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Is "Foodie" really a four-letter word?

As a fairly new member to CH I have been very excited to read about all this site has to offer. I am enjoying everything from the blogs to the recipes to the articles. But I was particularly stunned by most peoples' negative reference to the word "foodie". I've been calling myself a "foodycat" (my maiden name is Catalano) for close to 15 years, simply to describe my love affair with great food. How and why is it that the majority of CH's blogs I have read have morphed this term into something ugly?

Webster's dictionary define's a "foodie" as "a person with a particular interest in food, or a gourmet", which is defined as "a connoisseur of fine food; a person with a discerning palate". Isn't that the foundation of anyone seeking higher culinary experiences?

My first recollection of the word foodie simply meant someone REALLY into food, and I believe it existed purely to describe those who loved all/any aspects of it: cooking it, learning about it, eating it, writing about it, reading about it, exploring it, seeking it. The word existed long before the cliche'. How did it become a generic term that defines a shallow interest in food? Have we gotten so snobby that we have risen above the basic element here? It's FOOD, really great FOOD in any setting, price range, city we can get it, or kitchen we make it.

I consider myself a foodie, but not the way described in CH's manifesto. Zagat is not my food bible, just a resource, just like CH is also a resource, different, but still just a resource. Last time I ate what I was told I was about 14. I don't eagerly follow trends; my natural curiosity and excitement for the most exceptional food out there drives this bus.

I won't stop using the term foodie (or feel bad about it) just because it's been cranked so far off it's original base by.......who knows? Maybe it's time we grabbed it by the pasta strands and cranked it back into place. If you love all aspects of really great food, you're a food-ie even if you don't admit it.

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  1. Personally, I disliked the term "foodie" long before I'd even heard of Chowhound, simply because it sounds infantile to me.

    2 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      Along the same lines, to me it sounds like a hobby. I think the attitude behind it is about creating the most enjoyment out of one of life's necessities. It's more than model airplanes.

      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

        I too hate childish words like foodie. Chowhound didn't create that dislike.

        1. Love the user name. I've been cruising chowhound for several months now and I must not have wandered into any of these bad neighborhoods yet. My one friend Brenda called me a food freak in a disparaging tone once. Two weeks later she was at my dining room table slurping up my very rich very chickeny chickn noodle soup and practically swooning over it. I didn't say anything, I like to let my soup do my talking. Agree with kindofabigdeal, it's not like we can give up eating. Maybe I just have a thick skin. I'm also a gaming geek and I figure if I gave up everything I love (being a foodie being a nerd) to fit in with others' expectations of what is normal then I wouldn't be living my own life. And this ain't no dress rehearsal.

          1 Reply
          1. re: givemecarbs

            Not again! I'm so sick of people who don't like the word or think it means pretentious food snob. If it does to you, too bad for your brain. I'm a foodie, my friends are foodies, we're here, we're hungry, get over it!

          2. I dont like the term "foodie" either.

            I would not like to be referred to as a "foodie", I would prefer "gourmet", or "scratch cook". The word "foodie" seems too pretentious in my opinion.

            3 Replies
            1. re: swsidejim

              Interesting perspective. I find being called or considering myself a 'gourmet' to seem much more pretentious.

              1. re: swsidejim

                I'm with you. When I get called a foodie, I want to reply with a riff of Dorothy Day's quote: "Don't call me a foodie. I don't want to be dismissed so easily."

              2. "Foodie" has become a very annoying term to me...I think it started around 10 years ago, when I first started working in and around the restaurant industry. I noticed that people began referring to themselves as "foodies" in a way that made it seem to rhyme with "greedy" and "snobby" - and they prided themselves in their ability to spend money and be really self-absorbed about food. It was a bit like a new version of the 80's yuppie culture, only instead of BMW's and cocaine, it was Cabernet Sauvignon and reservations at the Slanted Door that were the objects of cocktail party boasting. Some of these people even liked to ascribe "foodie" qualities to their young children, as in: "Oh, little Madison is SUCH a foodie! She won't eat ANYTHING without CAVIAR...isn't that just soooo precious!" I love food, I love to cook, eat, and read about cuisine...but I will NOT call myself a foodie, and I have to say, reading some of the posts on this board about how some people are willing to throw their good friends overboard, just because they think offal tastes...awful...well, that's pretty damned shallow, in my book. (Just sayin').

                1. I've seen "foodie" used as a sort of perjorative on the board here, i.e. "We're not foodies! We're Chowhounds!"

                  I don't really get the difference. I think there is a local (on this site) sense that "foodies" are more susceptible to hype and glamour and Chowhounds are wise and careful in their choices of where they go to eat. Hard to say whether that's true or not, really.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Pincus

                    I agree. In my experience, only on Chowhound have I experienced the word "foodie" having a negative connotation. I've been called a "foodie" by my friends and family (who do not visit this site and are not into food), and it wasn't used in a pejorative sense. It was just a neutral word to designate somebody who is really into food.

                  2. I never had a problem with the word foodie. I find it endearing actually and would love to live up to the foodie reputation!

                    1. Let's make it simple.

                      Food lover. That isn't pretensious but still gets the point across. Done.

                      There are too many artificial meanings behind foodie these days. No one knows what it truly means anymore.

                      1. I think that labels belong on objects like food cans... not on people. The minute we start using overused labels to define ourselves or others the topic becomes an us & them proposition. Debate the food, not the (dare I say) foodie.

                        1. Some Chowhounds consider foodie to be a derogatory term, but in mainstream usage it's not. Who knows, it might someday shift to mean what they like to define it to mean. Language changes as people use it. (Heck, 20 years ago, the word 'foodie' didn't even exist!)

                          Personally, I don't care for the term chowhound. I mean really, have you ever watched a dog eat?! They're not exactly refined, nor are they particularly discerning about what they scarf down. I know, I know, that's not what the 'hound' part is supposed to imply. But unless you're Humpty Dumpty, your coinage is still subject to the denotations and connotations that the root words have accumulated.

                          Chowcats, now there's a little more discernment for you. Umm, depending on the cat, of course.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                            i prefer "foodie" to "chowhound."

                            and i think the etymology is more from hippie than infantilism

                          2. I have no control over what people call me. Letting it impact on me is the equivalent of letting someone else cause ripples in my emotional pond. Do I need that?

                            I do admit to liking nice things. I'm not talking about price. I'm talking about things that excite the senses, whether they be visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory or tactile. It's nice if other people -- especially friends and loved ones -- like some of the same things I like, but it's not required for me to like them. I like Rembrandt and Picasso, but Van Gogh not so much... I like the Beatles and the New York Philharmonic, but Hank Snow not so much... I like Barcelona chairs and recamiers, but orange crates not so much... And I like pate foi gras and Frito pies, but raw onions not so much. But whether people call me a foodie or a chowhound, a gourmet or a gourmand... Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn! '-)

                            1. Foodie is to "groupie"


                              Chowhound is to "connoisseur"

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Funny! Except I have a very different association with "chowhound." My dad was career Navy, and in his context, a "chowhound" was any sailor at sea who was first in line at mealtime, and always used in a derogatory manner. Don't know if this was true for all of the Navy, or just aboard his ship. Hey, what's the saying, "different strokes."

                              2. Foodie is an odd word and while I don't care for it, being called one doesn't bother me.

                                I think part of the dislike is the suffix "y" or "ie", also known as a diminutive. The addition of the "y" or "ie" modifies things into dopey, yuppie, weenie, Johnny, Tommy, etc. Mostly it's an affection thing but it can be used to dismissively.

                                In this case the "y" or "ie" suggests being a dilettante or poseur and no one likes that. Still, lets face it, part of that applies to a sub-set of the larger group commonly known as foodies.

                                To me, phonetically the sound of "foodie" has a goofy ring. While the word doesn'tsting me...way back in my brain when I hear the word I have an association with poseurs and yuppies (i.e, "I AM NOT a yuppie!!!").

                                The weird thing is when people proclaim they're a foodie. The majority of the time it is harmless and meaningless but once in awhile the dilettante label applies to a stuffed shirt and you think...that's why I don't like that word because if that person is, I am CERTAINLY NOT!

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: ML8000

                                  I believe that the term, "Chowhound" is just as kitschy as "Foodie." Some people on these boards, self-proclaimed "hounds," will say the difference is that they sniff out great food off the beaten path, and that "foodies" are more mainstream. The whole argument is stupid, and "hounds" need to take their collective noses out of the air. Lighten up.

                                  1. re: FrankieSandals

                                    I agree the chowhound term is just as kitschy. I don't use either.

                                    1. re: FrankieSandals

                                      I have to agree with you. While a lot of people think "foodie" is so pretentious, I have the opposite view. Only people on this site or who have seen this site will know what Chowhound means (though that may change over the years). It kind of seems elitist (even if it's not the intention) to use this term outside this site.

                                      If I never came across this site and heard the term "Chowhound" in conversation, I probably would have thought it meant a person who is a voracious eater.

                                      ETA: I also think that people who always shun food that's "mainstream" is missing out on some good chow. You don't always have to eat black sheep's tripe in sesame paste sitting on a stool meant for a five-year-old out on the street watching the world go by. Sometimes I want to eat at a restaurant like The French Laundry. Sometimes I want to eat pho with tripe and tendons at a "joint" in Chinatown. And sometimes I want to eat McDonalds french fries dipped in their sweet and sour sauce.

                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                        I think it's been a major misconception that "chowhounds" only go for obscure non-mainstream stuff. It's not a mainstream vs. non-mainstream split.

                                        The distinguishing feature that we'd all like to encourage is for people to go out and discover delicious stuff on their own, and to eat (and think) for themselves. It's a difference between "only eating where one is told" vs "discovering good food on one's own."

                                        A lot of it has also to do with increasing knowledge. There is more value in trying potentially delicious places that are unknown, so that one can report back to fill gaps in our chow knowledge.

                                        1. re: limster

                                          You are absolutely correct. However, I find that some of the posters start criticizing other posters because they choose a venue that may be more "mainstream" as opposed to "esoteric" (what they think a chowhounder SHOULD be). I also find that some hounds automatically denounce a restaurant without trying it because it has more than one location. Delicious food can be found everywhere, whether it's a chain or a small family restaurant.

                                          ETA: And I also think these labels start polarizing the community. How many threads have been there in the last few months about how Chowhounders are "better" than Yelpers? It gets to be too much.

                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            I agree 100%. Let's talk about chow, and not what people who talk about chow are called.

                                      2. re: FrankieSandals

                                        It's not about the importance of labels (or the people using the labels), but rather about the importance of sniffing out new chow. If we don't find new great food off the beaten track it would be a major loss. Those labels were used to encourage independent discovery in a concise way, not because their definitions were particularly important. Let's not forget that we should focus on action (finding something delicious), not labels (calling oneself "x" or "y").

                                    2. i recently found out that the folks commonly referred to as "trekkies" don't like that term. they like to be called "trekkers," but chances are the average person on the street doesn't care about the distinction between the two terms, they just want an easy and accessible word to refer to someone who likes star trek. there is a whole range of trekkie/trekkers of varying degrees of obsession with that fantasy world or whatever it is, but anyone outside of that scene is going to refer to them as "trekkies" as a catch-all term. i think that's the type of nuance we're all kind of arguing about here-- thing is, the average person doesn't care-- they will label any person who's more into food than average, a "foodie" by default. there is not necessarily any pejorative meaning intended-- just a description. once you are in the food scene you can obsess about and argue nuance until you are blue in the face-- it doesn't matter so much, the average person will still think of everyone in your broad group as "foodies."

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. Let's get William Safire onto this linguistic mess!

                                        Seriously, I guess I like Foodie because I have always thought of it as embracing the joy of good food. It rhymes with "Whoopie!!!" after all. Gourmet always seemed snobby -- Gourmet magazine sure as heck managed to be. Chowhound is also problematic for me, funnily, because it brings images to my mind of a whole lot of eating going on and a whole lot of fat piling on, with less true appreciation for the food (interesting WW2 naval story above). But that sure does not stop me from coming to this site and having fun! And being very grateful for information learned and shared, that's for sure.

                                        But the linguistics are just MY personal reaction, coming from my own experiences in my own spaces. Language is fungible. Check out the OED for language going nuts over the years!

                                        A true Chowhounder, Foodie, Whatever should be someone who cares about the wonderfulness of what food can be, has an open mind, and tries to teach themselves discernment. Because some veggie patties are just better than others! ;-)