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Adventurous vs. Risk-Averse: who's the "foodie"?

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I've been participating in a thread over on the LA Board, about a restaurant in Pasadena, and one of the most recent posters said that she was reluctant to try it because "I'm a serious foodie and I hate being disappointed". My immediate reaction to that was "How can you be that serious if you aren't willing to risk disappointment?" though I didn't say that in so many words, as that was not the proper forum.

So, boys and girls, can one be a truly dedicated foodie, Chowhound, gourmand or whatever, and still be reluctant to try something you might not like? Or which, heaven forbid, might fall short of your expectations? My attitude is that this is like claiming to be a serious cyclist while refusing to take off the training wheels. Am I being harsh here?

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  1. Which thread on the LA board is that? musta missed something.

    The serious foodie is the adventurous one, the one who is willing to experience ups and downs with food.
    But having said that, there are practical limitations. If I had unlimited cash, I'd try most places at least once. But I don't, so do I want to spend $ at a place that I'm pretty sure I won't like or spend the same $ to try a place I think I'd like, or know I like.

    4 Replies
    1. re: slacker

      What is a Chowhound?

      A Chowhound is someone who spends nearly every waking moment planning her or his next meal. Whether eating in a white-tablecloth restaurant or grabbing takeout on the way to work, Chowhounds hate to ingest anything undelicious. They won't hesitate to go far, far out of their way for even slightly better.

      Isn't that the same thing as a foodie?

      No. Foodies eat where they're told. They lap up hype about the “hot” new restaurant/cookbook/ingredient. They’ll explore unfamiliar neighborhoods, but only with their Zagat securely in hand.

      http://www.chowhound.com/home/faq

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I never made that distinction between the two terms in my mind, and won't. I view the two terms as synonymous. But I don't really care for the term "chowhound" so choose not to use it. So my view of "foodie" is your view of "chowhound." As to your definition of "foodie," I would call those people dilettantes. It's all diction.

        So yes, a foodie will go far and wide for good food. But will also take risks. If you don't take risks you're not going to know for yourself whether you like it or not, and then you'd just be another dilettante because you'd just be following other people's advice.

        1. re: slacker

          That's not my view, it's Jim Leff's, from the FAQ.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Right, realized that after. But looked like you posted it as your own comments. Saw the link later.

    2. First off, the whole who's a foodie and who's not is an arguement that can't be won or decided. You can debate it but to me it's semi-pointless because at a certain point it goes beyond an interest and hobby and it becomes who's a professional.

      That said, I don't think the key here isn't about who's a foodie (or not) but going out, spending some $$$ and not wanting to be disappointed. As someone mentioned, not everyone is loaded with $$$ and for that matter time. I like food a great deal but I also understand that sometimes I don't want be challenaged, don't always want an adventure and sometimes don't want to be disappointed...in particular if it's an expensive place. Sure if they're little cost, why not take a chance. OTOH, even if I had all the money and time, I'm still not sure I'd just to for adventure sake. I have other things going on that take up time energy. If I had kids I'd tell y'all to jump in a lake about who's a foodie or not.

      1. Taking into account the people who are not necessarily foodies but who just love to be able to say, "I've eaten that," I think that people who are risk-averse are not as dedicated. In my house, my husband will try anything; I am still rather timid but I'm getting there.

        My thinking is that if you don't bet, you can't win. Sometimes in the search of food (or anything else) you're going to be disappointed. That's true of pretty much everything.

        1. You know, this is really interesting, because I tend to be very risk-averse in pretty much every arena of life with the exception of food. I'll try almost anything at least once (actually, probably at least two or three times, just in case the first time it wasn't cooked quite right or in the way that I would like it). I actually get frustrated when I'm eating with people who don't have this view of food and trying things (especially since I like to share), since I feel like it's a little boring. Just recently, actually, I was out to dinner with a friend and we ordered and appetizer to share that neither of us was sure that we would like, but we both ended up loving it, which pleased me.

          1. Interesting question. I am usually very excited to try "authentic" food places, good Southern, good vietnamese, etc. but avoid fusiony or high cost cuisine. One reason is I'm a poor grad student. The other is, I enjoy trying new things, I find it exciting in fact, but I hate spending money on rip-off dining experiences like some over-hyped restaurant. That doesn't usually happen when there's an "authentic" of cheap ethnic places that gets buzz. Plainly put I hate realizing I paid for the atmosphere. So I've been in situations where I've felt risk averse - just try and decide where to eat with friends in NYC and you will understand risk aversity and chowhounding can definitely coincide.

            1. Um, I guess my answer would be "who cares?" YOU are willing to take risks and report and we are all the richer for it. Sure it would be great if EVERYONE who posted on Chowhound searched out every crumb and corner and shared their experiences but that just ain't going to happen for all sorts of reason. I am just glad there are braver souls out there than me and trust you me: I adore them and thank them and Jim Leff on a daily basis.

              1. am i the one who brought this up?

                1 Reply
                1. re: caitybirdie

                  Yes. I hope you weren't offended. As I was responding to your post on the LA Board, I was thinking a bit about what I didn't say there, and thought I'd run it by the 'Hounds on this forum just to see how they'd respond.

                  For the record, I *AM* risk-averse when the prices start going up, just because I don't have a lot of money to spend. $50 per head (sans wine) is the stratosphere for my budget, something I might do once a year, and I would research a place like that VERY thoroughly before calling in a reservation. But in this case we were discussing a restaurant whose prices run about half that - still not dirt cheap, but if the reviews are all on the positive side (lukewarm to mild applause, in this case), then I'm in favor of giving it a shot. And I'm glad we did.

                2. More than just risk, it's about maximizing resources (money, time, stomach space) and weighing the benefits of trying something new against the cost of wasting a meal or portion thereof. It depends on the environment - sometimes you know that trying something new just won't be worth it.

                  I do admit, I'm somewhat of a coward in that if I'm at a restaurant where I know I can maximize said deliciouness by sticking to something I know is great, it is very hard to stray.

                  1. There's a difference between being willing to try a new food vs. being willing to try a new restaurant that serves familiar food. I love being adventurous in terms of new food - I think that the best way to do that is with a guide that understands that food better than I do, whether it's a friend or a friendly and skilled chef/food worker (as in the case of a sushiya that's happy to tell you about a special creation).

                    But when a new sushi place opens up in the area, I'm not the first to stand in line. The American understanding of sushi is just not what mine is. Good reviews do nothing to alleviate my suspicion that this will just be another place for people that like California rolls, with Sushiyas that will not have years of experience with knowledgable, Japanese clientele.

                    Same with red sauce Italian places, and any number of cuisines where a large part of America has gotten used to a lower standard in their drive to include the largest possible number of paying customers. To me, that's not a question of being adventurous, since the chances are truly much better that it will be bad food. It is exhibiting a closed mind, I'll admit that. But while others have said that money and time are too critical to waste on bad food (and I have the same problem), I think that it goes even further. Deliciousness can't be wasted - the very act of chewing and swallowing wonderful foods can't be wasted. You only get so many meals in your life - why waste one of those opportunities on a bad one?

                    I need some level of certainty of the quality of the meal. I am indeed risk averse to having a bad meal, even if I am risk tolerant to having new experiences.

                    And in my defense, I think we would all understand that refusing to go to Applebees is not really a risk, adventurousness, or open-mindedness issue. The chances are slight to none that the food will be tolerable, never mind good.

                    1. Will-you're a serious cyclist if you have one gear and no brakes, like my dad the velodrome racer. That's not to say he used the same bike to get over Hiway 9 to Santa Cruz in the 30's. That one had a derailleure and brakes.

                      1. I hate people - especially serious foodies - who treat every meal like it's their last. Come on, try something different now and then. Experience life, be grateful we have diversity. It's worth the risk that every once in a while you'll get something you won't like. If that happens, you'll eat again soon - probably that same day!

                        1. There is a time and place for everything, of course... If it is my birthday, who could fault me for wanting something I know I will love? But if I go to Montreal and don't try poutine, that's just cowardice. Or live near Devon Ave in Chicago and not check out a new Indian or Pakistani place on a regular basis. Or eat bibimbap in every restaurant possible, in search of the ultimate glory of the dish. But I do think everyone is entitled to exclude a small category or two of food -- when I buy banchan at the Korean grocery, I don't dare myself to buy the most peculiar thing I see (I'll eat any vegetable matter at least once or twice, there are a few animal parts that cause hesitation). On the other hand, maybe I'm losing my edge.

                          (To hesitate at bubble tea, as some people I know do-- well, is life worth living or not? Jump in, already!)