Foodie is a relatively new term that entered our vocabulary during the mid 1980's. The word is defined as “a person having an enthusiastic interest in the preparation and consumption of good food.”
But when I picture a foodie, I think of a snob.
Of someone who will turn their nose up at my cheeseburger because it's not made with Kobe beef. Of someone who won't let me eat tuna because it's over-fished. Of someone who sneers at a tomato salad served in winter, the season when they're out of season. When I think of a foodie, more "dont's" come to mind than "do's".
If someone wants to be taken seriously as a foodie, they need to show that they're serious about food. In order to do this, they do in fact need to know what vegetables are in season, which fish are facing extinction and why El Bulli is closing. But this level of purism, knowledgeableness and awareness often times become conservative in its approach and restrictive in its practice. Pleasure, enjoyment and satisfaction no longer remain the muses of the foodie; instead, self-righteousness, snobbishness and pretension prevail. Foodies nowadays have started taking themselves too seriously---sometimes I just want to eat a chili-dog or a gyros, not because it's a symbol of local (sometimes immigrant) identity but because it's simply good. It's comfort food, food that I crave in the pit of my stomach, food that once I eat satisfies me in a way only comparable to a warm bubble bath or a sunday afternoon nap in your lover's arms or a good cup of tea. I'm not going to deprive myself of these pleasures simply because of they way that they are labelled- “fast food”, “dirty food”, “hangover food”. We forget that these foods are someone's cultural heritage, even if they have become dumbed down and Americanized for the Western palate. And even if they aren't culturally notable, they still serve an honorable purpose: to nourish. To nourish not only our hunger, but also our bodies, our hearts, our emotions and our souls. I admit that a chili-dog may not be the healthiest thing with which to nourish my body, but in this world of culinary excess and permanent access to any food any way we like, in this world where we no longer need to hunt and gather but can have food delivered to our laps with the click of a button, it's important to remember that the purpose of the chili-dog, despite all of its flaws, is to nourish.
And why should I feel embarrassed to admit that that is what I'm craving? In all honesty, I would never dream of publicly conceding to my guilty pleasures, chili-dogs and gyros included. But pleasures they are, and when did we start living in a world where admitting our pleasures became looked down upon? The answer to that question is probably 'always'.
I do consider myself a foodie, but not one of those foodies. I consider myself a foodie who worships at the altar of pleasure, of satisfaction, and of hedonism. If I'm craving a tomato in January, then by all means I will sink my teeth into that tomato and eat it like an apple. To not do so would be to deny my most primal cravings, which is, quite frankly, a sin. We would not deny ourselves water when we are thirsty, so why do we deny ourselves food when we want it, when we need it?
To me, it's all about balance. If I eat a tomato in January, I eat it because I crave it, but with the full knowledge that it will taste nothing like the blood red beef-heart tomatoes that I eat in Greece in the middle of August, when the heat of the summer sun has practically baked them into a caramelized red the color of blood. The awareness and knowledge of when I should ideally eat this tomato are what make me a foodie. But the fact that I will ignore that knowledge, close my eyes, and bite into that tomato with the full hope that it will taste like a Greek summer day, is what makes me a hedonist. But perhaps it is this constant search for pleasure, comfort and nourishment that makes me a true foodie, a pure foodie. Because whoever argues that pleasure is not the most important thing when it comes to food can go join Greenpeace and leave the good food for the rest of us.