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The case against "foodie"

In one post to our food blog at the Dallas Observer, I once made the mistake of using the word "foodie." I didn't give it a second thought, but our restaurant critic made sure the word never made it online -- he can't stand how popular the word has become.

To make the distinction between "foodie," "gourmet" and "gourmand" clear (he prefers these), he's written a diatribe on our blog that I think boils down his argument nicely:

Anyway, I'm curious how other people feel about the word and its rise to popularity.

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  1. I think it's a bit pretentious. Never use it.

    1. I think it sounds like babytalk (see also: veggie, yummy, resy), and I would never use it. I refer to myself as obsessed with food, but I don't have an adorable name for that. Just the truth.

      2 Replies
      1. re: small h

        That is my issue w/ the word "foodie" as well. I've been called that many times now, in ways that were meant to be complimentary (sp?), and I don't make a fuss of it. At the same time, in my younger days, I would never have considered being called a "'hound" a positive thing. That said, I like the "ring" of it these days, and just so fully identify myself as a poster on Chowhound, that I take being called a 'hound as a good thing.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I never liked the term, "foodie", because it sounded silly and pretentious to me. The first time I ever heard the term was when David Rosengarten used it on his show, 'Taste'. I loved that show, but hated that word. Now, however, it is so commonly used and accepted that somehow I have gotten used to it. I have actually surprised myself in the past year or so by referring to myself as one, which I never thought I would do. I am not crazy about the term, "hound" either, but I guess my allegiance to this site has brought me to accept it with affection :)

      2. Maybe Hedonist is a better term. I agree "foodie" does sound a bit childish.

        1. I would hate to be called a gourmand. There's lots of food I love that's definitely not gourmet.

          I find that author pretentious and insulting when he talks about "peasant fare".

          Fried chicken doesn't have to transcend to a thing of beauty to be appreciated. Sometimes people just want to discuss or eat good fried chicken. Or hush puppies. Or, god forbid, fried pickles.

          "Foodie" might be a silly term. But "gourmet" is just downright snobby.

          3 Replies
          1. re: huaqiao

            I totally agree. I actually hear the word "foodie" as a little self-deprecating -- I'm making fun of myself -- at the same time it describes a certain passion I have for food.

            Gourmet (and worse gourmand) sounds a bit dated to me, as well as pretentious.

            Hedonist is a whole 'nother thing that goes way beyond food. I would not call myself a hedonist and, in fact, find that a bit obnoxious.

            I'm open to other options, including Chowhound, which while it is not exactly commonly used is certain clear.

            1. re: huaqiao

              I just call myself "a fat guy who likes to eat"

            2. I dont think I could refer to myself as a gourmand, gourmet, epicure, etc, without feeling like a tool. Having said that, I feel like a tool calling myself a foodie as well.

              I like to eat, pursue, and prepare the best foods the world has to offer. Is there a word for this that doesn't scream "Im better than you" a la "gourmand"?

              6 Replies
              1. re: ZeTerroir

                Well, it's "chowhound," but that's not in the vernacular. Whether we like it or not, "foodie" is what' gotten around. Similar to how chefs cooking with "molecular gastromy" almost all hate that term, but that's what it's been branded, so deal with it. I'm not in love with the term foodie, but it's better than "food snob," which was what people were saying before foodie was coined.

                1. re: ZeTerroir


                  "Hi, I'm pg and I'm a gourmand/epicurist" would pretty much get you bashed.. and rightly so... for being a pretentious tosser twat here in OZ.

                  I ran with "foodanista" for a while but it made me sound like a bit of a pillock.

                  I'm all good for foodie, or food obsessive.

                  1. re: purple goddess

                    pretentious tosser twat

                    Now that phrase I like. :-)

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      WTF?? How did that get by the chowhound police? LOL

                      1. re: Bob W

                        We're in Food, Media and News; the land of the lost souls. Society's outcasts.
                        I wonder whether tosser is being used to describe a person with a tendency to show (off or brag in an excessive and embarrassing way), a masturbator or someone you have a low opinion of?

                2. In his case, I think the appropriate word would be ``tool.''

                  ``Foodie'' is a little arch, but compared with ``gourmand'' it is a breath of Jeffersonian democracy.

                  1. He's a dispeptic elitist. He's horrified that the word "foodie" allows him to be lumped in with people whom he clearly thinks are inferior to him.
                    His argument "boils down...nicely" to one conclusion. He's a Food Snob.

                    1. I refer to myself as an enthusiast rather than anything ending in '-ie' (Foodie,Ttrekkie, etc) or worse, anything ending in '-head' (Deadhead, Parrothead, etc).

                      But I am reminded of Justin Wilson's explanation of 'Gourmet' and 'Gourmand': "A gourmet, he lak to eat ALL kine good stuff, only good stuff. A gourmand, he eat ev'ryting, a P-I-G hog."
                      (Pardon my attempt to write in dialect.)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Fydeaux

                        The writing in dialect was perfect... I can here his voice in my head right now, and it makes me smile :)

                        As for the topic at hand, I don't like any of the terms offered, mostly b/c in personal experience those who use foodie/gourmet to identify themselves are trying to project a food knowledge that is greater than reality. I don't use a label or term If I must explain my relationship with food to others, I just tell them I really, really like all aspects of food from the science to culture to art.

                        1. re: mpjmph

                          I have this issue, too. I hate to categorize myself with regard to my, em, food pursuits, because it always sounds like I am indicating a superior position or knowledge.

                      2. There is a pseudo definition in the Chowhound Manifesto, basically differentiating Chowhounds from Foodies.


                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          this was discussed, dissected, argued in a recent thread. My take, the "Manifesto" is an interesting read, but in trying to define chowhound (redifine? it was already a word) there was a take on what a foodie is. Although I dislike the term foodie, it does have a meaning, which is decidedly different from how the "Manifesto" deifnes it. I only use the term as it is widely understood by the outside world. Quirky self-defining terms like "Chowhound" (especially when redefining a word already in the dictionary), do nothing to further communicating with others.

                          1. re: Phaedrus

                            Even on this board, the use of "Chowhound" often seems to swim against the tide. It doesn't seem that many new posters read the Manifesto, or care about it if they do.
                            I believe the original use of the word was military slang, coarse as military slang often is, as references to dogs are usually culturally derogatory. Not just in American English, general English, Western culture, or whatever. They're considered "unclean" in the Islamic world.
                            There are lots of unattractive linguistic references to dirty dogs, son of a bitch, when you lie down with dogs you get fleas, running dogs, dogging somebody, dogfaces, hounding people, nothin' but a hound dog, and on and on. That's just in English.
                            We even told our kids not to "dog bowl" their food when they ate too fast and with poor manners. Stopped them dead.

                            Language is fluid. People are going to use words regardless of what some elitist critic, urban newspaper, or website decrees. That's how new words end up in the dictionary and new foods end up on our tables, in our grocery stores, and part of American cooking.
                            Whether we like it or not.
                            It looks like "foodie" is winning the race.

                            1. re: Phaedrus

                              Anyone who thinks that the pretention of the term "gourmand" is ameliorated by a "gourmand's" ability to appreciate "peasant fare" would appear to be more than a bit oblivious.

                              But here's the comment that's the giveaway for me: "Ultimately, I shy from 'foodie' because some of this self-styled set in this town rave eloquently about mediocre dishes and drinks." Sure seems to me that a "gourmand" is just a "foodie" whose tastes happen to agree with one's own.

                              Note that (someone claiming to be) original 'hound Jim Leff jumps in on the comments to that blog post to bemoan the influx of "foodies" here on CH ->
                              "Too bad that Chowhound has become a haven for "foodies" and lower life forms."
                              Real or imposter?

                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                The commenter you reference is not impersonating Jim Leff. S/he quotes Jim Leff and doesn't claim to be him. Sometimes people use their comment names as titles for their posts.

                                But thanks for making me look at that, because it quoted the most nonsensical part of the Chowhound Manifesto: "Foodies eat where they're told. Chowhounds blaze trails." So...Chowhound is a board where everybody posts restaurant recommendations and no one follows them? Or is it okay to eat where you're told if it's a Chowhound who tells you to eat there?

                                1. re: small h

                                  I guess the "chowhound" is intended to mean the 'anti-trendy foodie'? This assumes that "foodies" are pretentious snobs- which may have been more accurate with regard to popular food vernacular ten years ago than it is today. I have made my piece with the term even though I still don't like how it sounds. I haven't read the Manifesto in quite some time (I understand it changed when the CNET sale took place?). I don't like it.

                                  1. re: vvvindaloo

                                    the manifesto almost turned me off to this site when i first joined.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      Word. And if you spend more than 12 seconds reading Chowhound, you'll see that the "manifesto" is roundly ignored - not that I think that's a bad thing. The posts seeking trendy places are just as numerous as the ones seeking the best pulled noodles or the best halal street cart. As for blazing trails, the trails to Eleven Madison Park and Stanton Social have got to be completely charred wastelands by now.

                                      Reverse snobbery and anti-elitism are really no better than snobbery and elitism. I don't see the value in being "anti" anything, really.

                                      1. re: small h

                                        Wouldn't that make you being anti-being anti? :)

                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          You know, after I posted that and toddled off to work, it occurred to me that my phrasing was pretty clumsy. Because I'm anti plenty of things: sucky grammar, the spread of misinformation, decaffeinated coffee.

                                          So what I *meant* was: I don't see the value in using labels to set yourself apart from and above others.

                                2. re: Frodnesor

                                  oblivious, yes. It's a rant against the bastardization of and popularity of dining as an art. personally, I think most good food originated as "peasant fare"

                              2. In my opinion, his tone is nowhere near as elitist as I expected. The article is eloquently written, does misstep several times in my opinion, but nevertheless delivers a point. Presently, the word foodie is used by anybody pretending to care about food, restaurants, farmer's markets and all things brought to vogue by the Food Network and shiny (or pink) kitchen appliances. This at least the point he aims to make. He would be writing the same article if the word gourmet was similarly abused. Except for the use of the words gourmet and gourmand, he maintains a conversational tone and allows that the word suffers mostly from a generational gap.

                                I don't mind the word foodie, though I do not go around announcing myself as such, but would protest if another self described foodie put sour mix in my margarita.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Icantread

                                  Don't confuse having learned the parlance of the educated elite with "eloquence," which require depth and insight.

                                  This guy is trying to find a term to distinguish himself from "amateurs," i.e. "foodies," whom he disdains.
                                  According to his fine sensibilities, only the knowledgeable can dabble in the food of peasants and judge it adequately, but those of the lower classes simply don't have the ability to know the difference .
                                  They're quite hopeless. They may not even have the ability to learn.
                                  Why dignify them with a joyful name?
                                  Please, God, don't make ME share one with them!

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    I refuse to say that class has anything to do with taste. Food is universal. Look at barbeque--it's something which is poo-pooed by many, but when done right, is something highly esteemed.

                                    I don't consider myself a foodie--I'm a food lover. An epicurean who will try everything, and will be witness to food good and bad, by some who claim to know good food but will be making it horrible, as well as such by peasants who make food in such a way that will make anyone swoon with the flavours and nuances.

                                    Foodie? Hate the name. Food lover? Absolutely.

                                    1. re: Caralien

                                      MS was refering to the author of the blog post who went to great lengths to insert class into the discussion:

                                      "To me, 'foodie' is akin to America's insistence that the person we choose to run the country bowl a decent game, own a mutt, work the ranch and avoid refined pursuits...you know, reading, discourse, that sort of thing--elitist stuff. To put it another way, a gourmet knows the aroma and flavor of borscht by heart, while a foodie can see Russia from her house."

                                      So now foodies are dumb redneck Republicans who like bowling and Sarah Palin and that's why he doesn't want to associate with them?

                                      How is the author able to enjoy good BBQ when the people who create it are those same people he puts down?

                                      He loves the "peasant fare" but looks down on the "peasants" which is exactly what I expect from someone who uses the term "peasant fare" in the first place.

                                      1. re: huaqiao

                                        I may be so completely lost then, as I refer to my own cooking as peasant fare--finding what's on hand and making it taste good. It may not be the high foods of haute cuisine, but I haven't yet met a soul who wasn't appreciative and happy with the food I've made! Sometimes, at hostels, it was made with cheaper foods (including--ooh! ramen!), but food made with love is always appreciated, particularly when it's shared with others.

                                        A good cook will be able to make something from nothing. Hence, stone soup. One of the reasons I love Jacques Pepin is his ability to transfer the knowledge and the ability of taking something apparently pedestrian and making it wonderful. That to me is the sign of a good chef. If you have truffles, use them. But some good mushrooms will also be quite good!

                                        1. re: Caralien

                                          There's a huge difference between labels that are OK for people to use on themselves and labels they use for others.

                                          I call my cooking "crap I just threw together". I would never be so presumptuous as to call anyone else's cooking "crap they just threw together".

                                        2. re: huaqiao

                                          This dumb redneck Republican will have to punch you if you call me a foodie. ;)

                                  2. I think it is much ado about SQUAT!

                                    Screw the lingo and bring on the flavor.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JanPrimus

                                      Excuse me in advance for resurrecting my pet peeve, which is "healthful" vs. "healthy," but I still cringe when someone describes food, rather than a person or lifestyle, as "healthy."
                                      I take no offense, however, at being called a foodie. I dare say it is a personal preference.
                                      Have to admit I take offense at anyone being called a douche!

                                      1. re: grantham

                                        Funny, that's the word that came to mind whe I read the story.

                                    2. I've referred to myself as an epicurean, when religion was asked.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Caralien

                                        Cool! As an agnostic I must remember that one. Epicurean: I worship food!

                                      2. I think you'll find a lot more people calling themselves chowhounds who
                                        formerly called themselves foodies than you will find calling themselves
                                        foodies who formerly called themselves chowhounds.

                                        In the same way as you also find more former children calling themselves
                                        parents than former parents calling themselves children.

                                        In both cases, the nomenclature suggests a progression.

                                        20 Replies
                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                          I would argue that outside of this site, NOBODY calls themselves a chowhound, at least not in the context you refer to. Seems that uses of this site have a parochial view, and assume it is bigger than reality.

                                          1. re: AHan

                                            How very parochial of you to say that! :)

                                            It's easy to figure out what this reality is you're talking about. Register a new CH account. Check the user number. Subtract 10,000 from it because the user numbers seem to have started at 10,000. Note there are almost a quarter of a million registered CH users. Not too shabby!

                                            Google can provide 2/3 of a rebuttal to your first assertion:
                                            That's half a million uses of the term separate from this site. Scan through them and notice that in fact, a large percentage seem to be using the term in precisely the present sense.

                                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                              OK, of that 1/4 million, there are many people registered more than once, certainly many who registered and never use the site, and many who reject the term and corresponding redefining of "foodie" offhand.

                                              As for the Google stats, those numbers are useless without seeing how they are used. 1. Many are likely references to the Chowhound site, i.e. "I was just looking at Chowhound and saw...". 2. Countless others use the word chowhound as more conventionally defined, as in how the dictionary defines it.

                                              1. re: AHan

                                                i use chowhound. i'm very active here
                                                i'm a foodie

                                                1. re: AHan

                                                  You're throwing around more unsupported assertions.

                                                  I'm not sure what your point is about the dictionary. The dictionary defines chowhound as "one fond of food". I think everyone is in complete agreement with that. The problem at hand is that "foodie" is an almost unspeakably stupid-sounding word.

                                                  When you begin eating, your meal is called "num-nums" and mommy plays the airplane game to get it into your mouth. As you grow up and begin to use a knife and fork, you call it "dinner". The point is that "foodie"->"chowhound" shares a similar ontogeny.

                                                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                    I'm calling shenanigans on that. Some people prefer one word. Some people prefer another. That doesn't establish any heirarchy among them such that one is more elevated, sophisticated, or mature than the other. Indeed, there are some people who prefer not to be described by any one-word label. Where would they fall within your so-called ontogeny?

                                                    Speaking anecdotally, I have never heard anyone other than a user of this site describe themselves as a chowhound.

                                                    1. re: Frodnesor

                                                      > where would they fall ...

                                                      "normal person"

                                                      1. re: Frodnesor

                                                        I think your comment actually encapsulates the actual point of this thread and the OPs reaction to her boss' blog.

                                                        I've never heard anyone refer to themselves as a chowhound either and would think them pretentious and pseudo-intellectual. Would you raise one eyebrow and offer your hand for a secret handshake to see if the other person posts here as well? How long do you suppose before chowhound is the new foodie and eGulleter the new gourmand?

                                                          1. re: Chris VR

                                                            Hee! Technically that guy is a "gourmand".

                                                            1. re: Chris VR

                                                              There's an association I could happily do without.

                                                          2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                            The Webster's New World College Dictionary also defines "chowhound" as a "glutton." Personally, I'd take foodie over glutton any day.

                                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                I guess I should have clarified more. I'm just pointing out that words don't always have a single meaning and that different people hear different things when words are used. To some, "chowhound" makes them think of this site, while to others, "chowhound" is associated with a glutton. Just as some of us don't mind "foodie" while others really don't like the word.

                                                      2. re: AHan

                                                        I agree. Call yourself a chowhound to somebody who's never heard of this site and you're begging to be thought of as a greedy and indiscriminate eater- throw a piece of steak to a dog and it never touches the inside of its mouth- just flies down its throat intact. In other words, it's an inside joke, a friendly moniker for people who love food and like this site, and not one you'd probaby like to be known by in general- kinda like calling yourself a "slopchute".

                                                        I don't use any names in general to explain why I know more about food than most people I know, but once some friends at lunch at work asked me how I knew about something (can't remember what, but it was a fairly obscure food fact). I said "Are you kidding? I've been a foodie since the '70s." It seemed accurate, short and to the point. They understood. They didn't know that the term didn't exist back then, so no big whoop.

                                                        I liked the idea of a site being called chowhound.com when I first heard about it- it seemed like a gentle tease, an inside joke of a name.

                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                          Aren't you worried that you might get flamed for comparing chowhound to slopchute?
                                                          I'd never do that, but come on! I get it... hyperbolic humor.
                                                          In 2002, when I first ran across Chowhound I thought it was somebody's pet project, ran amuck.
                                                          Kinda like roadfood.com or http://pigtrip.net/, but more disorganized. I thought it was lowbrow and going to be all about pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, buffets and cheap food, so I left it for a while. Boy was I wrong!
                                                          I don't hesitate to mention Chow,com to people but I don't ever refer to myself as a "chowhound". Too much like promiscuous food guzzler.

                                                            1. re: Scargod

                                                              In the vernacular, ``chowhound'' has come to mean somebody who thinks about DiFara a little too much and worries that whatever restaurant they happen to be in at the time started to go downhill just five or six minutes before they got there.

                                                              1. re: condiment

                                                                Or would that be a Gourmet Prissass?

                                                                I'm gonna get in trouble for that, I know, but I truly grow weary of people like that

                                                      3. I like to play with food, create delicious food that pleases me, and to seek out the same in the world. Los Angeles on a day-to-day level, and the world on an expanded level give me options.
                                                        Simple foods done well and done iauthentic to the context send pleasure messages down my spine. Deliciousness is a term that helps us remember taste and community, and forget labels.
                                                        Freshly caught fish near the beach, barbeque by a real fire, haute cuisine in an urban environment are all authentic. These are the things that chowhounds have helped me find, and the things that help me feel present in the moment.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Phood

                                                          I think you are really correct about the value of "authentic" food that is "authentic to the context."
                                                          The stuffy food snob critic who wrote that essay was more concerned that "a gourmet knows the aroma and flavor of borscht by heart" and some such crap. Who gives a rat's ass?
                                                          How many people have we all known who have learned what they are "supposed" to prefer and how they are "supposed" to prefer it prepared and served?
                                                          They don't truly savor either the food itself or the experience, despite being able to describe and criticize it in exquisite detail.
                                                          How totally boring.
                                                          They can't enjoy "authentic" food or its context because they themselves are not authentic.

                                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                                            Call me boarish (sic), but I'm just a food slut; a real hot talmale with a frijole. Call me anything except late for supper!

                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                              I found that comical as well. While I know what borscht is, it is incredibly presumptive to proclaim that to be well versed in food requires the ability to instinctively recognize its aroma.

                                                          2. Just call me a "gastrowhore". Amazing that we have twats, tools and sluts who do not want to be called, or use the word, foodie. I use foodie when casually talking among friends, much like I might say shitty rather than bad.
                                                            What's a tool, anyway? Can't be a wrench or hand tool, can it? Where's my Urban Dictionary?
                                                            I thought the article slightly humorous; not to be taken too seriously. I do dislike all the nasty martini variations, so if that's what "foodies" drink, count me out!

                                                            1. Hate it! Sounds too much like preppy and yuppie, which have very negative connotations.

                                                              I don't like gourmet or gourmand either. Chowhound works for me, as does "someone who likes to eat but hates to cook," as well as "a trencherman of some repute." 8>D

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                                i like Foodie because I like the show Diary of a Foodie and the way they define it.

                                                              2. I love the passion and pickiness of Chowhounders; however, I can't help but think of over-quoted Shakespeare while scrolling through this thread:

                                                                What's in a name? that which we call a rose
                                                                By any other name would smell as sweet

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: sfumato

                                                                  I disagree. Not the same thing. Does a rose smell sweet, in the forest, if no one is around? Using the word rose, or any other name, would be meaningless, were it not smelled or gazed upon. It is an object. It requires having a reference if we are to talk about it and if we are unsure of what the name means.
                                                                  Foodie is a description, a personal style, not an object. It's awfully hard to talk about such things as this if we aren't somehow grounded by language. That's why we have so many words. If we keep putting words around it we may be able to recognize a foodie, where we couldn't have before and discriminate and accept it as different from a gourmet.
                                                                  The whole point of learning the meanings of words is to make communication more lively and nuanced, and to make it possible for people to share their ideas. If we really start to think that the words we use are of little importance, our communication becomes blurry and unintelligible.

                                                                  In the matter of the rose, Juliet did wish that the name Montague, attached to her lover Romeo, should not matter, but as we know, the play is a tragedy and his name (and all that it meant to people) mattered all too much.

                                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                                    I'd love to discuss/debate about the meaning of words, but I love to find and eat delicious food even more; given a choice, I consider my time better served looking for places/food that are under reported or new or unknown and trying them so that I can find something new and delicious. I could survive without a label, but if I don't eat I'll die.

                                                                    1. re: limster

                                                                      Agreed, limster!

                                                                      Enh, Scargod, I don't agree with many of your arguments there, but that debate could go on forever so I won't bother.

                                                                      There will always be terms like "foodie" that people don't like- some go out of vogue and others will come in. This discussion could go on forever. :)

                                                                2. personally Ive always despised the word foodie but like others Ive become desensitized over the years. I dont think anyone would claim this label proudly.

                                                                  I think though, that the critic's attempt to use a french classification system for people involved with food is misguided. After all the french cuisine is monolithic, fully codified and stratified, and the french probably all understand very well where they fit in in their taste and involvement. Our food culture in the US, with our own regional cuisines and multiple ethnic backgrounds, instinct toward social levelling (rather than the class distinctions of europe) and incomplete adoption of the french culinary canon means that these terms really cant apply in a global context. When I go to the Met and see a well padded Ingres bourgeois man, I think "gourmand", not otherwise.

                                                                  There are food lovers, refined or otherwise, in every country or continent. At this point Im just glad that we are able to talk and listen to others so inclined - label or no.

                                                                  1. I have to repeat something written earlier:
                                                                    foodie rhymes with doodie

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Caralien

                                                                      My aim in life: to become an old foodie-doodie.

                                                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                        And THAT is the perfect ending to this thread. :-D