Reclaiming the F-Word (“Foodie,” That Is)
Because a foodie by any other name smells as twee.
The other night I was at a bar with my friend Sarah, enjoying a perfectly genteel conversation, when suddenly she dropped the f-bomb. â€śI never wouldâ€™ve thought to order this!â€ť she exclaimed, eyeing the plate of pedigreed snackage Iâ€™d commandeered. â€śThatâ€™s why I love going out with a foodie.â€ť Reflexively, I recoiledâ€”then promptly recoiled at my own recoiling.
The thing is, my friend meant â€śfoodieâ€ť as a compliment. Yet here I was, in prissy cringe mode, conditioned as Iâ€™ve been by the visceral hostility to that label from the, uh, edibles-enthusiast community. Indeed, do a keyword search for the verboten term on online forums and blogs like Chowhound, eGullet, and Eater and youâ€™ll find dozens of threads devoted to railing against it. Itâ€™s pretentious, they complain with feverish disdain. Reductive. â€śPatronizing and infantile,â€ť harrumphed one â€™houndâ€”the preferred label of many Chowhound regularsâ€”who posts under the handle â€śaggiecat.â€ť
Anonymous felines arenâ€™t the termâ€™s only dogged detractors. Local journalists, too, have joined the anti-foodie chorus. Globe dining critic Devra First has deemed the moniker â€śgoofy,â€ť while the Improperâ€™s reviewer, who writes under the nom de plume MC Slim JB, began a recent column with an extended diatribe contrasting the foodieâ€”a â€śdreadfully passĂ©â€ť breed given to â€śshuddering at less-than-shiny dining roomsâ€ťâ€”with the â€śfood nerd,â€ť more likely to brave fading dĂ©cor in pursuit of epicurean epiphanies. Food nerd, by this train of thought, implies legitimacy; foodie, then, is strictly for poseurs.
The roots of this lexicological backlash arenâ€™t difficult to trace. For starters, even foodie apologists would concede the wordâ€™s cloying cutesiness, Ă la yuppie or Trekkie. Other disparagers blame those irascible Yelpers for hijacking the label, mucking up its neutral meaning with unsavory baggageâ€”similar, at least structurally, to the aforementioned poseur theory, but with shallower pockets (and more entitlement). Iâ€™ll confess to having a certain amount of sympathy for that view. What genuine lover of food wants to get lumped in with a bunch of mercurial snobs wielding a poison pen in pursuit of Elite status, or a comped meal?
If such critiques are spot-on, the alternatives are decidedly less so. But Iâ€™m beginning to come around to the notion that parsing the relative ickiness of gastronome, epicure, food geek, gourmand, â€™hound, troughist (Iâ€™m serious), gastronaut (ahem), and so on misses one glaring point. Namely: Itâ€™s hard to pull off anti-elitist insouciance with an indignant look on your face. â€śFor the umpteenth time, itâ€™s chilled-out chewmeister! Or, you know…whatever.â€ť
As Iâ€™ve begun, as waffling politicians like to say, to evolve on this issue, Iâ€™ve found myself wondering whether we all just need to relax when it comes to gastronomic labelingâ€”to resist that knee-jerk recoil factor. Whatâ€™s more, is it (gasp!) possible that â€śfoodieâ€ť deserves a fresh look? Is it time, in other words, for a foodie-backlash backlash? As one Dallas-based writer I follow put it in a recent article on this very topic: â€śThe word works because there is no better substitute. Stop crying. Own it.â€ť
I think she might be onto something.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/article/2013/12/31/foodie-word-meaning/