What is a Foodie?

The New York Times recently published an opinion article, discussing the term ‘foodie’ and I, for one, disagree with parts of the article, and I wish to share my views.

Read the article by clicking here.

Mark Bittman states that he believes foodies, simply, are people who “understand that producing food has an effect beyond creating an opportunity for pleasure” as opposed to the common belief that a foodie is “someone who cares about good food”. This is where for me the main problem arises. How do we define “good food”?

Healthy Fruit Yoghurt Breakfast Healthy Salad

Good food is, according to Bittman, food that’s “real, it’s healthy, it’s produced sustainably, it’s fair and it’s affordable” and whilst I have few qualms about this definition, it seems flawed in how it comes across. Good food doesn’t always have to be “real” and besides how does one define “real”? For Bittman, “real” means traditional. There are 2 fundamental flaws to this, personally, and firstly, the fact that 80% of our supermarket shelves wouldn’t exist 100 years ago comes to mind. We live in a society which has work at its centre and this means there isn’t enough time for everybody to go get some rice from their paddy field. The supermarket is fundamental to the modern Western life and without it, how can “good food” exist?

The second flaw links to the second adjective in Bittman’s definition and food can be crammed with butter which isn’t that healthy but was around 100 years ago, so there is a contraction in terms here. High calorie foods can be cooked in high-end restaurants but still abide by much of the definition of good food, but does that not mean it is not good food?

Healthy food can be good but if you ask somebody on the street what food is good for them, you’d get a salad as the answer more often than not. The salad may taste good and make you feel good but would you want it as your last meal? I’d want a 100% Aberdeen Angus beefburger with onion rings and chips, not a rocket salad, or even a doner kebab. The idea that junk food is bad can be respected and I know that but good food makes me feel pleasurable.

Burger Doner Kebab

Whilst I agree that “sustainable suggest resource-neutral”, one could argue that making foodies change their diet to only include sustainable food, as good food is produced sustainably, is not sustainable itself. It is not a suitable long-term choice to buy everything organic from farmers’ markets as for many people it just costs way too much money. If you had just £1, would you buy one organic apple or a pack of funsize apples? Good food has to be affordable so there is a further flaw in the argument of what Bittman defines as good food.

In actual fact, the notion of enjoying food as Bittman describes has a word associated to it, which is gourmet, and for me, Bittman appears to classify foodie to the upper classes and the people with money too much. Foodie is not synonymous for snobby and I think this is where Bittman is wrong. It is, as a blanket term, a person who thinks about food or even enjoys the idea of eating and making food. There appears to be too much focus on the idea of good food and Bittman tries too hard to convince the readers that eating good food is best and not enough of appreciating the wonderful food out there, whether that is junk food or 3 Michelin star plates of food.

Bittman concludes with the sentence “It’s rewarding to find the best pork bun; it’s even more rewarding to fight for a good food system at the same time.

I’m being very honest now. I believe that Bittman is being very smug flaunting the fact that he can afford to buy organic food from markets every single day and projecting his diet onto us. I know that I should be eating more “real” food but to be honest, with an 8-hour school day, a minimum 6 hours of sleep and the impact of homework and exam stress, is it feasible that I must cook real, sustainable and healthy food because I class myself as a foodie? Of course it isn’t but I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur, an epicure or a gastronome because I absolutely detest pretentious food. So perhaps foodie is the term for people very much like me who live in a world dominated by work and have no time to prepare the food that people like Bittman try to tell us to.

Bittman, personally, is an epicure or a gastronome but not a foodie because Bittman doesn’t appreciate the other side of the food chain. When epicures and gastronomes understand that side of the food chain, only then can they be classed as a foodie.

A foodie is a person who enjoys both the eating and the making of the food, wishing to pleasure those who eat their food, and respects both high-end and low-end food.


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