"At a dinner party the other night where people were asked to say a word about themselves, one woman said, 'My name is' — whatever it was — 'and I’m a foodie.' I cringed."
Each year Sunset Magazine holds Savor the Central Coast. For those with disposable income, it’s a way to spend a weekend drinking unlimited wine and posting on Instagram about how much better their life is than the rest of us. For restaurants, it’s a risk where we give out thousands of dollars in food in the hope that the publicity will increase Tuesday night walk ins.
It was the night before the festival - we had spent the day making quarts of chive aioli, frying what seemed like thousands of house made chips, and trimming lamb.
“Do you need any more chives for tomorrow?”
“Nope! We have lots of them.” The Chef called in the produce order and left for the night, ensuring that I would wrap everything up. As I tackled organizing the walk in, sorting through the Narnia-like realm that is our herb box, I pulled out the bag of chives. All we had were a small handful of limp tendrils.
Now ordinarily, a rational person would call the produce company and say, “Hey, I’m dumb and forgot to add chives to my list - could you add a quarter pound for me?” Crisis averted. Except I don’t know the number for produce, and have never called in the order before. In my moment of panic, a quick google search told me Albertson’s had fifteen minutes until they closed. I cleared out the black herb shelf of all the chives that were available there (4 bunches), paying a somewhat overpriced 2.99 for each of them. There I was at midnight in my apartment, mincing them under the white fluorescent light of the kitchen hood. I felt like I was almost breaking the law to cover up my little mistake… a junior Walter White in the making. The next morning, I snuck my home cut deli cup of chives into the cooler, so no one would wonder why I showed up to work with a container of chopped herbs.
The entire afternoon we were laying out hundreds of purple potato chips, dotting them with vibrant aioli before donning surgical gloves to top each one with lamb tartare. All of a sudden:
“Oh my husband will dig this. He’s a total foodie.”
There are a couple of food terms that make me involuntarily wince: casserole, crockpot, deconstructed, and compote to name a few. None of those make my innards groan though like foodie. When you devote yourself to a certain career, you’re going to encounter critics booing and criticizing you from a set of cheap, back row seats. For Obama, it’s the group of Republicans controlling the Senate. For the cook, it’s the foodie.
The term foodie no longer refers to someone who is the passionate home cook, or self taught artisan seeking to further skills in front of the stove. It’s been misappropriated. Meet someone who calls themselves a “foodie”, and there’s a 99% chance they’ve already done something to annoy you. Like how they cooked the latest 16 minute meal off of the Pioneer Woman’s website, or how a restaurant didn’t live up to their lofty standards, as reflected in their latest two star Yelp review.
Foodies are like vegans - they have to explicitly proclaim it out loud for all to hear, perhaps to compensate for what is actually a genuine lack of knowledge. With each chip of tartare that gets stuffed into their mouths, it seems like they’re obligated to make some sort of daft comment about something. They wonder whether our chives were hand picked from a sustainable plot of land less than two miles away, by a jolly old fifth generation farmer alongside his free range yet urban chickens.
But as I said, the foodies are loud and have influence. They’re the mole on our back that keeps growing and making us aware of their presence. And unfortunately, like Donald Trump, the ordinary citizen pays attention to those brash opinions. So those who work in the hospitality industry, whether we like it or not, do our damn best to grovel the shit out of those foodies, especially the ones who come up to us and tell us they are one.