“A foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out for convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicurean can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude. Foodies are a distinct hobbyist group. Typical foodie interests and activities include the food industry, wineries and wine tasting, breweries and beer sampling, food science, following restaurant openings and closings and occasionally reopenings, food distribution, food fads, health and nutrition, cooking classes, culinary tourism, and restaurant management. A foodie might develop a particular interest in a specific item, such as the best egg cream or burrito. Many publications have food columns that cater to foodies and many of the websites carrying the name foodie have become popular amongst the foodies” (Wikipedia)
I’ve blogged about food, reviewed countless restaurants – chains and otherwise, sourced fine local seasonal ingredients, cooked then posted my recipes, all to what purpose? Yes, I’m an unapologetic foodie, and while there might be food snobs aplenty out there it’s certainly not snobbish to care about what we put in our bodies and never settle for less than the best available.
Sadly, most people are not foodies in any sense of the word. They may well enjoy eating certain meals, and benefit from happy memories brought on by comfort foods, but to what I estimate to be a majority of people in most countries, food is just a refuelling stop, and providing it’s not off, burnt to a cinder or hugely unappealing, the quicker and more hassle-free the food, the better. My message to these people is this:
Rediscover your passion for food! If you can’t love good food for its own simple pleasures, life simply isn’t worth living!
It’s neither complicated nor especially time-consuming to source and cook the best and freshest local ingredients, and it’s always a joy. We’ve stopped learning how to cook and that’s a skill we need to rediscover and pass on from one generation to the next. I’m thankful both my children love cooking and take the time and trouble to do so from scratch. In due course I hope they will make time to go to farmer’s markets and farm shops, to old-fashioned butchers and fishmongers, the people who get the best from local suppliers. Forget supermarkets, what could be better than baking your own bread, or finding a baker who makes proper artisan breads fresh and sells them without going through a distribution chain?
Equally, if you want to eat out forget chains and find those restaurants and cafes that take pride in doing something really well. Everywhere you look there are great places to eat, and it takes just a couple of minutes research via these new-fangled Internet phones to find places recommended by punters specialising in whatever ingredients and dishes are native to the local terroir.
As you will have guessed, not least because I’ve said so on very many occasions, I don’t like chains, though if you want mass catering and counted down to the last bean, they offer a commoditised product and service, that’s what you get in a chain restaurant. Ingredients in fast food chains are produced to appallingly low budgets, prepared in large factories with sell-by dates, distributed thousands of miles and served by people on minimum wage who aren’t paid enough to care about the food they serve. It’s the very antithesis of what people who appreciate good food are seeking.
Give me a small local outlet run by people who source top quality fresh, local ingredients and serve them with passion every time. We should all be looking for something better, truly home made from the best available ingredients, something to make our tastebuds sing and dance. The joy is that you don’t have to go to the Ramseys and the Blumenthals to get that quality. Your local independent shops, fish and chip restaurant or Indian takeaway might take that trouble and sell you a good fresh-cooked dinner, and will listen to what you want. In India I remember lunching on street food at a small cafe for pennies, yet it was better than any bhaji, pakora or samosa I ever ate in this country; the chef simply did what families have done for centuries in those parts, and the results were beyond delicious. It’s neither hard nor costly to do things well, but it sure needs a desire and commitment to preserving the artisan cultural traditions just as much as innovations.
Our problem is this: we have let the retailers dictate our diet to us, which to my way of thinking is an unforgivable sin, does not benefit us but does benefit them by cutting their costs and increasing profit margins by providing mediocre quality at our expense. We consumers allow them to get away with it, which is why shoppers who trouble to shop around will not only get better quality but better prices too.
The problem is that most people choose familiarity out of ignorance and don’t take the time or care to demand better from supermarkets and food joints. We let them sell us cheaper products which are an approximation to the real thing far too easily. The packaging yells at us of one special ingredient, which when you read more closely constitutes 4% of the product and is well outnumbered by water and cheap fillers, stabilisers, preservatives, colours etc.
We deserve better and I’m on a mission to make people demand better from every eating establishment, to complain if the food is not up to scratch, and be infinitely more discerning about our grub. And take time to savour good things when we’ve got them too – shoving it down your throat as quickly as possible is a travesty!
We should all be on the same mission for better standards. For example, I started a campaign for proper bread among fast food outlets and other restaurants too. It’s not hard to find proper bread with texture, and there’s no excuse whatever for cheap, limp, soft, sweet, soggy substances that pass for bread in McDonalds, KFC and other joints.
But that is merely one example among thousands. If we ceased buying crap foodstuffs the suppliers would have to change and give us something better than cheap and nasty. We would all benefit from that. Doesn’t mean you have to stop eating burgers, but you should be demanding top notch burgers made freshly from superb quality meat!