Remember when the word "foodie" was only used in a bitchy elitist way? I do. Ah, the good old days. It seems like just yesterday that a relatively small number of people believed that only they could legitimately call themselves foodies, to the detriment and exclusion of everyone else. These self-important, next-level food lovers feverishly latched on to every culinary trend, tried every new restaurant from New York to Napa Valley, and carefully peppered every dinner conversation with the names of award-winning chefs.
Soon television, print, and online media caught wind of the emerging culinary renaissance and it wasn't long before we were being introduced to exotic foods like balut and hakàrl. Suddenly, the masses had access to a world that was previously reserved for a select few. The number of cooking shows increased exponentially and, with it, our knowledge of the culinary arts.
Today you'd be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn't identify themselves as a foodie. The term is thrown around as recklessly as the people who insist that they are "so O.C.D" because they have a penchant for cleaning up after themselves and buying cutesy office supplies at Target.
One reason for this word's ubiquity is the vagueness of the definition. The Urban Dictionary (yes, I'm going there) defines a foodie as, "a person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food, and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation" and goes on to note that foodies are not necessarily food snobs or at best, they play down their self-evident superiority.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides a more simplified definition, "a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads". C'mon, really? I think we can all agree that there is a big difference between trying to sous-vide chicken and eating a bathtub-sized bowl of self-serve fro-yo. Neither is terribly hard to do but one should get a little more street cred than the other. (Hint: it's the not the second one).
The Merriam-Webster definition of foodie can best be expressed using the following the chart:
Conditional Statements of Self-Proclaimed Foodies
If I believe truffle fries are upscale, then I am a foodie.
If I put bacon on everything, then I am a former vegetarian and a foodie.
If I make Honey Boo Boo style "sketti" (Google it, then cry), then you had better redneckognize that I am a foodie.
If I make Phyllo dough from scratch, then I am a food snob and should try making sketti instead.
Everyone wants to be a foodie (except you, of course) and no one wants to be accused of being ignorant or worse, a food snob so we lump them all together and leave it to our truffle oil-saturated minds to tease out the details.
Personally, given the chance, I would permanently blot the word "foodie" (as well as moist, quirky, and funky) out of the dictionary with a fine-tipped Sharpie. Do I use the word? As a food blogger, of course I do. Do I want to gouge my eyes out with a rusted butter knife each time I use it? Every. Single.Time.
Still, I understand its purpose and why we use it. As much as I would love to remove this ubiquitous term from the English language, what would be its replacement? Aficionado, connoisseur, dilettante; like "foodie" they all lack a certain je ne sais quoi.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, this sad little word is not ready to be laid to rest, but I would argue that due to its excessive use, it should be considered as being on the culinary equivalent of life support. In the mean time we're stuck using the popular moniker until someone more ballsy and clear-headed (Bourdain?) steps in and pulls the plug.