I used to call myself a foodie, but not anymore. I have grown to despise the term. It no longer carries any meaning for me. Lately anyone with a steady diet of “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef” considers themself to be a “foodie” (blegh). And yes, I am picking on Gordon Ramsay, though my observations are by no means limited to him.
The antics on his show as well as others of the same ilk are typical “reality” television, bearing no resemblance to any real restaurant I’ve ever experienced. For some people, like my wife Janet, the shows represent pure entertainment. I don’t quite understand what she finds entertaining about them, but then she doesn’t take food as seriously as me. I don’t judge her for liking the shows. OK maybe I do just a little. But for some people, those shows aren’t just entertainment…they have become a guidebook for how to act in a restaurant when you get a dish that isn’t quite up to your standards or expectations. Expectations which, as often as not, are set by watching shows like “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef.”
Whew. I’m glad I got that out of my system. Seriously though…I am really sick of hearing people describe themselves as being a “foodie.” Starting with me. Not gonna do it anymore. News flash…it isn’t even a real word. When I see how self-described “foodies” comport themselves in restaurants and with the comments they leave on social media, it is clear to me they adopt the label of “foodie” as license to whine. That’s not me. You may think it is me, especially after my last blog article about the state of the restaurant industry, but it really isn’t. I do get pretentious about food, and occasionally even downright snobbish. But I don’t whine.
Self-appointed “foodies” seem to be more into labels, ratings, and what other people think than they are their own experiences. When it comes to qualitative descriptions of restaurants, I have discovered that labels and ratings don’t really mean much. I’ll spare you my culinary bona fides other than to acknowledge I have zero formal training in the kitchen…but I do know what I’m talking about. Most of the time anyway. And lest you think I am a true food snob, my all time favorite thing to eat is Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. How’s that for a label? I’m not even kidding about that.
I’ve been fortunate to enjoy amazing meals at incredible restaurants around the globe, culinary experiences that I still remember vividly over a decade later. I’ve also had my share of dining experiences that were memorable for the wrong reasons. Even so, I can’t remember the last time I sent something back to the kitchen, which seems to be standard procedure for many of today’s foodies. Not because I haven’t been served dishes that deserved to be sent back, trust me I have. No, I don’t often send a dish back because when I dine out I check my ego at the door. I almost always dine out with Janet, and occasionally with others. If I send something back to the kitchen or make a fuss about it for some minor thing, everyone else at the table has to wait for my dish to come back which means theirs gets cold, or they continue eating and then our courses get out of synch. Either way, I’ve just ruined a nice evening for everyone else at my table. There’s an etiquette to dining out. Sometimes sending food back is acceptable and on rare occasions I’ve done it. Even so, no matter how bad the dish there is a proper way to send it back, and acting like a jerk to prove your foodie superiority isn’t it.
Foodie. What does that even mean nowadays? Putting out social media posts critical of every dish you try at every restaurant you visit doesn’t make you a foodie. It just makes you an ass. I have gotten particularly tired of seeing the term “foodie” thrown about in my travel circles. I am reading more social media posts from colleagues pulling their hair out trying to find the perfect trip for clients who are self-declared “foodies” (blegh) that expect their vacation dining to be top notch, top shelf, and top chef. Some take it a step further and self-identify as foodie chefs, as if somehow that excuses their pretentiousness. I used to try to help these colleagues with ideas, until I discovered that all their clients really want is food that is trendy from a restaurant that is impossible to get into. They could care less about how the food is prepared or its flavors and textures, they just want an Instagram-worthy picture that will make all their self-declared “foodie” friends back home jealous. Just what everyone needs in their social media feeds…more food pictures. They say self-awareness is the first step toward reform…
Food, cooking, and writing about it isn’t a game for me. Though I like to keep my food-oriented posts and restaurant “reviews” humorous, writing about the food I experience is one of the most serious things I do. I don’t get paid for it…I do it because I like it. It helps me internalize the things I learn each time I try a new dish, eat in a new restaurant, or revisit an old favorite. I do it for me, not to impress anybody and certainly not to influence anyone. Which is probably a good thing since nobody reads my blog anyway. I will never progress beyond the level of being an OK home cook…I’m just not that talented, and I’m good with that. I am in awe of the chefs who lay it on the line every single night in pursuit of their passion.
I’ve eaten in Michelin star restaurants, even one with Gordon Ramsay’s name on it. I’ve had Kobe beef, the real deal in Japan. I know that there are only eight restaurants in this country where you can get authentic Kobe beef, and I know the name of each one. Because unlike Wagyu there is no such thing as American Kobe. I know how molecular gastronomy works…I’ve even played with it in my own kitchen. I know when its use elevates a dish and when it doesn’t. I get excited every summer the first time I see that “Brad’s Got Corn” sign on my favorite CSA produce stand. Because I know nothing can beat the taste of corn freshly picked that same morning from one of Brad’s fields. These things don’t make me a “foodie,” at least not how the term has come to be used today. Truth is I can no longer identify with what the term “foodie” has come to mean, nor will I be confined by it. So I’ve turned in my foodie card. Maybe it’s enough to know that I appreciate food for what it is, without labeling it. I think I’ll go with that for now and see where it takes me.