Quintessential Foodie: Myth or Reality?
Casual social conversation makes me nervous. Or at least it used to. The age old conversation topics of politics, weather and current affairs have always daunted me – not because I am a poor conversationalist, but more because these subjects don’t hold more than a perfunctory interest for me. Fortunately for me, food, travel and lifestyle are becoming more acceptable and, almost fashionable, as passing social conversation (read: you’re not considered dumb if you choose to discuss food or travel over politics). Thanks to the explosion of food and travel shows on TV, as well as increased exposure to the blogosphere and e-magazines, there’s a whole host of information and conversation out there on a wider range of subjects than ever before.
Today, everyone is a foodie or a travel junkie. In fact, I believe there’s almost a snob value attached to having knowledge of, or being able to talk to about, food. Calling yourself a foodie has become a trendy tag, with a whole lot of social and classist implications. But maybe people have forgotten that there are tags like gourmet, epicure and food critic for such folks!
So my question(s) is:
- What, or who, is a foodie?
- Who gets to decide who is or isn’t one?
Here are a couple of definitions I found online (here, here, here and here) but they don’t all agree with each other! My very own personal definition of a foodie is simply someone who has an intense love for food. Whether they can cook brilliantly, read about it, write about it, discuss it in a social forum is totally optional. And whether they can do it well is even further down in the priority list. The way I see it, anyone can decide whether they, themselves, or any of their friends, family or acquaintances is a foodie. But to say that someone is not a REAL foodie is not for us to judge. Since there isn’t a universally accepted definition or criteria or a series of check-boxes to tick, I think it’s unfair to deny anybody that title. Plus, there isn’t an association or governing body for foodies, yet, to lay down the law.
Despite that, there is a more than a little snobbery which emerges when it comes to food conversations. People make many assumptions, which I usually dismiss as myths about foodies, based on my overtly simplified definition.
My Top 20 List of Foodie Myths:
- Must have a full time career as a chef, or any other food related field.
- Must have considerable experience in the kitchen – personal or commercial.
- Must be an authority on molecular gastronomy.
- Must always shop at farmers’ markets and organic stores.
- Never makes a pronunciation error regarding food – specially the non-Indian kind.
- Must always be able to answer the question “What went wrong with this dish?”
- Must not share a secret love for khichdi/ dal-roti or other form of simple comfort food.
- Must be a discerning wine/ scotch drinker.
- Must be a non-vegetarian.
- Must be able to write about and take gorgeous photographs of food.
- Must know the difference between a mousse and a soufflé.
- Must watch every episode of MasterChef.
- Must be the proud owner of a pimped-out kitchen.
- Must own a wall full of cookbooks.
- Must eat out at least 5 times a week.
- Must be related to Vir Sanghvi.
- Must know the origin of every dish and its ingredients.
- Must be familiar with caviar.
- Must never host a pot-luck.
- Must never use frozen or canned products.
There are many, many more assumptions (and myths) out there, and I’m sure I would disagree with most of them.
India & Foodies
We come from a culture where good food is a way of being. Traditional (North) Indian hospitality is often defined by the phrase, “Bhai sahib, thoda sa aur khaiye nah!” (Roughly translates to – Brother, please eat a little more). Recipes are passed down from mother to daughter and are often guarded with ones’ life. Mothers express their love by feeding their children till they can eat no more. All our festivals revolve around harvest and food and there is a specific menu associated with each. Offerings in prayer are also mostly food-stuff, adding a religious dimension to it. Dairy Milk’s ad campaign in recent years of “Kuchh meetha ho jaaye” (Let’s have something sweet) epitomises the fact that meetha (sweet/ dessert) hardly requires a reason and, at the same time, are considered important for almost auspicious.
Stemming from such a food-obsessed culture, is it any wonder that everyone is a foodie? What has changed is merely the need to talk (or brag) about it. The glamour factor brought in by TV shows and the internet seems to be striking a chord with our generation and now everyone has something to say, loudly and clearly.
Are you a foodie?
I believe that there is a foodie in all of us, whether we know it or not. I am definitely one. If you declare that you are a foodie because you just love good food, then I am likely to agree with you!
So, do YOU believe that you are a foodie? Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think…