Opinion

The Foodie Apologist

By on October 8, 2013 12:30pm EST

Obnoxious Foodie“Sorry. I’m an obnoxious foodie.” Have you ever heard yourself uttering these, or similar, words? Maybe you apologized as you scaled your chair to take an overhead shot of an architecturally exquisite plating of fugu cooked six ways, and again as you ignored your dinner companion while running the best shot through VSCOcam, Instagramming it, and typing your analysis of each dish into Evernote for a future blog post. I’ve made The Apology at countless restaurants with innumerable people more times than there are options on a Cheesecake Factory menu. It’s become an impulse–something I say without thinking as I robotically position my phone for the shot.

Thousands of #foodpornographers flood our social media streams with gorgeous and hideous pictures of whatever they’re about to shove into their mouths, but questionable foodie table manners aren’t limited to sexy white linen shoots. We don’t just eat anymore; we document, record, publish, and archive our eating experiences. Often, while we’re experiencing them.

As we pin, tumbl, tweet, and otherwise publicize our food obsession, we shift perceptions of our kind and, in turn, modify the behavior of those around us. I feel almost embarrassed when people suggest we go to an interesting restaurant for my sake or apologize when we end up at an eatery that doesn’t offer a foraged pepperweed salad as a starter. Because I’m seen as a foodie and that perception comes with certain expectations.

Foodie. The word has almost devolved into a slur for some. Whenever I come across it, I think of someone in a bad hat, wearing glasses with non-prescription lenses, lugging a high-end DSLR camera into a seedy taco shop with the word “authentic” scribbled and underlined on a dogeared page of his composition book.

Basically, a hungry hipster.

Then I remember that I’m associated with this word, and all of the obnoxiousness, eccentricities, and table manners that come with it. While some of us respond to foodie criticism with a shrug, I cringe a little at our collective behavior. Not everyone wants Werner Herzog taking cinematic Vine shots of the chef making udon noodles by hand at their table. The thing is, while I recognize our dysfunctions; while I’m guilty of committing crimes against dining etiquette and almost every shared meal comes with an order of sorry’s on my tab–I can’t curb my behavior because I enjoy being food obsessed and having a community of similarly hungry types.

We’re learning about culture, methodology, sourcing, nutrition, and more, directly and sharing our discoveries. We look at our plates differently and give chefs virtual props by posting their dishes online. Or we warn each other about bad food and service in the same way. We shouldn’t allow the process of documenting to overpower our food, and the act can smack of attention-grabbing, but I like to think that, for most of us, it is about the food.

While I may be an apologist, I see the benefits of what we do at risk of rudeness and dining disruptions. I am not a hungry hipster, but I do need to chase that food truck. I love my VSCO app. I do want to talk about how tired I am of small plate restaurants. Sorry. But I am an obnoxious foodie.

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S Zainab Williams

S. Zainab Williams is a writer, author of graphic novel Beatrice is Dead, and blogger at szainabwilliams.com. She likes fava beans and a nice Chianti but can't figure out what protein to pair them with. Follow her on Twitter: @szainabwilliams.

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