Foodie???

I do not actually have the mental capacity to write lengthy commentaries on the food I eat, nor do I feel qualified to meaningfully scrutinise institutions that have nothing to do with my personal fortes. The irony is that because I only ever post images of food on social media, typically from my bed while suffering from chronic insomnia, my friends introduce me as their “foodie friend” at every social gathering.

Granted, like many foodies out there I do take 4 hour train rides for ramen and I have crossed oceans for special meals. I am in awe of Rene Redzepi’s ability to orchestrate elaborate, ever-evolving tweezer meals and I feel grateful whenever I get to indulge myself with decadent omakase dinners at an elite ryotei . Few things on earth make my heart glow more than a perfect bowl of tomyum moosub or sizzling hot dwaeji gukbap. But honestly in my opinion, nothing has been more embarrassing than claiming to be a “foodie” since the 2010’s.

Context of this post: I have always loved food as a child, especially after discovering the Japanese variety bangumi “Dotch Cooking Show” where rivalling hosts presented spectacular renditions of ordinary dishes using top-notch ingredients procured from around the world. I was around 7 at the time – their culinary pursuits were so inspiring I began taking notes and drawing pictures of dishes I ate in a secret diary every time my parents took me out for food.

*Side note – I stumbled upon this diary when I was around 12 and was so appalled by my own grammar mistakes that I discarded it. I now regret this. At the same time I started a new food diary which was again, abandoned until I picked it up again at 16, when I felt just as embarrassed as I did at 12 but decided that it was okay to retain concrete documentation of my own failures because nothing really matters.

I have a cousin who used to tell me that if his mother did not tell him off for skipping family meals, he would have loved to just live on vitamin tablets. This degree of insipidity was incomprehensible to me and I found every meal shared with him remarkably joyless – sometimes even alienating. How can this guy make eating my favourite fragrant juicy Vietnamese fried chicken look like a punishment? Why did he make eating luscious gooey chocolate fondants look like a painful chore? Subconsciously I began categorising people around me based on their position in the spectrum of enthusiasm towards food. On one end of the spectrum were the gustatorily apathetic, people like my cousin, people who live in gastronomic dullsville and appear in Epicurus’s nightmares. On the other end of the spectrum were people whose eyes would light up the moment they heard the name of their favourite crêperie or steakhouse, that even when the restaurant was miles away, they would spend days researching other eateries in the vicinity, solidifying plans for special, envy-inducing gourmet trips months ahead of time. Typically these people were also avid home cooks, and were always keen to share good food. I enjoyed dining with them – if hunger is the best sauce, I would say that good company is perhaps the third best sauce, after chilli 🙂

I used to be a total loser who would eat shin ramyun in front of a computer with a youtube playlist called “ramyun” featuring a collection of Korean instant noodle ads before mukbang became a thing. I don’t know what it was, but that always made my bowl seem tastier. It was clear to me that a sense of connectedness with other humans enjoying food elevated my dining experience, so before 2010, all I meant when I classified someone as a “foodie” was that they were someone who would potentially enhance my meal whenever I felt social.

Fast forward to 2022, what I used to consider a neutral descriptor with a slight positive nuance that I would appreciate your company is now a pejorative term used to define a whole generation of self-professed gourmands, perpetually pitting against each other to see who has consumed the most Michelin stars within a week. To these present-day foodies (let’s call them, uh, poodies), reservations at highly coveted, introduction-only establishments equate to social currency, counting and maximising number of visits to Sushi Saito is a noble endeavour, and nothing exemplifies status better than being served “off-menu” items after becoming “BFFs” with a chef.

Poodies see themselves as preachers of refined taste to the poor, benighted, gastronomically deprived a.k.a. everybody except themselves. Interestingly from experience, they usually have a lot of argumentative stamina and willfully participate in tedious, 12 hour long debates about the origin of ramen.

To sum up, poodies have hi-jacked my definition of of the term foodie and I now need a new word to address companions who elevate my dining experience.

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