Friday, August 10, 2012

My name is Diana, and I don't hate the word 'foodie'

"I feel like I always want to go someplace foodie when we go out," She says.

She doesn't mean it in a negative way, yet I still feel my face contort, physically recoiling away from the mention of the word.


It reverberates in my head like a trombone blasted in a small enclosed room as I pause to consider her statement and the underlying question.

We're standing in the carport underneath our office building, trying to decide where to go to dinner that night. Both of us are starving -- for crisp white wine, gossip, and a dinner that won't drain our wallets or  completely kill our budget of indulgences for the week. (Even "foodies" have to be able to zip up their pants.)

The usual suspects are thrown out. Salads at Tender Greens. Half bowls of ramen (that will likely turn into full bowls when we place our orders) at Robata Jinya. The Farmers Market Vegetable Platter and a shared Burrata Pie at Pitfire.

I can see it in her eyes, and I'm sure she can see it in mine.

We want to sit in a dimly-lit room. We want to clink glasses of something with a 500% markup. We want to hear the specials. We want to order the specials.

We want to be... "foodies" together.

As we leave to drive over to the modern Mediterranean restaurant down the street to share plates of fried white trout with spring vegetables and lebne, and white corn enlivened by the heat of Moroccan spices, it strikes me that I don't much mind the label any more. That my reaction was culled from a hundred diatribes from people I admire who have deemed it a forbidden term -- a four letter word (that's actually a six letter word) never to be uttered within the microcosm of the food writing community.

There was a time when I considered the "f" word a badge of honor. Until I was told better by an older and wiser superior, I flaunted it like a new pair of Louboutins, kicking up the heels so the bright red sole was on full display for all the world to see.

"My name is Diana, and I'm a foodie," read my "About Me," section on this very blog.

I had no problem outing myself as someone who cared about the things that went on her plate. It didn't seem controversial that I wanted my pasta to be al dente and my chocolate to be Guittard. In my mind, it was just good sense, and the term assigned to that particularity seemed both appropriate and, well, kinda cute.

I was stunned (and, admittedly, a little offended) when I found out that "foodie" was a bad thing. That I wasn't supposed to go around spouting about the "amazing" seared scallops with radicchio risotto I'd made for dinner the night before or the plum from the Santa Monica's Farmers Market I planning to eat for a snack -- at least not publicly to the non-foodies normal people.

As I began to find a place in the Los Angeles dining scene, I quickly realized that the term was used as a barometer of someone's true "foodieness." Actual "foodies" wouldn't dare use the word; it was akin to admitting you liked your burgers well-done and that your favorite restaurant was Cheesecake Factory. Desperate to belong in this foie gras-lovin', hole-in-the-wall-seekin' club, I banished the word from my vocabulary, changing my "About Me" to read "My name is Diana, and I love food." I was not about to out myself as a gauche newb.

In the months and years that followed, with every taste of uni or bite of taco I ate from a cart on the street, I felt as though I was moving further away from that loathed term.

"I am not a foodie," I'd declare to my dad when he'd boast to the server at our favorite pizza place, "She has a foodie blog."

Yet, as much as I tried to convince myself that I hated being assigned that identity, I've always secretly thought all the animosity toward it was silly. If not "foodie," what then? Is "gourmand," "food enthusiast," "epicure," or "eater" any better?

Recently, Grub Street New York published a list of "Food-Writing Clich├ęs" that need to be tossed out forever. While I agree with the majority on the list, the grating "yummy" and the flesh-curling "sammies," the predictable inclusion of "foodies" seemed to be a cliche in and of itself. While I'm not about to plaster a "foodie" tattoo on my lower lip so it's on display every time I take a sip of my non-Two Buck Chuck wine, or list it as a skill on my resume, I'm tired of pretending that it bothers me when someone identifies me as such. And I'm tired of avoiding it like it's the Cheesecake Factory of nouns.

Sometimes I like my grass-fed beef burgers cooked a little past medium. Sometimes I want my al dente pasta without uni. Sometimes I want to go to a restaurant with my co-worker and spend five minutes guessing what spices are used to season the corn because I'm actually curious, not because I'm a pretentious snob.

And sometimes I'm okay with being "Diana, a foodie."


weezermonkey said...

I love yummy.


Banana Wonder said...

Haha to Sharon's yumminess.

Great insight, D, and I can totally envision your dad saying "foodie blog." Go on with your bad foodie self, you game changer, you!

yutjangsah said...

Is it that all words ending in I-E (phon. eee) sound sophmoric? Yummy? Sammie? Foodie? I use all these words as terms of the highest distinction. It's my seal of approval. I love the word cookie. So I wont be moody or snooty about the word foody. My fave people are foodists aka foodies - even the ones who make fun of foodies bc at the end of the day (yes worst phrase ever) food is about sharing the
best things about life. Bdays, holidays & those mundane yet lovely dinners & lunches where you laugh and cry and eat way too much bread.

Diana said...

Weez - I think you should change your blog to Weezy Monkey. ;)

Anna - Haha, thanks, TALF!

Sook - Right? And where would we be without food? We'd be skinny ass bitches with no friends.

kevinEats said...

Hating on the term "foodie" has become even more played out than the word itself.

Diana said...

Kevin - Agreed! It's become as ubiquetous as bacon.