“Whenever I was called a gourmet, I suspected I was being accused of something at least slightly unpleasant. But that was before I heard the term “foodie.” I am still not sure that a gourmet is a good thing to be, but it must be better than a foodie.”
—Mark Kurlansky, ‘Choice Cuts’ (2002)
I’ve never been called a gourmet—but then I’ve never been mauled by a shark either. And while I’m sure that not all sharks are maulers (just as not all gourmets are pompous windbags), I’d rather swim with the sharks than hang with the gourmets, as sharks apparently aren’t as picky about what they eat. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Like my buddy the shark, once I get the scent, I poise for attack. Korean barbeque? I begin to circle… Fresh-baked cinnamon roles? I make a slow, exploratory pass; back slightly arched, nose beginning to flare… Sizzling beef patties and grilled onions flipping wildly in the open? I ATTACK!!! I want flavor and I want it now! And I don’t care if it falls off a food truck or is served pinky up in a high-class French bistro! Thousands of years of evolution have only heightened this eating machines’ insatiable lust for all things ‘great tasting’! I’m a gastric predator! I’m a hot-blooded carnivore! I am…a FOODIE!
There, I said it. Unlike our esteemed gourmet blowhards, I’m not looking for perfection. I just want to get fed and I want it to taste good. Texture, color and presentation don’t mean squat to me. You ever eat a great chicken fried steak smothered in sausage gravy? A chewy, gray plate of mortar served up by an overweight blue-haired woman in her sixties may not sound like a slice of heaven to you, but I’ve had this dish taste so good in the past that the ‘ambiance’ didn’t faze me. Truckers, prison parolees and yours truly were all sitting elbow to elbow with that same stupid euphoric grin on our faces, thinking how great life was and how we couldn’t wait to come back for another round.
There is a restaurant space that sits next to a burger joint in L.A. that has gone through about eight different trendy ‘eateries’ in the last five years. Each was adored by the so called ‘gourmet food critics’ and made a huge opening splash. You couldn’t get into these places for the first two months because of the business that the reviews caused. So what happened? Each of those over-hyped hoity toity gourmet gardens have flamed out and packed up, while the lowly burger joint next door remains, and has thrived for almost thirty years.
Who started the food truck craze? Gourmets? I’ll tell you who did; it was you and me and all the other misshapen taste tweakers who weren’t following the self important ‘Critics-of-the-Common’, but were tweeting, texting and dragging their fellow ‘FOODIES’ (say it loud and say it proud!) to experience this new gastric phenomenon and to judge it first-hand. Yes Virginia, sometimes you do have to swallow, and until you do how will you know whether or not it was worth it? By reading someone else’s elevated opinion? I don’t want to build an ‘acquired taste’ for a food, a mate or a pet. I either like it or I don’t, and I don’t care what the name of the chef is or where he or she learned the tricks of their trade! They worked four years at the French Laundry? I don’t care if it was ‘THE’ French Laundry or ‘A’ French laundry. I’ll be back if it rocked my world and it doesn’t matter if you worked under Mr. Keller or Mr. Clean.
So what’s your preference—a four star review or passionate, excited texts from several close friends about the next great place that you just ‘have’ to experience? I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat food based off of the opinion of someone who gets in for free and then gets paid to tell you what they think, all while believing that their taste palette is superior to your own because they are ‘gourmets’.
“Whenever I was called a foodie, I suspected I was being accused of something at least slightly unpleasant. But that was before I used the term “blow me.” I am still not sure that a foodie is a good thing to be, but like I give a shit.”
Katt Kasper, ‘Foodie, First Class’ (2013)