Let’s Burn Foodies at the Stake

The war against foodies has begun. Or, more accurately, it has gone public in a major forum. The Oregonian's "Non-Foodies Food Guide" is purportedly a listing of restaurants for average eaters. What it really is, however, is a concentrated assault on anyone who likes to think and talk about where they eat. If you don't like Applebee's or TacoTime, guess what: You've now been tarred with the "foodie" brush, the author's (well-executed) attempt to paint discriminating eaters as a bunch of closed-minded snobs.

Here's the story's opening: "Call them gourmands, connoisseurs, picky eaters, or just plain old snobs. Foodies blog, write and chat about pet restaurants, trends and chefs. They leave little room on their plates or in their hearts for fast food, family dining and the untrendy. And they can be pretty mean to some places we love."

"Snobs." "Pet." "Pretty mean." The emotional hot buttons pop right up—this isn't about celebrating overlooked food, it's a war against a class of people the writer doesn't like.

Undiscussed by this anti-foodie jihad:

1. Most serious foodies hate the word foodie. It's the food equivalent of the word blogger: a diminutive meant to marginalize and laugh off people you don't like and/or agree with. Foodie sounds insubstantial and silly, so it's a great choice for the writer's purposes—celebrating the Old Spaghetti Factory.

2. Real food-lovers don't hate everything big or everything chain. They hate lousy food and lousy value. Pitting effete $15 plates of microgreens and quail's eggs against a big ol' hearty steak is a false conflict. Sometimes that steak tastes great and is a swell value, and sometimes those quail's eggs are straight-up nasty, and a real gourmet is perfectly comfortable saying so. As a serious eater, yes, I've got strong feelings on cheese made seasonally from pasture-grazed milk and about craft beers made either true to style or in exciting new formulations. But I can also tell you why I eat at Taco Bell, and all about my favorite brand of instant oatmeal. I'm OK with that. Any passionate eater has a similar range.

3. There's nothing "foodie" or exclusive about recognizing that a lot of so-called family dining and fast food is just garbage. It's an objective fact. If your diet consists principally of an industrially processed pile of affordable carbs, butter, sugar, and meats, guess what: You've got a lot of doctor's visits in your future. There's nothing "foodie" about rejecting 1,800-calorie entrées that are mostly fat and salt; it's just good sense. Wanting real food in reasonable portions is not an exclusive pursuit of the effete elite, it's just sane.

All that said: To be perfectly frank, the writer's frustration is totally understandable. A noteworthy chunk of people who enthuse about food are highly irritating in the process (thus the newly coined word foochebag, which may really be the audience The Oregonian is trying to address here). But by attacking everyone who likes "the latest foodie craze—gourmet taco trucks" and defending everyone who likes eating at fast-food restaurants, you've engaged in precisely the same kind of dimwitted good-or-evilism that you say "foodies" practice on a regular basis.

The world's a complicated place, and thank God for that.

Image source: Flickr member stev.ie under Creative Commons