The term “foodie” found itself on the 40th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and Uselessness, published in 2014 by Lake Superior State University in Michigan. This made me wonder: Why is this word so despised by so many? Let’s explore.
Urban Dictionary, the crowd-sourced “reference” site for millennials, defines the term as “A douchebag who likes food.” Sorry, but that’s kind of “douch-y” in itself. Huffington Post has published an online article claiming to “hate” the word, calling it a “badge of self-entitlement.” They offer three substitutes – food lover, gourmand, and food nerd. Doesn’t “gourmand” sound a bit entitled to anyone? Also, not quite a year later they published “The Eleven Greatest Foodie Cities in America.” Must not hate it that much. The Daily Beast wants to “flambé” the epithet. To set it on fire? My goodness. These are only a few examples. Countless others can be found by entering this latest “F-word” into any search engine.
Some abhor it because they don’t like labels. Others because it is overused. Still others because they think it sounds juvenile. I wonder if these same people want to trash the term “techie,” defined by Dictionary.com as “a technical expert, student or enthusiast, especially in the field of electronics.” What about “Trekkie” – “an avid fan of Star Trek science fiction, television shows and films?” Will they refuse to watch the movie Goonies, or to call the new person at work a “newbie?” Aren’t premature infants referred to as “preemies” and people addicted to drugs “druggies?” Locals are “townies,” carnival folk are “carnies,” and people who have a particular love for a certain musical group are “groupies.” All of these words imply a singular, refined interest in something, or a certain expertise regarding it. How is the word “foodie” any different?
Many people claim that since everyone eats, everyone is a foodie. To them, I contend that in today’s world, nearly everyone uses technology, but surely we are not all “techies.” Being able to do something does not automatically imply a keen interest or expertise. Some people eat to live. Foodies live to eat. It’s a hobby, not just an activity in which we engage three times a day to survive.
And yet I propose an even further definition of “foodie.” That it’s more than having an enthusiasm, preoccupation, perhaps obsession, for all things food. On this, I refer you to the article “Rethinking the Word ‘Foodie’” by Mark Bittman, whom many would call a foodie indeed. In this article, Bittman encourages people to rethink the “foodie” label to be something “less demeaning-sounding” and “more meaningful.” That it’s not just giving yourself a label, but living a certain way. It’s not just eating out at the trendiest restaurants, but shopping at farmers’ markets, exploring local foods, and cooking hearty, healthy meals at home whenever possible. It’s educating yourself, not only about the best food truck in town, but also about how and where food is produced and sold and consumed. And it’s not only knowing about it, but making a conscious effort to do something about it.
Yes, I’m proud to be a foodie if that’s what it means. And to me, that’s exactly what it means.