Thinking and writing about food. Not always in that order.

Floreakeats Classic: It’s time to bury the word “foodie.” I suggest we replace it with “food asshole.”

In Food Asshole on June 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm

NOTE: This post first appeared on June 15, 2011. Thought it was time for a summer rerun.

It’s not just me. Everyone from the editor of Gastronomica to Mindy Kaling agree: the term “Foodie” is dead. It’s about time.

I became aware of the term “Foodie” about the same time that I met my first honest-to-God “Foodie.” In the early 90s, I worked with a guy who recounted with great pleasure that a meal he had at a hip and opulent new Boston restaurant (one that I rather liked) was “nearly inedible.” He also pointed out that six months earlier the same restaurant had been sublime — but that was before “everybody” had discovered it. That’s the kind of guy he was. He was also the kind of guy who savored ear-splitting experimental jazz and liked to make fun of the rest of the world who failed to attend Yale and whom he assumed ate Hot Pockets and candy necklaces for Thanksgiving dinner. He was, and is, the archetypical “Foodie.”

I had a visceral dislike for this guy, matched only by my hatred for the term “Foodie.” To my ear, “Foodie” has always been cringe-worthy — at once full of itself, yet laughable. Kind of like the upper class Yankees you come across in Cambridge who still go by their camp nicknames: Bootsie, Smokey, Mitt. Like “Yummy,” “Foodie” is one of those words that was never meant to come out of the mouth of an adult.

When I tell people that I’m studying for a masters degree in Gastronomy, they sometimes respond “Oh, you must be a Foodie.” I try not to punch them in the face and calmly say “No,  I’m just a guy who enjoys eating and studying about about food.” One of my greatest fears about the program at BU was that my professors and fellow students would all be “Foodies” whom I would want to punch in the face. To my great relief, I’ve only heard the term a few times in class and have never had to restrain myself from physical violence. To my great delight, I find that the people who actually know something about food are, by and large, an unassuming bunch who are curious, excited about experiencing new things, and find everyone’s story and their food worth learning about.

The more they know, the more down-to-earth they seem to be. They are the the exact opposite of “Foodies” who enjoy yielding the little knowledge they have over those poor unfortunates with “less refined” palates.

I didn’t realize until recently that Gael Greene (the nice lady with the amusing hats on Top Chef who also writes naughty fiction) coined the term “Foodie” in 1980. I’m fond of Gael Greene, but some 30 years later, I’m done with her coinage.

I’m not alone. It looks like the stars have aligned to rid the world of the term Foodie:

  • Darra Goldstein, the editor of “Gastronomica” writes about the “Foodie” problem in her introduction to the latest issue : “Lately I’ve been having a problem with self-identification.” She goes on to state the problem that people who study and care about food have food have describing themselves. She gives a history of the despicable term, identifies other terms that have been used throughout history (aristologist and gastrologer are among my favorites; gastronome is the one my program chose) and ends with a request for people to post new alternatives to Foodie on Facebook.
  • Super-cool punk rock chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and author of “Blood, Bones and Butter” calls Foodies a “bummer.” Watch the YouTube video below.
  • But Mindy Kaling may have put it best in her Tweet a couple days ago. She sums it up — with plenty of characters to spare.
  • Even  “Food and Wine” is on the story. (Although they still offer a Cosmo-style “You May be a Foodie If . . .” quiz to see if you have what it takes to own the term.) Maybe they don’t fully get it . . .

I haven’t taken the Gastronomica challenge of creating a new term, because the greatest alternative to “Foodie” has already been coined. And I only wish I had come up with it.

Around the same time that my co-worker was enjoying furrowing his brow disapprovingly over towers of food in and around Boston, my wife and I had dinner with one of her co-workers. She was a sweet woman with a tiny voice and keen sense of observation. Over a dinner she made for us, she told us a story about a friend who was much like my co-worker, “You know, a Food Asshole.”

Food Asshole worked for me then and still does. So unless Gastronomica comes up with something better, I’ll just stick to  being a guy who likes to eat and study about food.

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  1. […] this post and Floreakeats’ subsequent post revival still raised a bunch of questions in my mind last night, mostly because I’m still a padwan in […]

  2. One of the more irritating things about foodies is how my grandparents’ cooking — filling peasant food invented by tradesmen and sharecroppers — has been co-opted by snobs who would look down at their grandkids. Paying some `Merican four thousand dollars to teach you how to make cavatelli by hand from Tibetan gluten-free grain blessed by Buddhist fairies and organic locally sourced ricotta makes you a foodie. Knowing how to make cavatelli because you grew up watching your mom make it makes you an ignorant prole. I don’t cook vegetables in olive oil and garlic because some monied dude with a consonant at the end of his name wrote a book about it. I do it because that’s how we cook vegetables.

  3. “He was also the kind of guy who …. failed to attend Yale and whom he assumed ate Hot Pockets and candy necklaces for Thanksgiving dinner”.

    LOLOL!!! Yes, this is how some people become when it comes to “organic, GMO-free, veganism” =_=; sadly

  4. and what is wrong with that? to be or not to be a foodie isn’t the question … the question is why do we need random names for things?

  5. I had a great laugh reading your post =)
    I havent used the word foodie since my close foodie friend died on the phone with me while explaining why he was late to our dinner date. (Heartattack @ 46)
    He used to tell his friends I was his ‘foodie call’.
    Congrats on being pressed!

  6. How about Gastronaut?

  7. You had me at “whom he assumed ate Hot Pockets and candy necklaces for Thanksgiving dinner.” Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  8. I’m delighted to report that I failed, across the board, the “You May Be a Foodie If…” quiz. What do I win? Oooo, I hope it’s a coupon to Whole Foods. (snicker)

  9. Oh dear, bad me. I did use the term in the title for recent blog post this year. And I identify myself as a stovetop foodie. Pretty humble. Because my family food origins, Chinese peasant food is humble.

  10. mangerier?

  11. Food Asshole worked for me then and still does but not for me. I am never any type of asshole!

  12. I used the term frequently when I began my blog four years ago and then I began to see an onslaught of folks using it each time they created a new masterpiece between two slices of store bought bread, a ‘tasty’ recipe for ‘homemade’ bar-b-que sauce conjured up by mixing some store bought ketchup, a bit of prepared mustard and a swirl of honey or molasses, etc., etc.
    I felt ashamed of my ignorance. So what the heck-fire, gee-whiz was I creating when it meant spending days perfecting my sourdough culture through mediums of time and temperature? Good Lord, as I begin to revamp my blog I will be file 13’ing that word ‘foodie’.
    Great article and, spot-on!

  13. haha…this is hilarious! you had me in splits. congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  14. Well written and well said. Food asshole is now in my permanent vocabulary.

  15. ”food asshole”. That sums it up so completely that there is really, nothing more I can say. Great post

  16. Maybe it’s just me, but the word ‘foodie’ doesn’t bring up these negative connotations that a lot of people seem to have. Maybe it’s the area I live in, where probably the food assholes are the people coming from out of town and those who live here are just the people who really, really like food and wine. But maybe I’m wrong. I just really, really like trying new food. Don’t particularly like cooking, most of the time. But I pin recipes like crazy, try a new restaurant every chance I get, try new things on the menu every time I go back to a restaurant I enjoyed, and want to try lots of types of food at least once. I also mostly drink wine for the knowledge I gain. But I’m not going to hate on what other people like to eat.

    Maybe just difference in terms? Either way, good post. I just don’t think I would retire the term, myself.

    • Sounds like you and your neighbors have the right attitude about food. Also seems that you might be a nice person. I am a curmudgeon who gets angry because people in New York City don’t walk fast enough. The (food) world needs more people like you, fewer like me.

  17. I did not know the term foodie was so loathed by the blogging community. When I first started writing I looked up tips to successful blog and the one that kept coming up was NEVER use the word ‘foodie’. Good thing because I surely would have created a ‘Foodie Friday’ post and been shunned from the community for life. Thank you for bringing forward this important topic, as it could save a future blogger from committing a grave mistake 🙂

  18. It’s also interesting how beautifully this described the culture of contemporary classical music, right down to the fact that the most ignorant/least accomplished tend to be the most snobby. The folks who actually take classes and really learn to cook aren’t the worst of the bunch, just as the folks who really play instruments aren’t the worst of the bunch.

    The worst of the bunch have a tiny bit of knowledge that they milk and distort for all its worth, and wouldn’t dare pick up either a frying pan OR a guitar because then they’d have to actually risk screwing up once in a while, which their ego couldn’t handle.

    I think it’s probably a good description of almost any snob culture.

  19. Oh dear. I used the word only yesterday I believe. Now I am depressed…hmmm, what can I eat!

  20. Every field is plagued by the person who knows enough to think he or she is an expert. Yours have an annoying name and an area of “expertise” that no one can avoid (we all eat). Good luck killing the term.

  21. baha! hot pockets and candy necklaces! Oh those foodies (though I may have described myself as such on twitter profile?)

  22. hmmm. we’ve had the same thing for a few years in the beer world; ‘beer hipsters’ latching on to bars and beers and, essentially, flooding the marketplace with a new crowd that were not there 5 years ago. The downside is that this group of drinkers care not for much else apart from being seen and quoting the right quotes, but the upside is that it’s made the market boom, especially in areas like London. More press is a good thing, right? I know the ‘foodie’ term and don’t mind it, but i do despair sometimes when events or markets are so overpopulated by people taking photos of their food (hey – we’ve all done it) for ten minutes before eating it, that you can’t get in.
    A complex issue, and one that won’t go away in anything where trends rule (beer, food, wine, fashion, music, art). All we can do is keep on keeping on…. if food is a part of your life, then try and float above!

  23. I thought about saying, “I’m a foodie.” Just, you know, for laughs. But then I thought, “Nah.”

    I don’t want sour grapes between us.

  24. I loved this article and the video. So glad I stumbled on it. I agree 100%. Well written.

  25. I have always loved to cook–ever since I was about ten years old and figured out how to make cookies. Since then I have done lots of cooking in my life. I love to try new restaurants and I enjoy food and flavor combinations. Someone asked me a few years ago if I was a “foodie.” I had never heard of that term before! So, I am glad that I have not identified myself as such the last while!

  26. I agree totally. Foodie is one of those words (I have several on my list) that are the word equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. Words that are so horrible, somehow, that they make you physically cringe. It figures that irritating people are the ones who use this godawful term so often to refer to themselves.

    It sounds like you’re a true pro, though!

  27. […] food. Find something new to taste. Like Gabrielle Hamilton says in the interview featured in this post: “Food, pleasure, and guilt should never be in the same sentence.” Have […]

  28. I am sad that years later, it’s still here. I like the gastronaut idea!

  29. I just found you through a fellow beef promoter on Facebook. I enjoy sarcasm and the appreciation for steak, burgers and other beef products. Thank you so much for your humor and knowledge about the food world.

  30. Love the title,and well written.I do agree,this is one word i think needs a headstone!

  31. Great read – Thank you

  32. I just couldn’t agree more! Self-professed foodies are the biggest pains in the neck – and they all judge cooking shows!

  33. Hilarious, and the fact that you are a foodie must be so annoying lol

  34. There is a saying where I am from (Liverpool Uk) that makes me wince and crunch my teeth when I hear it. it is when grown women say to their grown up man , “tonight I am going out with me girlies”(girlies being other grown up women,) I too could seriously punch someone in the face when I hear that, so you have my sympathy if you do end up causing someone some serious facial damage

  35. Reblogged this on Thomas Nwafor's Blog and commented:
    Seriously funny blogger, you should add

  36. Can’t one be a foodie of the people? You can like good, affordable, in or out of trend food whether it was taught to you in cooking school or passed down through 30 generations of nonnas and know what you’re talking about without being a snob OR a hick. Surely a middle ground applies. It seems that the next evolution of foodies is saying you aren’t one and knocking people who you think are. A shame. We need all types of eaters in this world!

  37. Loo lolololol. Thanks and that was PURE COMEDY, lolololol. I keep asking myself which is more important that body and level of health I’m seeking or that biscuit. Lol. Sometimes the answer’s not that clear.

  38. 🙂 Food asshole is SO much better!! I love this, there’s nothing more pretentious…

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