An Unpopular Opinion: Fie on Foodies! Fie, I Say!

I’m a figurative swine sitting in front of a great big pearl in that here I am living in New York—a city swarming with great restaurants—and me not a foodie. On the other hand, I’m not a swine in that, although, like any mortal, I rely on food to continue to exist, I don’t fetishize it like so many of my brethren. In the last ten years or so I’ve become increasingly alarmed by our nation’s growing fixation with gourmandizing. The cooking shows on TV, the infinite number of books and websites, the conversion of the broad American public into connoisseurs—it all strikes me as most unhealthy.

To me, all these cooking shows are like a strange kind of porn—porn for the overprivileged and overfed.

My anti-foodieism is partly based on matters pecuniary. The decrease in the width of my wallet has definitely contributed to my distaste for going out to eat. I once lost a girlfriend at least partly because I never took her to restaurants, so I’ve since learned to swallow my pride and wine and dine my current lady friend from time to time, taking it as a necessary cross to bear in modern romance.

But every time the check arrives, I feel a pang. I think of all the other things I deny myself because of the cost and ask myself why I’m now forking over my hard-earned money for something as fleeting and unsatisfying as food.

For few things are quite as forgettable as a good meal. The conversation at the meal, perhaps, or some freak accident, or funny incident that occurs while dining sticks in the long-term memory banks, yes—but the food itself makes no lasting impression in the same way a movie or album or book or a walk in the woods does—or even a few drinks (or more than a few drinks) with friends.

Though not religious, I guess I still think in terms of the body versus the spirit. And movies, music, books, Nature, and intoxication all have a spiritual element to them. Food, on the other hand, does not. Garnish it all you want with colorful adjectives, it’s still just food, and it seems a waste to expend too much attention or money on it.

Very few things are more boring to talk about than food. So very subjective eating is: nothing to discuss, nothing to argue about. When someone recounts a great meal they had or something they cooked, all you can do is just nod and ask polite questions. No exchange of ideas, no fun.

Cooking at home, of course, is a cheaper, more meaningful alternative to eating out. But the twin clichés of life being short and time being money are indeed true in spite of—or perhaps because of—their being clichés. I have a full-time job, and I like to read, write, watch movies, and travel, and I try to exercise somewhat regularly as well, and I find that I have scanty time as it is. Were the human species as slow, metabolism-wise, as the boa constrictor and only found it necessary to eat every month or two, I, too, might enlist in the ranks of foodies and pour lots of effort and energy into my once-a-month meal. But three times a day is simply too much.

So it boggles my mind that there are people out there who actually have the time to not only strategize their every meal but also religiously watch the Food Network and follow this whole horde of celebrity chefs which has seemingly been vomited up from out of nowhere. Our national obsession with painstakingly preparing and meticulously decorating items which will inevitably be tossed down our gullets and deposited in our toilets strikes one as absurd and downright decadent when one considers the fact that one in eight human beings on this planet is undernourished.

To me, all these cooking shows are like a strange kind of porn—porn for the overprivileged and overfed.

Guess it all goes against my rather abstemious Midwestern Protestant upbringing. My family rarely went out to eat when I was a kid. It was considered a superfluity—not that there were any good restaurants around my hometown anyway. And the food we ate at home was pretty basic: the stereotypical meat and potatoes, plus bread and carrots and peas and broccoli and pasta and fish sometimes.

That old Midwestern thriftiness and hatred for excess has stuck with me. And even though I’ve almost totally lost my faith, I haven’t been able to shake this scene from the Book of Luke from my psyche depicting an archetypal interaction between Satan and Jesus in the desert:

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

It’s definitely an ascetic, world-denying outlook, an outlook I’ve tried to discard in other aspects of my life. In most other matters of theology and morality I’ve become much more open and liberal—but for some reason this saint-like contempt for gastronomy and its shadowy handmaiden gluttony still speaks to me.

But lest you think I’m some kind of vulgarian who thinks he can put any old garbage into his body just so long as it’s quick and cheap, let me just say in my defense that I hate fast food, that I try my best to balance my diet, that I do enjoy a nice hot delicious meal just as much as the next guy, and that I believe buying local, fresh, pesticide- and hormone-free food is a worthy endeavor.

Yet, an elaborate, rich meal—even one consisting of organic vegetables and grass-fed animals—has an unpleasantly anesthetizing effect on me. After a special dinner, I feel lethargic, groggy, gassy. I want to collapse on the floor and take a long nap—not quite seizing the day, if you know what I mean.

In short, my stomach is my Achilles heel, and I find that a simple, no-frills diet of grains, fruit, vegetables, and the occasional helping of meat suits me best. Perhaps you’re the same. For it don’t take no gourmand to appreciate the taste of a nice ripe apple; it don’t require no gastronomic sophisticate to savor a steaming hot plate of rice and beans.

My beef with foodies is not so much with foodies specifically as with connoisseurs in general. Connoisseurship tends to misplace value and it hyperfocuses on the trees to the detriment of the wood.

Any time you fixate on and obsess over inanimate objects, you run a double risk: you end up developing such a refined palate and heightened sensibility that true pleasure becomes rarer and rarer because things fail to live up to your high standards, and you also become a genuine bore. Much, much better to be a boor.

  • August 05, 2016
  • Jon Eckblad
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