Five Ways To Spot a Foodie
Yesterday, our own Katharine Shilcutt wrote an incisive, observant and nuanced article regarding the backlash against the "foodie" culture. Naturally, the discussion in the comments section, on Twitter, and elsewhere on the internet has primarily revolved around the many virtues of frog's legs, and whether or not a cooked frog can be considered a "whole frog" without its head, and other nitpicky crap only the foodiest of foodies cares about. Yes, as with many articles concerning specifically defined traits, we're seeing a lot of misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and just plain ol' missing the point entirely going on. So allow us to clarify:
WE DON'T HATE PEOPLE WHO LOVE FOOD. That would be crazy. We're a blog full of people who love food. What we hate are people who make the food secondary to their own vain trendiness, who will move on to some other scene once this one is no longer the hot button. What's the difference, you ask? We thought Katharine explained it pretty well, but just in case you needed more elucidation, here are five ways to spot a foodie.
1. Won't Put Down the Damn Phone We understand that with passion comes the occasional fanboy moment. We're not denigrating the folks who sit down at, say, Pink's Pizza and immediately think "Holy shit! This is a gorgeous pizza!", tweet a single photo of it, and then eagerly tuck in. We're not even speaking ill of the folks who try some kind of zany experiment like taking a photo of their progress through a gigantic chicken-fried steak every five minutes. That kind of stuff adds to the enjoyment of the meal and can turn a simple dinner into a truly fun experience. No, we speak of the ones who have their phones out throughout the entire meal, tweeting or texting random thoughts that may or may not have anything at all to do with where or what they are eating. People who take pictures of themselves and their friends before they've even tried the food, who crop the meal out of the shot in favor of some other status symbol, like the name of the restaurant or a fancy-ass aquarium or some such nonsense. These folks clearly don't care about what they're eating, they only care about having made the scene, giving themselves self-congratulatory pats on the back for their hip taste and expecting their friends to join in the circle jerk. Would you put down the phone, pick up your fork, and feed your face already?
2. Won't Eat Outside the Box Some foods are always great, regardless of whether or not they are currently en vogue. Shilcutt's point regarding frog's legs was not that they're not awesome, but that they've always been awesome, and they'll still be awesome long after the foodies have moved on to next week's trend dish. So when you see someone who claims to love food enthusiastically order a pork belly or a cupcake, yet witness them turn their nose up at a perfectly fine plate of ribs or a muffin, you know you're not dealing with a true food lover, but with a foodie. Foodies love food the same way everybody loved the Spin Doctors for one summer back in 1993. That ain't love, kids: That's infatuation and trendiness. Ask your parents about the difference.
3. Way Too Fashionable Unsurprisingly, food is not the only thing the foodie treats as an empty stylistic endeavor. True food lovers may or may not have any clue whatsoever how to dress fashionably, but the foodies will be decked out in the latest fashion trends right down to accessories like their cell phones, jewelry, and whatever's going to replace the Bump-It™. Even if they're somewhere where fine clothes are utterly impractical, such as a barbecue joint or low-end Tex-Mex diner, they'll risk staining their $500 ensemble just in case any of their Twitter suck-ups walk in and want a picture with them. God forbid they actually sit down and enjoy a meal without worrying about whether or not they look like a celebrity. Now, there's nothing wrong with looking nice, but foodies take it too far, having more fashion sense than common sense.
4. You Can Take the Foodie Out of High School... If there's one thing trendy assholes love more than anything else, it's creating drama wherever they go. A foodie will forward around clandestine emails from fake addresses, leave anonymous comments on many a message board, and create multiple Twitter / Facebook accounts from which to spread their back-biting social poison. If they can't get ahead by being worthwhile people, a foodie is always happy to get ahead by tainting the reputations of others. Ironically, many foodies who gravitate into the same exclusive clique in real life may wind up being bitter enemies online and never even know it. Not that it would matter if they ever found out, because foodies and other like-minded trend-whores don't really have any friends, only people they can use and people they can't. Remember: foodies don't care about the food, they only care about social climbing. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by utilizing the gossip skills they perfected in high school. Keep that in mind the next time you see a rumor or blind item-style passive-aggressive tidbit posted from any online account without a real name associated with it (Yelp, we're looking in your direction).
5. Doesn't Know Shit About Food Yes, pork bellies are tasty, and so is bacon. But why? What is it about pork bellies that gives them their unique flavor and texture? How is bacon made? Why are red velvet cupcakes traditionally frosted with a cream cheese icing, yet chocolate cupcakes aren't? What the hell is "red velvet," anyway? A foodie will be able to answer none of these questions, because a foodie, at their most basic level, is simply a poseur. A food nerd will devour minutiae and details about the foods they love as eagerly as they would the actual foods: where it originated, what it's made from, who makes the best version in town, and so on. Foodies will know only what is popular and where to get it. They have no interest in the food itself other than as an object to parlay into popularity and attention, so the details will concern them not even a little.
In the same way a true fan of music knows all about their favorite artists and a true fan of cinema knows every detail regarding their favorite films and the artists who created them, so too does a true food lover know their favorite dishes, chefs, restaurants and food-review publications. It's more than a fashion to them, it's a passion and a joy. You may call yourself a "foodie" as a referential shorthand, and that's fine, but if you truly have a love for the culture of food, you're not the kind of foodie we're talking about. The foodies we refer to might not even be foodies by this time next year, as it's very likely they'll glom onto some other scene which promises them equivalent or better social status.
In the end, it's all about what you love. Foodies love being popular. We love food. The end. Please feel free to discuss frog's legs in the comments section now.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.