The Few, The Proud, The Foodie

“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)

Burns My Bacon: Religion in My Food

Sure, if I’m going to The Bread of Life restaurant in middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, I might expect all of the menu items to be named after Biblical characters (the food is still strikingly good). If I go to Chick-fil-A I know I’m supporting a Christian company (Sorry, I really like those chicken nuggets)

But I don’t like religious propaganda when I’m not asking for it. I don’t want to open my eggs I bought at the grocery store to find scripture. Maybe it’s my fault for buying 89-cent a dozen eggs. But doesn’t the scripture quoted on my factory-farmed eggs come from the same book that tells us to treat our animals well? What is the point? Do they really think, as I make scrambled eggs, hungover as hell on a Saturday morning, that I will see this message and suddenly be enlightened? How many people say they found god inside of their egg carton?

White House Homebrew

“Four score and seven beers ago…” the founders of this great land never imagined that the leader of the free world would be touting the White House’s own home brew. But it’s true–=B-ROCK himself is supporting a small brewery in the White House for special parties and even on the campaign bus!

Stop the bus! Is this something that we can all actually agree on in politics? The right to crack one open? But wait! It’s not a big beer company?! Shocking…so not all beers are created equally? The President of the US of A says that it’s okay to drink a beer with taste. Put the Bud Light down and grow a pair. Maybe that’s a better slogan than “Forward.”

As for the kind of beer—that we can debate. The White House brews a honey ale (including dark and light varieties, for the sake of equality), but is this the best brew for America? What about us bitter American folk out there? Where’s the IPA to represent us? I want answers. Somebody pose the question at one of the Presidential debates.

So, from the candidates this year, I need the following:

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Who is the Eater of the Year?

Each year, Endless Simmer asks our loyal readers to vote on which person deserves the coveted title Eater of the Year. Past winners include Anthony Bourdain, Hezbollah Tofu, This is Why You’re Fat and Ruth Bourdain. So who made the biggest splash in the food world in 2011? The nominees are…

Herman Cain

Maybe it didn’t work out in the end, but you have to admit, there’s something admirable about a man who isn’t afraid to say that running the nation’s 36th best pizza chain qualifies you to run for president. In fact, there isn’t much at all Herman Cain is afraid to say. In a world where presidential politicians deep-throat corn dogs in public and then retreat to their campaign bus for lobster thermidor, it was refreshing to have an honest eater in the race, at least for awhile. Herman Cain wasn’t afraid to sing about his love for crappy fast food, or to declare that only sissy men put vegetables on their pizza. He wasn’t afraid to eat chicken wings win Michele Bachmann, or to propse that poor people don’t need food stamps because they can just buy used food. How is this man not already eater-in-chief? Just hope he never asks you to dinner. (Photo: Broward Palm Beach New Times)

Epic Meal Time

We can all acknowledge that the Food Network is pure shite nowadays, and there hasn’t been a food show worth watching since Cookin’ with Coolio. What the teevee execs don’t seem to get is that Americans don’t want 30 minute meals or cutesy casserole recipes. We want WORLD RECORD BREAKING FOOD.

Enter Epic Meal Time, the web TV show that ate all of the other web TV shows and then burped them up. Fancy an 84-egg sandwich? Meatloaf made out of McDonald’s? A Christmas tree crafted from bacon? EMT’s outrageous creations make state fair food look like a tea party hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow, and we just can’t look away. The ultra-American eaters dirty little secret? They’re Canadian.

The Lawrence/Julie & Julia Project

When Julia Child said she was going to use television to teach Americans how to cook French cuisine properly, people laughed at her, but she became a foodie legend. When Julie Powell said she was going to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and record it all on something called a weblog, people just thought she was weird, but she became a blog-to-book-to-big-screen phenomenon. When college student Lawrence Dai decided he was going to watch Julie & Julia every day for a year, people immediately realized he was a genius. Yes, the Lawrence/Julie & Julia Project had all the hallmarks of a jokey web project that wouldn’t last more than 15 minutes, but Lawrence actually did it, watching J&J a full 365 times, and firmly proving that online journalism does indeed have a purpose.

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Burns My Bacon: Cheflebrity Pseudo-Locavorism

There are plenty of controversies in the food world, but one thing pretty much everyone agrees on (except maybe Sarah Palin), is that the proliferation of local and seasonal ingredients on restaurant menus is a good thing. Even if you don’t care about counting carbon miles, it’s hard to deny that vegetables grown nearby and eaten in the correct season just taste better. Even if you love McDonald’s, it’s difficult to not be at least a little grossed out by factory-farmed meat. So every foodie should be excited that the farm-to-table ethos has expanded from homey, reclaimed-wood-paneled spots in places like Brooklyn and Portland to restaurants run by some of the nation’s most celebrated chefs. Right?

Maybe not.

I recently ate at ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s vegetable-centric, farm-to-table restaurant in Manhattan. Now when I say farm-to-table, I mean outrageously, over-the-top, down-to-the-tiniest detail farm-to-table. There is the requisite rooftop garden growing the eatery’s herbs, and everything down to the soy-based candles is organic. The tables themselves are made from salvaged northeastern woods. Decor consists of discarded tree branches and photos from local artists who understand how to put a bird on it. The menu has two sides: the first lists the dishes, while the flipside relates where every single ingredient is from. And we’re not just talking about sourcing the fish and the tomatoes. Literally every ingredient is accounted for. Thinking about ordering the pretzel-dusted calamari but need to know which artisan pretzel establishment makes the pretzels that generate the dust? They’ve got you covered.

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#OccupyHollywood: Let’s Turn on Foodie Celebs

Looks like the #Occupy gang recently turned on celebs in the well-titled #OccupyHollywood. Of course, the oft-mocked Gwyneth Paltrow couldn’t escape the ire of protesters, er, eh, bloggers. But seriously, if you could afford to put a wood-burning oven in your backyard, wouldn’t you? Could you imagine those awesome dinner parties with intensely smoked veggies and fish and meats and entire cakes made out of s’mores?!

Check out the rest of the overpaid, morally corrupt celebs, especially Mr. Ambiguous Anderson Cooper. Because, as Harvey Milk, said, and I’m paraphrasing here, the more people that come out, the better.

And to keep the convo off food, check it: Will Smith keeps it real.

(Photo: But You’re Like Really Pretty)

Imagine There’s No Pizza

Mr. and Mrs. O still get points for all their D.C. burger eating adventures, but Herman Cain just took a BIG lead in the race for the coveted Endless Simmer presidential endorsement.

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