Yes, this is an actual photograph that I took with my camera while driving down Barrington Avenue in Brentwood. If this car belongs to you, my apologies for publicizing it and making fun of you, but 1) this is a personal blog and there are only about 11 people total who read it and 2) that’s what you want anyway, right? for people to look, otherwise you wouldn’t drive such a flashy car with a f**king vanity plate on it.
Barring the fact that I was experiencing a severe case of road rage on the way to the office that would have had me riding the ass of whatever automobile was in front of me anyway, I almost rammed all up into the ass of the Benz in front of me on purpose when I read its license plate.
I gawked. I coughed. Anyone driving by would have thought I was arguing with someone on a Bluetooth headset hidden under the fabulous ebony waves of my hair. I do not own a Bluetooth headset. Neither do I have fabulous ebony waves, but whatever greasy locks there were, they were flailing about my head as I wtfol-ed (that’s “wtf out loud” if you’re not down with the vernacular) and rifled through my purse on the passenger seat looking for my camera. My mobile phone. A sketchpad. Something — anything — with which I could record hard evidence of…
When the word hits the airwaves, I shudder. No, not quite shudder. More like, convulse. I detest the word “foodie.”
Foodie Does Not Have a Pictionary Definition
The primary reason I do not like the word foodie is that, aside from the fact that there is no single, clear definition of the word, in the 1300 square feet known as The Delicious World from which I rarely escape, “foodie” has usually been interchangeable with “gourmand” or “epicure.” None of those, in and of themselves, are negative words. “Foodie” refers to a person who enjoys the finer foods in life, whatever those “finer” things may be. Caviar. Truffles. Foie gras. Beats me, since I find those things to be as luxurious as salty rotting fishstank, fungus that tastes like dirt, and bacteria-infested raw internal animal organs that trigger my gag reflex like the end of a toothbrush does for Nicole Richie. Regardless, somewhere high up in the Himalayas there is a secret hidden temple carved into the side of the mountain where a mysterious trio of elves known only to themselves as the Foodie Council of Luxurious Foods sits down once a year around a bowl of cereal and signs off on their declaration of which foods will be considered luxurious for the year.
But like I said, there is nothing wrong with loving luxury. I love lounging around in my cashmere negligee and diamond tiara eating toro on my chinchilla fur rug.
Foodie = Luxury Snob
The problem arises when the only people who use the word “foodie” are those people who are using it to label themselves as members of some caste of society that is superior to the others. Snobs. They look down on others with an air of “I am better than you because I like these special foodie things.” These self-proclaimed foodies won’t eat the non-luxury things. “Ohdearheavensno, I would never, no never, pooh pooh, eat macaroni and cheese. I will not, simply cannot, eat anything less than halibut cheeks and caviar on truffled scrambled duck eggs.” Or something like that (incidentally, halibut cheeks are quite tasty). In other words, “foodie” basically means “annoyingly picky snob.”
That’s not to say, of course, that I believe that it’s bad to be picky. Not everyone has to like everything, but that’s a subject that deserves its own post.
Foodie = Knowledge Snob
Of course, “foodie” doesn’t always have to do with the price or type of the foods a person eats. Sometimes the word “foodie” is used to identify someone who knows a lot about food. Again, there is nothing wrong with someone infinitely knowledgeable about food and cooking and what part of an animal can be eaten without fear of death by poison. I love food nerds. However, when a knowledgable “foodie” arrogantly pins a golden “foodie” nametag on himself and looks down on others with an air of “I know more about food than you do, you ignorant instant-ramen-slurping fool,” that irritates the shit out of this instant-ramen-eating fool and makes me want to slam the oversized nose down which he peers between the pages of On Food and Cooking. Hard.
Basically, what it comes down to is that the word foodie has a negative connotation to me because some others think it’s an utterly positive description of their snobby-ass selves. *Shrugs* that’s what it is.
Foodie = Not The Delicious Life, Unless…
Since “foodie” is somewhat of a negative term, when someone calls me a foodie, even when they mean it in those most positive sense of the word, as some sort of compliment, I bristle. I write a blog that appears to be about food. I take pictures of food that I cook. I read cookbooks and Tony Bourdain in bed before going to sleep. My favorite pasttime is going out to eat. When people find these things out, they exclaim “You’re a foodie!” My lips clamp together into a tight line of a smile. I hold my breath with pause, then I hiss a faint “Yeeesss.”
I shall not wear the badge of shame.
If you’ve been following along in this Delicious Life for a while now, then you know that I am not a “foodie” in what I’ve just finished writing as the negative sense of the word. I am a food blogger, a foodist, a foodfreak, but I am most certainly not an ooh-la-la goose liver gourmet gourmand. Obviously, I don’t harbor any snobbism about foods – could I really put on airs about TGI Friday’s frozen Spinach and Artichoke Dip? – and as I’ve already declared, I am not fond of those typically luxuriously indulgent foods that are the hallmark of a foodie palate. I also don’t subscribe to either of the two most popular, though opposing, restaurant foodie philosophies: 1) always eating in high-end restaurants, or 2) traipsing high and low at the risk of life, limb, and traffic sanity to seek out “chow.” Sure, many of my most enjoyable eating experiences are expeditions to the likes of AOC and Ame, but I am just as happy plowing through mapo tofu at ABC Best #1 Chinese Food Express (but not PF Chang’s – give me some credit, will you?). And yes, there are more than a few occasions that I enjoy myself in a fabulous “scene.”
However, if someone calls me a “foodie” and they mean it as “You love food!” then yes, I am that which you call a “foodie.” But even when the word is used in the most positive sense that it can be – to identify someone who is simply in lovelovelove with all things related to food, cooking, baking, eating, enjoying, entertaining, dining, foraging, farming, food – the word itself is just stupid.
Foodies and Winies, Foodos and Winos
Why do we have to attach “-ie” to “food” to describe someone who loves food? I don’t call my brother-in-law a “fishingie” because he spends ridiculous amounts of money to go chasing after Moby Dick. My other brother-in-law isn’t a “sportsie” because he perches his laptop on the cocktail table while watching the game to check the scores of all the other games going on. We don’t have “winies.” We have winos, but that’s something else entirely.
Foodie is just a bad word, and at this point, there’s nothing we can do to turn it around into a wholly “good” word meaning “food lover” because the damage of foie gras has already been scarred into my brain. I cannot let it go. I just can’t. I’m like that. I hold onto things forever and use them against you when you least expect it.
A New Entry for Webster’s
We should just use a different word to describe someone who loveloveloves food. In fact, we should make up a totally brand new word to add to Mr. Webster’s collection. Let’s make up a word right now, and just so that we are giving every letter in the alphabet an equal opportunity to be part of this new word, I am going to close my eyes and just hit random keys on the keyboard to make the word. (Incidentally, this technique would be great for playing Scrabble). Ready?
I just typed “eifnaj.” I believe that it would be pronounced “ife-nazh.”
What am I saying? I just made up the word eifnaj, so there is no “I believe it would be pronounced.” It is pronounced ife-nazh.
Who knew that the word to describe someone who absolutely adores food, whatever that adoration entails, without the pretentions of luxury foods and esoteric food knowledge, but a simple love for all things food, would have a Dutch etymology?!?!
So, I am an eifnaj.
Put that on your license plate, Benzie.
** this post originally published on 11.11.2006 **
** a year ago today, insurgent histamines launched a full allergy attack **