during his visit last week with the key NZ food producing industries and government agencies. We are either ‘fuelies’ or ‘foodies’, and we swap between the categories with ease depending on the occasion. Note the contradictions in the key words that global food marketers use to describe foodies .

high tech
high touch
drudge / chore shopping
leisure / experience shopping
new & improved
ready to eat
natural / unprocessed
fast food
slow food
fuel food
story food
just me
low price
good for you
naughty but nice

We seem to be thinking far too much about it. Have you seen this recent viral video of Will Wheaton of Star Trek fame who says that to be a nerd is not about what you love, – it’s about how you love it. I guess that what part of being a foodie is. We are food nerds. There is some part of the food culture which drives us to spend a lot of time thinking about it. And it’s an awesome way to be.

From http://www.livemoreawesome.com/, what a great line

My definition of a foodie is “a cook who is also a food nerd”. What’s yours?

2 thoughts on “What is the definition of a foodie: are you one?

  1. bunnyeatsdesign.com says:

    I am a foodie. I am a cook who is also a food nerd. But being a snob helps no one. I eat fast food from time to time and that's ok too. You can only be offended by term if you define it unfavorably.

    I love thinking about food. I love looking at food and working out how to cook a new dish or with a new ingredient. It makes me happy. I could talk about food for hours and I'm sure you could too.

    I guess the times when I become a bit of a snob is when people say things like “I don't like food” or “I don't care what I eat, it's just fuel”. I cannot relate to that at all.

  2. easyfoodhacks says:

    Hi Genie, I concur! How can people not care about what they eat?

    I can probably go through life just talking about food; I'm sure I can turn any conversation topic to food. 🙂

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