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. Dig into my brain and you’ll find in awe of Rene Redzepi’s ability to orchestrate elaborate, ever-evolving tweezer meals. I feel grateful whenever I get the chance to indulge myself with decadent omakase dinners at Kimoto or Matsukawa. 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.

Allow me to explain the 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 a luscious gooey chocolate fondant 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, making plans for special, envy-inducing gourmet trips. 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 was a thing. I don’t know what it is, 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, and before 2010, all I meant when I classified someone a “foodie” was a human 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 the term foodie and I now need a new word to address companions who elevate my dining experience.

Sein zum tode & Lethal births

“there is no cure… you have 1 week to live.”
Now if the doctor tells you this at your next check-up, would it make you feel better if you had 2 weeks? A month, a year? What about 2 years?
3? 4? 5?

Not trying to revisit the Sorites Paradox from philosophy 101 but it seems to me that there is no phenomenological difference between having another 2 weeks or another 80 years. We are never guaranteed a future in any sense of the word, yet we are all accustomed to thinking about the “future”. The only reason for that is because we have to – we diet and exercise to look better in the future, we work our asses off to earn our next vacation also in the future – so long as our lives are governed by the principle of causality, this is how we must think in order to make sense of day to day actions and micro-actions.

There is a sense of inconsistency in the contradictions we make between how we behave and what we know. The really important fact is that most people hide from their own death – they literally turn around when they see it and say “I’m not thinking about it.” And that is the delusion. A delusion I also find myself living in. Sometimes. What a lot of them don’t realise is that EVEN IF they are lucky enough to go 100 years without dying, they will eventually have to face their own death. Once they do, they will be shattered. Everyone is shattered when they are told they are going to die soon. The point then, is that once you truly know you are going to die, it tears away the illusion of life.

By illusion of life I mean what a person immersed in day-to-day activities thinks about – money, jobs, the future, pleasure, pain. If you ask someone oblivious to death what life is, they will tell you about those distractions. They will think about “the future” and think “if I do this now, how will this lead me to where I want to go?” That feels intuitive, but once you are presented with a set of affairs that forces you to realise that that is nothing but a delusion, you don’t even have the option to think that life. If you are diagnosed with cancer, you don’t get to think like that any more. And then you realise that was always the case. All you ever had is the present. There is no past, nor future. The past is nothing but a memory experienced in the present; the future is nothing but a feeble, and often cynical, imagined set of affairs… also in the present.
Perhaps to even begin, you have to essentially experience a level of suffering that is so intense that it shatters the illusions of the way you used to live. Once you suffer enough, and are presented with a state of affairs you can’t control – e.g. You are going to die, soon, there is nothing you can do about it, you might start to appreciate the present in its truest form. Eat that cake.