“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
“Watch a French housewife as she makes her way slowly along the loaded stalls… searching for the peak of ripeness and flavor… What you are seeing is a true artist at work, patiently assembling all the materials of her craft, just as the painter squeezes oil colors onto his palette ready to create a masterpiece.” ― Keith Floyd
“Americans are just beginning to regard food the way the French always have. Dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is the evening.” ― Art Buchwald
A while ago, someone read several posts on this blog & said to me, “I really enjoyed reading through all of your food posts. I’m a big foodie, like you.”
Uh… what? Like me? Me? A foodie?
I like to eat, sure. I love to cook & try new foods, recipes & cuisines. I like to talk about food with people who like to talk about food, who know & enjoy good food… but the term “foodie” just sounds so ridiculous. No offense to anyone (Actually, be offended if you need to be & really want to be. I’m just trying to be fucking polite.) but when someone tells me that they’re a “big foodie,” I immediately lose interest in the conversation.
I loathe the word “foodie.”
Part of the reason for this is because most people broadcasting their “foodie” status don’t seem to know much about food, they’re often just people who like to eat. This is fine. I like to eat, too. It’s fun, often delicious & it keeps me from dying, which is something I like very much about eating.
Hearing this stupid word over & over again did get me to thinking, though. Why is it that here in France, where almost everyone has an extreme appreciation for food, there is no one walking around proudly announcing what a big foodie they are?
I’ve done some digging & I’ve asked around a bit. I can’t find a direct translation. There is no French word for “foodie” because it’s some made-up American shit.
There’s épicurien: adjective; fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating and drinking.
And gastronome: noun; a connoisseur of good food; gourmet; epicure.
I found the most satisfactory definitions on Urban Dictionary:
I didn’t know how to eat before moving to France. By “eat,” I don’t mean the physical act of picking up food & sticking it in my mouth, though I do admit to occasional mishaps resulting in food going in all sorts of places nowhere near my mouth.
What I’m talking about is something else. I liked eating before I moved here. I’ve always been adventurous about tasting new things. But I didn’t appreciate eating the way I do today. I didn’t know all of the things that I do now. Before my life in France, food was something to keep me alive. It was a necessity & didn’t matter much where it came from or how it was prepared, though I did prefer that it taste good as opposed to being bland or tasting like a bit of deep-fried vomit.
One day, when I was still living in Colorado, Olivier asked me if I liked mushrooms.
“No way,” I said, “Those things taste like shit. I don’t like mushrooms at all.”
“Really? Maybe you just don’t know mushrooms.”
He was right. It wasn’t enough to say that I liked or disliked mushrooms. I had to know my girolles from my cépes & morilles. One day, Olivier & I bundled ourselves up & ventured out into the freshly fallen winter snow with my father-in-law, who led us out to the forest behind his house. He explained to me where to find mushrooms, what to look for & how to tell deliciousness from crap while it’s still in the ground.
It turned out that I absolutely love mushrooms & enjoy cooking with various types of them quite often. What I didn’t like was the crappy, generic canned mushrooms that I had been fed growing up. Truly, I did not know mushrooms.
The difference between good & bad is actually quite obvious…
I’ve learned a similar lesson about various other foods. I’ve also become more aware of things like which foods & dishes come from which region & what time of year is best for eating this fruit or that vegetable.
Do I call myself a “foodie” now? Hell no.
I’ve noticed other things over the past 6 years. When I’m with French family & friends, we often talk about food. We chat about what we’re cooking, how we cook it, what we’re growing in the garden & when visiting, we bring one another food that we’ve grown or prepared.
One day, as we were all enjoying a big family lunch together & were of course, talking at great length about food, my mother-in-law said, “People who eat only to stay alive… this is so sad. This would be an unhappy life for me. Food is such a pleasure… & it’s so important for a good life.”
I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly. Since leaving the U.S., I’ve learned to truly appreciate food. From strolling around outdoor markets in search of fresh ingredients, to preparing & cooking… all the way to sitting down to a long, leisurely meal with my husband, I’ve come to genuinely enjoy eating.
So when I ask about foodies in France, the answer I get is, “What? This is an American thing to put these labels on people, or to tell people what you are. To appreciate food… it’s just… normal. French people know the importance of producing, eating & enjoying good food. There are no ‘French foodies’. Everyone here loves food. Gastronomy is part of our culture.”
Maybe it’s not that I became a “foodie,” but simply became more healthy & aware of what I’m putting in my body. Maybe I’ve just adapted to the lifestyle & eating habits of my adopted country.
It doesn’t matter. I still think the word “foodie” still sounds retarded.