To me, the term evokes elitism, snobbery, and condescension. Upon hearing the word "foodie," I think of a fastidious cook, pacing the kitchen, obsessing over minced shallots. He sits with his coworkers during lunch, describing the porcini dust he sprinkled on last night's grass-fed steak. He eschews my beet salad because the beets are not locally grown. He makes me feel like a culinary barbarian.
Though I celebrate food, I feel the perpetual outsider. Perusing the pages of a cooking magazine, I'm lost among the kalamata olives and goat cheese. My eyes glaze over the glossy apples and perfect looking plum torts. I like to eat and cook, but haven't fashioned it into an all consuming life's philosophy.
I've always thought, "Isn't there a place somewhere in the food universe for people like me?
Now I know there is.
I'm the anti-foodie, the low-brow epicurean. Allow me to explain.
Low brow epicureans enjoy gourmet delicacies, but are really at home with the culinary mundane. In fact, sometimes they prefer to mix the two. This seems to be the true essence of who we are—a mutant strain, a hybrid.
Whether it be
Sensing this about myself, I rebelled against the foodie establishment for most of my adult life. I ate anything I wanted, any time. I scorned exercise. I reveled in foodcrack. I drank cheap beer. I smoked menthol. I saw my weight balloon upwards in excess of two hundred and twenty pounds. At 5'6, I was a walking heart attack.
Recently, though, I've made strides towards regaining balance. In doing so, I’ve ironically picked up some foodie tendencies along the way. I've lost 60 pounds, mostly through changing my diet and exercising. I buy local produce, organic meat. I rarely eat anything with more than two or three ingredients in it. I juice.
I’m also now more health conscious than I ever was before. I quit smoking. Gave up alcohol. I enjoy yoga. Ran a half-marathon. I've almost regained my former NCAA Division 1 figure. I can even see my abs again, poking through. They're forlorn, angry at me. Emerging from their long exile, they blink and rub their eyes. They say, "Dude! What the hell was that all about?"
I still consider myself well outside the mainstream when it comes to food consciousness and health. I’ll always identify with the low brow because I’ll never forget what it was like during those dark days. I’ll never forget what I was like—indiscriminate, yet persnickety in my tastes. I recall feasting on omelets made of half a dozen free range eggs, lunches of entire blocks of parmesan reggiano. I remember waking in the middle of the night and staggering into the kitchen where I would stick my finger three knuckles deep into the cashew butter, pulling up a tasty, gooey glob. I was always the voluptuary in my excess, the slob with the golden spoon. No meat without ketchup. No necktie without a stain.
When I walk into stores like Whole Foods and Dean and Deluca, I feel like an amateur. I'll never know how to use the smoked salts properly. And I'm sure I'd torch that grass-fed steak.
I look at the neatly ordered rows of olives and spices, the rainbow panache of fruits displayed like a color wheel. I have sudden pangs of self doubt. I begin to sweat. I think to myself, "I can't cook. I don't even know how to eat."
I watch a foodie inspect the Swiss chard. He speaks in soft, knowing tones with the produce boys. They look in my direction, pointing. Noticing the ketchup stain on my tie, they laugh, "Go back to ShopRite! I hear they're having a sale on Wonder Bread!"
I retreat to the frozen food aisle, where I get dark and cynical. In the checkout aisle I fantasize how I would exact my revenge on the entire establishment:
"Do you have a coupon for this?" asks the young man at checkout. His haircut is shaggy, trendy. His expressionless face, slack. "It's on sale this week."
I look around, behind me. He's the only one on duty. The time is now. I lean in, moving my face inches from his.
"What did you call me," looking at his name tag, "Frank?"
He perks, backs up a bit, "Um, nothing, I just..."
"Did you say what I think you just said?"
"Look man, alls I asked was..."
With military precision, I'm behind the register smothering his nose and mouth with a chloroform soaked rag. I guide his limp body downward as it slumps to the floor. I look around. No one has noticed. Stage one, clear.
Switching the aisle light to "closed", I grab the microphone to the store p.a. system. It gives a short, piercing, shrill of feedback. I hunker down, below the checkout lane, out of view. Squatting on my haunches, I straddle Frank's body. Stage two, clear.
Over the store p.a. system comes, "Attention Whole Food's shoppers. Today is our 'Slaughter Your Own Livestock' promotion. Hector in Meat will be assisting people with dogs, cats, horses and goats. It can get a bit messy back there, so please bring your own rubber boots and smocks. We'll provide the buckets and blades."
"Also, starting tomorrow our produce aisle will no longer exist. Instead we'll be offering the finest selection of cigarettes, 40 oz. malt liquor, and scratch off lottery tickets. Pick a winner."
"Please remember to try our deep fried, nacho-cheese flavored fried pork rinds. They're on sale this week from the Amish country, fresh from the farm and straight to you.
"Finally, if anyone needs Frank, he'll be at the ShopRite across town. He says they're having a great sale on Wonder Bread."
Switching off the p.a. I peek my head up. The store is a comedy of errors. Employees sprint across the floor. They smash into one another and fall down in a blind attempt to ascertain the situation. Foodies wander around the aisles confused, not knowing what to do. A stray shopping cart careens into a seasonal display of stacked winter gourds. They scatter everywhere.
Knowing the final moment has arrived, I check Frank. He sleeps like a baby. I leave the money for my items in the breast pocket of his green apron and slip out the front of the store to find my car. The door to my Hyundai station wagon is strategically left unlocked, keys waiting in the ignition. I peel out with screeching tires. Stage three, clear.
I pump my fist in the air. With David Lee Roth singing "
Even though I've changed my ways, a small part of that culinary barbarian remains. Something deep inside me still has no time for one who can't make at least a respectable attempt to drink a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I still have a somewhat jaded impression of those who can't deign themselves to ever eat fried foods—at least once in a while.
But I'm cool with foodies now. I think. My wife even says I've become one. She may be right. I have to try hard to keep it real, to always remember where I came from.
Tomorrow I'll have egg whites for breakfast. The Weight Watchers guidebook tells me that three egg whites equal only one point. By my old standards, that means I can eat a dozen, maybe two dozen, and still be well under my point quota for the day.
But what if I cook them with half a block of skim parmesan reggiano? I'd then have to add a few slices of high-fiber, one hundred percent whole-wheat bread. Freshly crushed black pepper corns. Salt. Ketchup.
Oh, the possibilities.
Steve's Curry Rosemary Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds taken from a fresh, large pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons mild yellow curry powder
2 teaspoons coarse unrefined sea salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Wash and strain seeds in a colander until they are clean and free of all excess pumpkin strands.
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread seeds evenly across a broad pan or cookie sheet.
Cook for 15 minutes, or until a deep, golden brown. Shake the pan every five minutes to make sure they roast evenly.
Serve hot, or let cool to save as a future snack.