Nov 9 2009

Food Snobs Are Not Foodies

November 9th, 2009 at 9:44 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

One of the common misnomers about folks who consider themselves foodies is that they are food snobs. Food snobs are people who turn their nose up at ordinary foods because, well, they are ordinary, common, or pedestrian – choose your description. Food snobs require expensive bottles of wine to show their food elitism. They order foie gras or dishes with truffles because they are considered to be delicacies, and not necessarily because they like those things. They turn their noses up at BBQ and home-style country cooking. Food snobs won’t try regional dishes like guinea pig, stinky tofu, or pig’s intestines.

And food snobs probably ask to have their meals modified when they ordered. A scene from the 2006 movie with Queen Latifah “Last Holiday” where a table full of diners orders various specialties and then asks to have them modified in ridiculous ways comes to mind as an excellent example of this type of food snobbery.

A true foodie delights in trying local cuisine wherever he or she happens to be. A true foodie will, barring allergies or significant dietary restrictions, also trust a chef to produce a dish properly, meaning with all the ingredients and accoutrements the chef designed the dish with. This applies as much to single courses as it does to so-called “chef’s tasting menus”. Back to “Last Holiday”, Queen Latifah’s character is a true foodie, taking her passion as far as to order multiple main courses just to try the various combinations of flavors and textures.

Diners who presume to tell a chef how to cook and what to serve or not are food snobs, not foodies.

And people who denigrate ordinary foods merely because they are not expensive or rare are not foodies either. An example of an ordinary food that comes to mind would be a side dish of fresh green beans boiled with bacon that we enjoyed at the homey Calico County Restaurant in Ft. Smith, Arkansas this past August. It was only a side dish, and simple home cooking, but it was heavenly, as were the cinnamon rolls served with the meal. And I’m pretty sure no food snob would even enter that wonderful place because of the simple exterior and kitschy interior.

In summary, a foodie is passionate about good food, regardless of its source. A food snob adds artificial criteria in his or her evaluation of food, many times including what other people think of the food instead of trusting their own senses.


6 Responses to “Food Snobs Are Not Foodies”

  • Rebecca Blood Says:

    You have a much more charitable view of “foodies” than I do. Well, this is San Francisco, so maybe “foodies” are different in other cities.

    The people I know who describe themselves as “foodies” are *terrible* snobs. They don’t reject the foods you list, but they do seem to consider themselves superior to other mortals for their deep love of food. They gain palpable pleasure from demonstrating their knowledge of food to the people around them. (I’m not talking about infectious enthusiasm, mind you. I love that – on any subject – in anyone I meet.) No, this is a definite status thing, a deliberate marker of being in *that tribe*. For these people, eating at an obscure BBQ place or eating the guinea pig is absolutely requisite to maintaining their status as “more knowledgeable and adventurous than you”. I’ve also noticed that most of them don’t cook, for whatever that’s worth.

    I love food but I’d be terribly insulted if anyone called me a foodie.

  • Rebecca Blood Says:

    And just to be clear, I’m not criticizing *you* in any way. You’re obviously genuinely enthusiastic about food. But the people I know who have adopted the term seem invested in demonstrating their superior knowledge of food rather then, say, learning and then sharing a tip for fluffy scrambled eggs. 🙂

  • Jake Richter Says:

    Thanks for the insights and clarification, Rebecca. And I should say it’s an honor to have the first lady of blogging visit my humble start of a blog! My friend Alan Nelson attributes his blogging start to you, and I attribute mine to him. So thank you!

    I agree there is an aspect of foodie-ism which can be elitist (and often is), and I think it’s necessary for foodies who consider themselves foodies, as well as those who prefer not to be identified by the “foodie” label, to realize that not everyone shares a passion for food, and trying to force people to change their opinions or behaviors creates bad vibes and karma. However, when someone has an obvious interest in food, it becomes fun.

    One little anecdote – the chef of a popular and excellent bistro in Boston called Sel de la Terre told me earlier this year that none of his line cooks was formally trained, but that instead he hired them for their interest in food, figuring that skills would come over time with interest and passion as the driving forces, and not the other way around. And based on what his staff creates on their own, as well as under his tutelage, I would agree.

    In any event, I hope to educate and share the passion instead of brute forcing my “superior” (not!) knowledge down the gullets of others.

    • Rebecca Blood Says:

      Well, in many ways you’ve created a manifesto for “authentic foodie-ism”, haven’t you? Certainly, this post could be the base for an “about this site” page (if you don’t have one already). But in my initial reply I wasn’t reacting to anything about your writing – just my (clearly, almost visceral) dislike of the elitist “foodies” I’ve been exposed to.

      But I love me a good food blog, and I’m looking forward to following yours. I’m excited to implement your scrambled egg tip this weekend, in fact. 🙂

  • Mercy Says:

    Wow, I have never heard the term foodie used in a negative manner before. I have been calling myself a foodie for quite a few years…maybe even before the term became popular. I love food period! I like it all really.

    I love to cook. The whole process is cathartic and I’ll eat just about anything. I especially love to cook for others. I had a job for just a few weeks cooking for a home office with about 6 people in it, and it was possibly the most gratifying cooking I have ever done.

    I have never considered myself a food snob…except maybe about sushi…which must be fresh and tasty…I will not eat it just anywhere.

    I devour almost every book about food, and I love reading about chefs and everyday people and their relationships with food.

    I’m proud to call myself a foodie!