Ask Todd, Answer Gansie: Who Is a Foodie?
What used to be a semi-regular feature, where I would pretend to know as much about dining as the Washington Post restaurant critic, has trailed off. Tom Sietsema‘s food chats became either big bitch fests (yes, children eat at restaurants, shut up about it already) or intricate critiques of not so exciting DC dining establishments, so I haven’t kept up in relating the interesting questions back to you.
The Washingtonian retains its own restaurant critic and hosts its own food chat. I don’t read Todd Kliman‘s chats, save for the snipet I get emailed to me every week. I’m usually entertained, but never was I so intrigued until I read this question.
Washington, DC: Can a vegetarian/vegan be a “foodie”?
Todd Kliman: It’s a good question.
But maybe we first need to define our terms a little. I usually think of “foodie” in a few different ways. There are the foodies who can’t wait to tell you what city they have just returned from (often somewhere in Europe), and what they know about a top chef, and how they’ve eaten 75 times at Patrick O’Connell’s Inn at Little Washington, and how all of this — all of these things, together — qualifies them to expound at length on a particular restaurant, or a particular dining scene, or the worth of a person to express a view about something as essential and vital as, oh, a dish.
If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not. Not even close. That line about having eaten 75 times at the Inn, that came from an email correspondent of mine some months back.
This, of course, is an extreme example — although extreme examples abound in the food world.
There are also the foodies who care about where they shop, and what they buy, and what their choices say about them and the world, and who can muse upon the various meanings of a chicken for hours upon hours. These foodies are not big restaurant goers, necessarily, but they care a great deal about what they eat and where and why.
The person who loves to eat and drink and who lives to eat, as they say — this person is a foodie too. Someone who spends free time thinking about food, and keeping up with restaurants, and trying out new restaurants, and sharing news of discoveries with friends and family.
A subset of this last description is the food-adventurer, which is a little different. This is a person who doesn’t need to be told what is good — who would rather find out for himself. Who loves the seeking as much as the finding. Who sees restaurants as portals into cultures. Who loves the idea of armchair travel. Who doesn’t care about drapery or fixtures or carpets — only deliciousness.
So … to answer the question. I think, yes, a vegetarian or vegan can be a foodie. At least, one kind of foodie.
I have to say, though, I haven’t meat a lot of vegetarians and vegans who I would think of as food-adventurers. Nor do they tend to be the sorts of people who frequent big, expensive restaurants to the point that they love the game of it, and love to make pompous pronouncements about their importance. I don’t even know a lot of vegetarians and vegans who keep up with the food scene, or who make the rounds of new openings, etc.
Gansie: First, and most obviously, the term foodie needs to die. It means nothing at this point, or everything, as Todd noted.
Can someone that watches the Food Network every day, but never cooks and and always eat fast food call themselves a foodie: sure.
Can a food blogger be a foodie: of course.
Can someone that loves eating, eats mindlessly, consuming animals grown like chemicals be a foodie: yes, yes, yes.
But can someone that has taken the time to vigilantly decide what they will and will not eat be a foodie: maaaaybe.
I call bullshit.
I used to fucking hate vegans. I thought: why would anyone want to limit all of the deliciousness that could be flying around their mouth. But then I realized that maybe taste isn’t everything. Maybe morals and ethics and the environment could be involved in the eating equation. Shit, I grew up separating my dairy and meat for reasons that I’m pretty sure were totally made up.
Now I’m not defending religion, especially those that do not question what they blindly follow. But really thinking about and discovering where food — chickens, pigs, cows, eggs, corn, tomatoes, asparagus — comes from isn’t such a bad thing.
And Todd, hi, I’d like to welcome you to the world of food morals, which includes some pretty seriously dedicated vegetarian and vegan foodies. And you know why vegetarians and vegans don’t go out to the big, trendy, expensive dinners – BECAUSE THERE’S NOTHING THERE THEY CAN EAT.
Can I get an amen?