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NYTimes: Mark Bittman rethinks the word 'Foodie'

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/opi...

«At a dinner party the other night where people were asked to say a word about themselves, one woman said, “My name is” — whatever it was — “and I’m a foodie.” I cringed.

I’m not proud of that visceral reaction; in fact, I think it’s wrong. But I do wish there were a stronger, less demeaning-sounding word than “foodie” for someone who cares about good food, but as seems so often the case, there is not. Witness the near-meaningless-ness of “natural” and “vegetarian” and the inadequacy of “organic” and “vegan.” But proposing new words is a fool’s game; rather, let’s try to make the word “foodie” a tad more meaningful.»

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  1. I recently started a thread where I praised Bittman http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/974893

    But I think this is one of his worst ever. I'm glad he cringed because he SHOULD cringe... not about others, but rather about his own pretentiousness.

    1. I wish Mark Bittman would rethink his idea of "recipes".

      4 Replies
      1. re: linguafood

        I wish Mark Bittman would rethink his life.

        1. re: jpc8015

          I wish that chowhounds would stop thinking of the word "foodie" to ba a bad thing

          1. re: EWSflash

            It isn't reasonable to expect everyone to think the same way about this.

            1. re: GH1618

              Or anything else. :-)

      2. I hate the word too but that's because we're all told to hate the word. I don't care what the word is, but Bittman has a point. We can make it more positive.

        When people ask me about my food philosophy--and they often do--I say I'm a real food advocate. The words, "organic," "sustainable" and "natural," as Bitty says, have become meaningless.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sandiasingh

          Nobody had to tell me to hate the word. If it ends in 'ie,' odds are it's cutesie pie and noxious, IMO.

        2. Gee, I've had no problem with the term "foodie." It seems a great alternative to me to "gourmet" which has a feeling of pretension attached to it for a long time.

          The original aim of Chowhound was a place on the web where people wrote about and appreciated good food--the best food--but not necessarily in high end French restaurants, but rather, in modest settings in addition to high end restaurants. Being a "Foodie," rather than a gourmet seemed kind of downscale and appropriate. I like the term "Foodie."

          1. I think of my food habits as being a "conscious eater", I know it does not sound trendy or smack of an elitist air, but I do seek out small farmers whom are passionate about what they naturally grow/humanely raise. Foodie to me is just a term for "hobby eaters/food comsumers.

            1. He can no more make a word "more meaningful" than he can propose a new word. Slang terms have a life of their own. But I sympathize with him in not liking the word. My approach is merely to not use the word. There is no reason to fret over what others choose to call themselves.

              1. I think I have to "rethink" Mark Bitman.

                1. My first thought was, who asked him to? My second was, who uses that word in any serious way? I can understand his frustration, but the solution he proposes is maybe even more problematic: he accepts the utility of this artificial term as a legitimate marker of social identity, one based on mere consumption (I prefer starting with "someone who loves and appreciates good food" and then seeing where it takes me), and then tries to tack an even more expansive identity on it--one based on a vaguely defined politics of justice. That's loaded all around--whose definition of "justice?" Dan Barber's? Michael Pollan's? Mario Batali's? What metrics? Who decides? One can be deeply committed to fighting for better access to better foods with better impacts on the environment--without caring all that much about the things most "foodies" care about. Activists can live on burgers and fries, make a difference, and care not a whit about small batch salts.

                  1. Mark BIttman has nothing to say about food, nutrition nor culture that interests me. He's just a bore, from his recipes to his lousy ideas.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mcf

                      Many years ago Bittman came up with a pot roast with cranberries recipe. I can barely eat pot roast w/o cranberries or cranberry sauce since then, so I give him a wider than normal path when evaluating what he has to say.

                      Since words like 'foodie' are tossed around without much of a defined definition within conventional wisdom, I thought reading his thoughts about the word would be interesting to some.

                    2. That was a disappointing article. I don't mind Bittman, he isn't often in my thoughts, and I don't follow him or his writings.

                      The article just sounded like an ego driven rant.

                      - you call yourself a foodie, people call me a foodie, but I'm way more conscious and involved than you are, so I need a better label for myself or you need to change your label because I don't want to be associated or lumped in with you -

                      We all do this with labels, it is why so many people say "I hate labels" - but we all don't write such silly egotistical articles in the NYT about it . . . . .

                      1. Fuck labels, I like to eat, I like to cook, I like quality. Terms like foodie are fucking stupid. Anyone can call themselves a foodie, and anyone will, even if they don't know shit about food and eat at Darden restaurants. The term is useless, and the next shitty term we come up with will be useless too once morons start using it like fucking badge, like it means something, when in fact it means nothing.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                          LOL, EFGM, tell us how you really feel. I don't describe myself as a foodie but I don't have the visceral reaction to the word that many others seem to have. Labels, however, can be useful in identifying yourself to others or figuring out how their interests align with your own. What do we use instead to designate a person interested in all things food? I can't think of any other term that is *less* pretentious or obnoxious.

                          1. re: tcamp

                            RAWR, it's been a crazy week, I came a little unhinged there.

                            I've just found it to be overused to the point of meaning nothing. I've had people say shit like "Oh you're a foodie (when I tell them I cook or use modernist gear/ingredients) so am I, I love going to restaurant X, the good is great,"
                            When in fact restaurant X is a fucking cheesecake factory. The term foodie is blown out.

                            It's like calling anyone with a retirement account a Financial Advisor. Or calling anyone who drives 10 over on the highway in their sportscar a racecar driver. Since anyone can call themselves a foodie it means nothing.

                            1. re: tcamp

                              I do use the word on occasion to describe my obsession with all things food, and like you, the word seems silly or cutesie but I don't have a better alternative word that's easy to say and conveys the message that I'm really into food. I hate the term gourmet. My wife just says he's fu@king nuts ;). Well not really but I know she thinks it. Haha. She does enjoy the results of my obsession

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                Honestly, I can't really think of a time when I was lost for what to say about food in a discussion and needed a single word or anything approaching "foodie."

                                If asked, I typically say that I care a lot about the quality of the foods we eat, or that I'm a good home cook as compared to someone more chef like. I respond to the context, not with a label.

                          2. It's threads like this that make me cringe! :)

                            I chose my user name years ago when pregnant with twins and I was the only one I knew who ate like me except for family. I thought it was clever. It's threads like this that make me realize many on this site won't ever take me seriously. Which honestly? doesn't bother in least. I find it funny.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: foodieX2

                              Stay strong, foodieX2!

                              1. re: tcamp

                                Thanks T!!!

                              2. re: foodieX2

                                I don't pay attention to names. Plus I figured your name was old.
                                Hell, foodie meant something back then. Now it's worthless.

                                1. re: foodieX2

                                  Not to worry... I think folks will respond to the content of your posts more than to your nym.

                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                    "It's threads like this that make me cringe!" ... same here, for obvious reasons!

                                    I had no idea in '07 when I registered for this forum that my 5 second, on the fly choice of user name would be so polarizing. I was in a hurry to let someone know where the best cheese curds could be found in our area. Oh well, can't change it now.

                                    My use of the term simply refers to my life long interest in (and enjoyment of) all things related to food. Is that so bad?!

                                    1. re: Foody4life

                                      No

                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        It's that there isn't a common universally agreed upon definition. I don't know what everyone thinks about the term so I never call myself one. I don't even really know what it means..

                                  2. Everyone I know either proclaims himself a foodie or proclaims he is NOT a foodie but in fact really is. I mean, who in this day and age genuinely does not give a damn about ANY enjoyable or interesting aspect of food or eating? Very few people anywhere in the developed world, I would guess. The word will be with us for a long time, and we can't do anything to change its meaning because it means something different to everyone.

                                    1. For all those that hate the word foodie, what word would best describe a person who is passionate about all things food? What word do you like?

                                      18 Replies
                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        No one word. We're each different and care most about different aspects of food experiences. It's stupid to make up a word like we're in some juvenile Secret Handshake Club that others aren't privy to.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          I understand, but if you had to pick one word?

                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            LOL... there IS no one word and I *don't* have to!

                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                              I never understood why "epicure" couldn't be used instead. Perhaps it's not millennial enough. Someone I knew long ago in Los Angeles would call a particularly good new restaurant or satisfying meal in any price range as an "epicure's delight".

                                              1. re: RelishPDX

                                                I've heard "epicurean" bandied about too, relish, although the dictionary definition smacks of decadence.

                                                I agree that the word has a very broad meaning in today's world. I know millenials in Manhattan and other major metro areas who would call themselves foodies, but they eat take out every night, don't know how to cook and find a trip to Whole Foods "fascinating." Beets? I thought they only came in cans!

                                                What I am finding interesting here is the overwhelming dislike of Bittman. I don't understand it. I have never found him arrogant or insignificant. He's a fine writer and has a concept of simplicity combined with quality that I think appeals to a lot of people. What's the deal?

                                                1. re: sandiasingh

                                                  I don't get the Bittman hate either. He addresses complex topics and doesn't always get them right. But IMO he is the opposite of arrogant.

                                                  1. re: tcamp

                                                    I don't find him the least bit arrogant either, but I hear people say that a lot. He does think of big issues and I appreciate that--we need more of that.

                                                    It was obvious during the run of "On the Road in Spain" with Batali, Gweneth and the actress whose name I can't remember that Bitty was the least dramatic of them all.

                                                    1. re: tcamp

                                                      I don't find him arrogant, just overly earnest and spouting off about stuff he's terribly ignorant about, like nutrition and health.

                                                      I also find his recipes seriously wanting and I can't stand that he has the food column in the NYT mag, which I used to wait for with anticipation for years. I rarely bother to look any more.

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        Think you've hit it. He did well with his omnibus cookbooks, but he's really mostly a skillful and clever synthesizer and packager--an aggregator, I guess-- of basic cooking knowledge, repurposed and embellished at will. Nothing wrong with that, but the Times has pushed him into a high-visibility brand position as an expert on just about everything related to food, the environment, agricultural economics and politics. He brings no particular expertise to these topics, but settles for a kind of smug, down-home moralism, as if his solutions were self-evidently right to all but fools or fatcat interests. He is often right, sure, but both he and Pollan and some others exude an off-putting sense of being saved. It's ain't religion.

                                                  2. re: RelishPDX

                                                    For one thing, "epicure" describes only the experience of consuming food, while "foodie" potentially encompasses more, like being interested in the production or history of certain foods. Moreover, "epicure," like "gourmet," just sounds pretentious. "Foodie" caught on because people want to express that they enjoy some aspect of food--perhaps without wanting to express exactly whether that is consumption of it or something else--without sounding pretentious.

                                                    1. re: RelishPDX

                                                      I like the term "bon vivant." Unfortunately, while sociable, my tastes aren't really cultivated and refined.

                                                  3. re: mcf

                                                    So since we are each different, what word, phrase or combination of words would you use to describe your interest in food to others. Just curious and no secret handshake required

                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                      It depends on the context and what is asked of me. I'm not being difficult, I just avoid labeling. I can tell you it would be spoken English.

                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                        "Real food" and "slow food" cook.

                                                        1. re: sandiasingh

                                                          Duly noted. Thanks for replying

                                                    2. re: scubadoo97

                                                      I think the word is just fine as a label. It conveys exactly what it is supposed to convey - that you're into food.

                                                      I've never really understood why people are so opposed to "labels" like these. They are quick easy descriptors that give a general direction. Of course one word can't describe everyone or even a single person in all their potential subtleties.

                                                      At a dinner party or during an introduction it gives people a general idea of your interest and if someone shares that interest a few easy follow up questions can help to clarify things. If you don't care about "food" then you wouldn't care about the various aspects of a "foodie" anyway.

                                                      The issue I always find comes from within a label. This "foodie" feels like they are different from the other "foodies" because of X, Y, Z. That is just ego in my opinion.

                                                      1. re: thimes

                                                        Nope, you lost me with that last. I hate the cutesiness of the label. Maybe I'm just not a joiner. ;-)

                                                      2. re: scubadoo97

                                                        "Epicure" is the standard English word for someone who appreciates good food, but "foodie" is not an exact synonym. It has other connotations which have been discussed before.

                                                      3. Another badly written article from Bittman, that's really like this type of news:

                                                        http://feisar.de/content/gfx_en_break...

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: honkman

                                                          +1. I don't know what his point is (or was), it read like a disjointed rant involving way too much navel gazing and inside baseball. I want those 90 seconds of my life back.

                                                        2. Label jars, not people.

                                                          [couldn't resist my 1970's lingo]

                                                          1. Face it, it's such a stupid word. Like gourmet but marginally less pretentious.

                                                            1. This is ridiculous.

                                                              Foodie is a pretty clear label. Nothing wrong with the word, nothing wrong with being a foodie. Its a big tent. People who like food .I look at wikipedia (a place as good as any other to try to get at a common/popular understanding of the meaning of a word) and I find that definition:

                                                              "A foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicurean can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude."

                                                              Hell, I am a foodie. There is not shame in it. No need to cringe. There is no need for social activism either. If you want so much to make your concept identified you come up with your own word, you pretentious piece of .

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: CaptCrunch

                                                                Ha! So there, you snobs!

                                                              2. If "foodie" is your identity, then you might be taking it a bit far. I don't introduce myself as a plantie (avid gardener), or trippie (like to travel).

                                                                1. Courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine, perhaps we could use the phrase "Crazed Oral Gratifier" instead of foodie. :)

                                                                  (It appeared in the opening paragraph of this rather good article about Anthony Bourdain):

                                                                  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-cu...

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                    Food wasn't the first thing I thought of upon reading that phrase. More like a porn title.

                                                                    Just saynzall.

                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                      I was thinking it would be the purrrrrfect ice breaker during those awkward moments at cocktail parties.

                                                                      "Me? I'm a crazed oral gratifier."

                                                                      Then watch to see how many people choke on their canapés.

                                                                      But you see, you'd have to have a co-conspirator handy. Someone to pipe up and ask if you really meant foodie after all. :)

                                                                      It would certainly raise your profile for the rest of the evening, and attract the most interesting people to chat with.

                                                                      1. re: RelishPDX

                                                                        Quite the cunning linguist you are.

                                                                        1. re: globocity

                                                                          A woman I used to work with called her multi-lingual dictionary-writer husband a cunning linguist. His last name was Horlick. Yes, really.

                                                                        2. re: RelishPDX

                                                                          You could also tell people that you're in the army and your name is Colonel Angus.

                                                                          1. re: 4X4

                                                                            My wife thinks that Colonel Angus is delightful.

                                                                            1. re: 4X4

                                                                              And the g is silent

                                                                      2. I cook and grow my own vegetables and do some canning. I eat at restaurants that make real food, not chains that fix 'heat & eat'.
                                                                        I don't know anyone who uses the term foodie, though most people I know do all the same things that I do. Maybe it's not living in a big city. Maybe it's living in the Deep South, where God is in charge of everything, anyway. There just isn't a drive to label one's neighbors as foodies, or millenials or epicurean or whatever.
                                                                        Though 'goober' is ubiquitous.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                          I live in the South, too, and I understand. It's not just the South but, I suspect, much of the rest of the world outside of those parts of the US where one gets the impression that "good food" was an urban discovery made in the past 20, 30, 40 years. My wife's family is from a rural region in Europe. She grew up helping grow what would today be called "organic vegetables" (but back then were simply called "vegetables"), can the vegetables, raise chickens, etc. Her family would only patronize restaurants with this sort of ethos, too. Her parents taught her to appreciate certain traditional foods like offal, pate, and ripe cheeses. Now married to me and living in the US, she gets labeled a "foodie."

                                                                          I think the REAL goobers are the hipsters who think that nobody understood good food until their kind blogged about it or whatever. Much of the world has been quietly eating and enjoying food this way for generations, and they are NOT "foodies."

                                                                        2. any term is going to get old and tiresome but I like 'foochebag' - that works for me. self-deprecating and presumptuous at the same time.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                            LOL! 'Foochebag'. Great reply. I'm going to use that when the situation calls for it. :)

                                                                            I remember the first time I was actually offended by the term 'foodie'. When FoodTV was still in its infancy, some couple won a 'dinner date' with Jacques Torres in their home somewhere in/near New York. They did a huge website about it, and just went nuts over how having Jacques in their home (not only as a dinner guest, but also there to prepare the dessert, IIRC) was elevating them into the ultimate foodie couple.

                                                                            After spending some time on Google, I couldn't find a single trace of the website they set up or anything about the show, so I'm just going on memory.