When telling us about a restaurant recommendation the other day, my nephew mentioned the person who’d recommended it was a foodie. It’s a term we hear and see bandied about a lot. I see it on the likes of TripAdvisor, posted by people who call themselves foodies in one sentence, then reveal they’re not in the next by saying things like “we like our steaks well done.” Maybe swimming against a cultural tide these days, I value the opinion of experts in any given field. You won’t find a chef anywhere who doesn’t detest well-done steaks.
“Gourmet: a connoisseur of good food; a person with a discerning palate.”
Foodie is an overused term. We use it ourselves because, well, what other term would you use if you have an interest in food, where it comes from, and how it’s produced etc? Gourmet seems self-important and grand, and bon vivant doesn’t cut the mustard. Gastronome isn’t bad, but every time I hear it, I envisage a wee man wearing a red cap and tight blue jacket and who has a long white beard, tucking into a plate of food. Foodie just seems far more informal and not overly showy.
“Bon Vivant: a sociable person who has cultivated and refined tastes especially with respect to food and drink.”
But what is a foodie?
There are many various views on what constitutes being a foodie, but what most people in the food business agree about is what doesn’t.
It doesn’t mean someone who likes food and who likes to eat out a lot. That describes many people now.
Gastronome: a lover of good food, especially one with a serious interest in gastronomy.
A few years ago, chocolate makers Green & Black’s commissioned a study of 2000 Brits, coming up with a list of 50 indicators that determined whether anyone was a foodie or not. In the number 50 spot was ‘owning an apron’ which does immediately tell you about kitchen habits. I’m not going to list the entire 50 as the further down the list, the more specific it gets. But here are the top 10 ways to tell if you really are a foodie or not.
1: You eat in lots of different restaurants
The key word here is ‘different.’ It’s highly unlikely anyone is a foodie if they eat out a lot, but always at the same type of restaurant.
2: You enjoy trying new dishes at a restaurant
We all know people who choose the same dishes every time they eat out. They might enjoy their food, but they’re definitely not foodies.
3: You enjoy shopping for food
Another misconception is that being a foodie means just liking to eat food; it involves an interest in food in general, and that includes shopping for ingredients.
4: You’re willing to try all kinds of food/meals/ingredients.
This is within reason. Having second thoughts about dipping into monkey brains if they were placed in front of you wouldn’t result in you being drummed out of the foodie club. But instantly dismissing food because you haven’t tried it before, or saying things like ‘I don’t like Indian/Mexican/Greek food’, does. The latter because any country’s cuisine consists of innumerable types of dishes with varying textures, ingredients, cooking techniques, and flavours, so dismissing them all is nonsense.
5: You know what wine to pair with which meat or fish
I have mixed feelings about this one. Used generally, it smacks of snobbishness and rigidity, and is a wee bit outdated, like saying red wine should be served at room temperature. While there’s no disputing certain wines compliment the flavours of different dishes, the whole red wine with red meat, white wine with fish and poultry is overly simplistic. The Wine Spectator agrees, saying the rule was “created in an era when the circle of influence for cuisine and wine was smaller.”
On the other hand, anyone who knows wine to such a level they can identify which reds can work well with fish and which whites pair well with red meat is a next-level foodie.
6: You read food magazines
You can add food blogs and websites to that. It simply reveals an interest in food that stretches far beyond just scoffing it.
7: You know which herbs compliment different dishes
Again, this is a bit more specialist. But in a wider sense it reveals an interest in cooking. However, I think it’s unfair to say someone wasn’t a foodie just because they didn’t know samphire went with well fish etc.
8: You experiment instead of always relying on recipes.
Anyone who cooks a wide range of dishes, whether using a recipe or not, seems more likely to be a foodie to me. Experimenting only makes it a certainty.
9: You create your own recipes from scratch
See number 9.
10: You can recognise when something’s missing in a meal/sauce just by tasting it
Maybe veering a bit more toward gourmet than foodie, but I get what it’s saying. The wider the range of foods you try, the more you learn; you start to spot when something is underseasoned, a sauce requires a little zest to perk it up, fish has been overcooked … and so on.
In the end, it’s all opinion. But for me, the first four in the list are the most important ones. Tick those off and it’s fair to call yourself a foodie.