Foodie Bashing

31 Dec

It’s no way to start the New Year, but a recent BBC News article, evocatively titled The British Vomitorium, has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Appealing to the food obsessed masses of the UK, writer Will Self implores us to emerge from our festive glut and put down our forks, challenging the notion (as I read it) that food is a mark of class and culture in a foodie’s aspirations to achieve a middle class lifestyle. Accordingly, this simply acquired and easily digestible cultural snackette, as it were, should be brought back up in favour of more serious cultural endeavours.

Despite the misery mongering and slightly snobby attitude, Will has a point. The increasingly oft maligned foodie can be a badge-wearing glutton, motivated by the need to feel superior to those ‘eat-nots’ (as Mr Self so beautifully words it) who don’t know their porter from their stout. No different from the social showcasing exhibited by any other type of culture vulture, but given the prevalence of foodie content today, from TV cookery programmes to instagrammed pictures of people’s tea on your Twitter feed, over exposure has given way to a creeping and increasingly nasty bout of foodie-bashing.

I’m aware it can be irritating. As a food blogger and marketer, I’m fully immersed in this ‘culture’, contributing to the conversation surrounding food through both my work and my hobby. Sometimes, it’s more than even I can stomach. Twee representations of female cooks on the telly, bloggers brown nosing in the name of a free feed and the occasional sniffy food writer, looking down their nose at trends which months before they were spearheading; without doubt, there’s a lot of horseshit surrounding foodie culture, but do we really need to intellectualise the conversation?

If we are going to take this seriously, let’s look at some of the criticisms levelled. Griping about spending ‘more on food and eating out than ever before in our history’ in response to foodie pretensions seems silly when you consider the money spent, whether to make budgets go further or for enjoyment, there are obvious benefits for UK employment and the wider economy as a result. The change in food standards over the past 30 years is nothing to be scoffed at either, considering that our produce and our chefs are now bankable exports, which long-term will also help support much needed food tourism revenues for the UK.

The turnaround in attitudes towards food has also made a huge difference to people’s day to day lives. Through a slow process of attrition, the information we have been drip fed for years, watching Jamie Oliver challenge our school dinner ethos and River Cottage show us how to make best use of our leftovers has changed attitudes, and with information now readily available online on new and interesting ingredients, cooking techniques and food sustainability, not to mention healthy, balanced diets, for many people this culture has positively changed the way we buy food, cook and eat beyond measure.

All well and good, but if culture truly is the crux of the issue, consider that food is one of the most accessible ways to introduce people to other countries and cultures. Food traditions and national dishes tell the stories of a country’s history and the lifestyles of the people who live there – the history of rum in the Caribbean and its links to the slave trade, for example – and for many, is a contributing factor in the desire to travel. Celebrating our own food traditions and artisan crafts helps foster a better understanding of where we have come from too, the current real ale revival as case in point.

It’s not about culture, though, is it? Food is about people; coming together, breaking bread, having conversations. Food is the social glue that binds us. Since having started this blog, I have spent more time with friends and family than ever before and met fascinating, talented and interesting new people who, yes, love food, but indulge in myriad other interests too, and guess what? We share these over the dinner table. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Michelin or McDonalds either. It’s the coming together that counts, and that’s the real value in the appreciation and enjoyment of food.

It’s no use spouting culturally superior advice to foodies when you are engaging in the exact activity you are chastising them for. Sure, you’ll always have your one who gets wanky about what goes in a traditional Bolognese, but what we need is a re-evaluation of our food principles, not an all out purge. Showing off aside, the sharing of a recipe or recommendation of a restaurant can be useful, and of all the people I know who love food, I’ve never met one who didn’t have the ability to let go and have a good time. Writing parsimonious articles and bringing bad feeling to an inherently pleasurable pastime, well, it just misses the point.

So, my advice for the New Year? Keep tight hold of your forks, my lovelies, and go eat drink and be merry. What else is food for?

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2 Responses to “Foodie Bashing”

  1. Sophia January 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say in your article. And the bottom line is, foodies (myself included) are deeply passionate about food but they also know not to take themselves too serious. After all, it’s food we are talking about, not nuclear physics or world politics. Yet this should also not stop us from taking our passion serious, even if that might mean whole afternoons spent in heated discussions in how best to prepare a certain dish!

  2. Aunty Em December 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Once again, I agree with all of this. You need to start submitting articles Lauren. Do it do it do it! Xxx

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