What Is A Foodie? Not Me!!!! Puhleeeze!

If you’ve read some of my older posts, well, with the rather exaggerated focus on food matters, one might surmise that, to use the colloquial term, I am a foodie.

Let me assure you that I am not.

I would never, ever refer to myself in that way, and cringe with others choose to do so.

“But you seem to love food so much, how could you NOT be one of those?”

Hmmmm. Here it’s gonna get sticky, and I’m gonna end up sounding even more screwy and snobbish than any foodie could possibly be. So what’s the difference?

Well, in my humble opinion, a foodie is someone who wants people to think they know a lot about food, that they care about food, that food plays a big role in their lives. However, it’s been my experience that folks who accept this label usually don’t really know all that much about food, their true passion is making themselves appear puffed up and knowledgeable among their friends, and anyone within audible conversation distance at restaurants, markets and so on. Gag me with a spoon.

The website chowhound.com which I frequent, or used to, when looking for what is going on in cities I am about to visit, or even those in which I have lived, has an interesting way of delineating true chowhounds. (Portland, Oregon has about the worst local chowhound.com forum I have seen, which is amusing to me since the city is constantly lauded as being the new mecca for food and dining in the USA. If chowhound is any sort of indicator, I’d have to say that Portland is more like a food cesspool. But I digress…)

Chowhound, as defined by the website, is one who lives to eat, as opposed to those who eat to live. A chowhound will travel hundreds of miles to sample some esoteric food, or the best fried chicken. You see, even lowly fried chicken can be ‘hound-worthy. But will a foodie get a virtual hard-on over some amazing yardbird?  Not likely. For the foodie, the chicken must be prepared in a far more sophisticated manner. You pick. But fried? Not a chance. No balsamic involved, no kiwi, no exotic peppers.

Here is a great example of a foodie in action.

My House in Providence

About ten years ago I moved to Providence, Rhode Island where I bought a nice old home built in 1890. First thing I did was re-do the kitchen to make it functional—in 110 years, no previous owner bothered installing kitchen cabinets or counters. After the work was done, and it didn’t take long because the kitchen was so small, the neighbor from across the street came over to introduce herself. When she saw the kitchen, she said, “Oh, you need to meet my husband, he loves to cook and has remodeled our kitchen like this, only bigger!”

So she dragged me immediately across the street to meet her man.

My Providence Kitchen

When I saw his kitchen—decked out with an eight-burner commercial range and a ten-foot long stainless steel dish washing “station” that had no business being in this smallish kitchen. I mentally slapped my forehead, and then again when he finally started on his tour around the place. This guy was totally full of himself and his own shit. The kitchen also featured a rather useless “commercial” refrigerator, meaning it had no freezer and, being only about twelve inches deep, was incapable of hold anything of any size. His freezer was a couple of rooms away. The dog and pony show ended with a glass of iced tea, sweetened with, not sugar, but with his specially prepared simple syrup…which is what? Sugar dissolved in water. Gimmie a break.

As we talked about HIS cooking, at some point he said, “Why don’t you come over sometime when I’m cooking. You can be my sous chef.” WTF?!?!?!?!?!!?!?   Are you kidding, you pretentious motherfucker?  But I let that slide. Then he said, “What do you cook? Like a bunch of one-dish meals?” WTF Number Two!!!?!?!?!?!??????  I let that slide too, but I was mentally honing my knives for future use in his kitchen….

During my time in Providence, I routinely hosted dinner parties for the handful of great friends I had there, and often included Mr Chef and his poor, sad, suffering wife (can you imagine living with an asshole like this???).

One evening, I made some of my well-regarded fresh tortelli (ravioli in Tuscan lingo) which I served  with my equally well-regarded tomato sauce. After everyone had nibbled a bit on the tortelli, Brandon the Food God said, “Mike, this sauce is great. What’s in it?” I quickly and deftly responded with this: “Brandon, YOU are the food expert, why don’t you tell us what you think is in it?”

So this foodie asshole took another bite and began his proposed ingredient litany: “Let’s see. Onion. Garlic. Oregano. Basil. Olive oil. Rosemary….How’m I doing?”

With a giant smile, I said, “Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.” Oh God, that felt good.

“It is simply tomato, with fresh, uncooked butter and a few basil leaves. Salt, pepper. Done.”

(The recipe comes from my Italian food guru, Giuliano Bugiali’s book, The Art of Italian Cooking, perhaps the best single book on Italian cooking. See it here. Sorry, Marcella.)

His need to over-complicate everything he, or anyone else, cooks is part of his foodie creed. American “chefs” suffer from this same syndrome, and it is why most Italian restaurants in this country are awful. They just can’t leave stuff alone. Italian food is all about a few prime ingredients combined in an artful way to create an amazing dish. American chefs don’t understand this, and have to, like a dog pissing on a fire hydrant, mark the dish as their own.

Never mind the fact that, for example, so many classic Italian dishes are the result of centuries of honing technique and recipe. But that isn’t good enough for the American foodie and macho chef. Oh no. “I’m gonna make it better, you just watch.”  Bobby The Asshole Flay is a great example of this on his Food Network “Throwdown” show…throw up is more like it. He is so cocky, he knows he can make any time-tested recipe better by adding all sorts of needless, but oh so trendy, ingredients that really have no business going into the dishes at hand. What self-indulgent, ignorant arrogance.

And that, my friends, is what makes self-proclaimed “foodies” tick. Self-indulgent, ignorant arrogance.

I may be stupid, and I may be ignorant, but I will admit to all of these delightful qualities. I usually admit to what I don’t know. But, in the long run, I truly respect food and tradition. Foodies do not. They want to wear balsamic vinegar on their sleeves and on their ultra trendy salads, even though they have probably never actually had REAL balsamic vinegar, and don’t know that it exists. Foodie-ism is a badge, like driving a Lexus.

My 2003 Honda

I’ll stick with my rather modest Honda, thank you very much. It will get me the 500 miles cheaper in that quest for great BBQ than any Lexus…

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