Foodies, Gourmands and the like

Food blog 003


I have always loved food. I have always been fascinated by food preparation, processes and different types of foods. I must fully admit that I was a really picky eater when I was a kid. I was not overly fond of vegetables and desired pizza over just about anything else in the world. Yet, my mother’s cooking always struck a cord with me. I could handle eating vegetables with her meals and like many kids out there Mom’s cooking was preferential to anything anyone else could provide as my mother was really good at cooking. We didn’t have what would be considered “fancy” food. She specialized in country cooking or what would otherwise be considered “Soul Food”. These meals usually consisted of cheaper cuts of meat or the meal would be some kind of spoon dish which would stretch over a couple of nights during the week. We had fried chicken, fried fish, black eyed peas with ham hocks, short ribs, rice, collards, cabbage, etc. Little to none of it was processed. Everything was basically farm to table and made from scratch. Often times seasoned with pork fat or pieces of fatback. Most of the time my mother was working with a budget constrained by a multiple of issues during the recessions of the 70’s. I never really had any understanding of gourmet food. I heard my parents speak of meals they had enjoyed in New York City as a by product of my fathers expense account for his job. My mother was really hung up on Shrimp Scampi which although common in 21st century terms was somewhat exotic in the world of 1975 for me personally. My father would speak of Caesar Salad prepared at the table and hors d’oeuvres with caviar and so forth. This appeared to be part of the world of the affluent. I was totally disconnected from the idea of gourmet food.

The only concept of food outside of the typical suburban experience I had known was in terms of cooking shows most of which I ignored due to the basic home maker aspect of the show. The one person who always intrigued me was Julia Child. On one hand she came across as someone who might be associated with the more upper crust part of society, on the other hand there was an extraordinary love of food and the idea that anyone could cook if they had the desire to try which came across in her delightful, often offbeat manner. I had no idea what she was doing but I enjoyed watching her shows. At the time, I didn’t consider cooking with any real proficiency or even trying the foods of which she was creating. The food world in those days which have been the late 70’s early 80’s was dominated by what I consider “food snobs”. If you ate the standard fare produced in the suburban world you were considered “provincial” at best and likely to have little to no palette for “real food” produced in the finer dining establishments. Quite honestly, fine dining was rarely affordable or available for most of America. I rebelled against the idea of haute cuisine in principle alone at that point. I watch my mother create meals out what often times appeared to be little to nothing. The idea of haute cuisine seemed to be geared towards the “haves” with the rest of us left to the world of hamburger helper and fast food which did not represent the food world I knew personally.

I do not consider myself a “foodie” and definitely not a “gourmand”. The term “foodie” first appeared at some point in the early 80’s from what I can glean from the net and the word created, by of all sources, food writers (oh boy!). The term “foodie” just rubs me wrong in so many ways. I love to cook, I love to try new foods and I’m particularly interested in supporting local farms and food businesses. I support the idea that everyone should cook at least to some degree. I’m a member on Yelp and I use it primarily to judge where I want to spend my food dollar so to speak. No one wants to go to a restaurant and waste money on a half assed meal with people who just don’t care. When I write any commentary on Yelp I try to be objective and honest. With that being said, I don’t use the format to bash restaurants or attempt to be a “food critic”. I like to support good eating establishments and more often than not I will simply ignore the bad ones or keep the commentary to the basics. The word “foodie” tends to lean towards the food snobs I have endured at various dinner parties, social events and so forth. The people who drop names and talk about the latest chef talent in town at the oh so talked about new location on the food scene. I simply don’t give damn about this type of food culture. I go towards my interests in food and try to turn other people onto or be turned onto the good experiences. It is true that Yelp tends to be the bane of the self described “foodie” to some degree. I believe there is a place in the world for sites like Yelp to help everyone discern the good places from the bad places in order to allow all of us to be able to spend our money on satisfactory experiences of our choosing. I don’t believe food sites should be used as a form of internet justice or a convenient excuse to be insulting or snarky for the entertainment of others. The commercial food service business is hard work, long hours and often times low pay. Some people simply enjoy bitching about things in general and consider themselves above the rest of us and so be it.

For me, the world of food is a big place and I am one guy in that enormous realm. I am currently working towards the dream or better yet fantasy of having my own food business of some type. It may be a food truck, a food cart or even an artisanal food business. I simply don’t know yet, but this blog is a small part of what I would like to contribute to the food world. I like to think that all of us are on this life journey collectively which requires all of us to eat. I bristle at the idea that good, healthy food is too expensive or that only a certain portion of our culture can enjoy “real food” as opposed the remainder. We don’t have to rely on celebrities to cook for us on TV or corporations to help us make good food choices. It has and is at our disposal to make these decisions. Cooking allows all of us to enjoy good food if we make the effort. I’m trying to make the effort by refusing to succumb to the “foodie” label or to give in to the corporate interests that want to sell instant crap in a box or instant gratification with fast food. The world of food is ours to create still. If gardens can be grown and productive in urban environments forsaken by economic change than people can exercise the power to create great eating experiences for themselves.