Why We Need to Stop Using the Term ‘Foodie’

And find something much more suitable.

Recently, a friend linked me to a piece which was a note to all ‘foodie’ wannabes out there and it made me realise that I genuinely dislike the word ‘foodie’.

According to Dictionary.com, the word means “a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking”. Maybe 10-15 years ago, before the growth of the internet and the concept of blogging and the need to make your voice be heard, the term would have worked really well. But in today’s day and age, everyone who visits a restaurant, writes a review or blogs about a dish they ate is automatically a foodie. Notice the definition, “a person keenly interested in food”. It doesn’t mean that you write nonsense on your blog and talk about how something was awful and tasted like rubber when you’ve clearly eaten better food in your own home. That’s what they call a critic.

In my opinion, a foodie just enjoys the food, sits back and lets the enjoyment wash over them. But, I still don’t like the term.

The Origin of the Term

Various sources cite that there are two people who coined the term – Gael Greene and Paul Levy. In 1980, Greene wrote in New York Magazine about a character who “slips into the small Art Deco dining room of Restaurant d’Olympe … to graze cheeks with her devotees, serious foodies.” And then in 1982, Levy contributed an article to Harper’s & Queen properly defining the term for readers everywhere by saying: “Foodies are foodist. They dislike and despise all non-foodies” and even characterised himself as “ghastly, his-stomach-is-bigger-than-his-eyes, original, appetite-unsuppressed, lip-smacking ‘king foodie’”.

And to add to that, in 1984 Levy and features editor of Harper’s & Queen, Ann Barr, published a book called “The Official Foodie Handbook”.

In a 2007 column in The Guardian, Levy even wrote, “What started as a term of mockery shifted ground, as writers found that “foodie” had a certain utility, describing people who, because of age, sex, income and social class, simply did not fit into the category “gourmet”, which we insisted had become ‘a rude word’.” 

Why I don’t like the term

Just because I work for a food magazine and get to eat out often and try out new food and restaurants does not automatically make me a ‘foodie’. I am someone who enjoys food and as they say “I live to eat”, and of course I eat for a living too. I would rather be called ‘someone who enjoys food’ than be given a term that is shared by people who don’t truly understand food. Not to say that I do, but my grasp of food is a lot better than some. 

I have lived in different places and experienced different kinds of cuisine, I know what I like and what I don’t, but having lived out of the country and having tasted dishes from different parts of Europe, I have a better grasp of the food that I’m eating and I have an opinion about it that isn’t just filled with hate. Everybody can criticise a pepperoni pizza or a cheeseburger, because these are things that we eat on a daily basis. Everybody can easily talk about a whiskey sour or a bottle of Pepsi, because it’s readily available in any bar or pub you visit. But can someone properly explain their experience eating a beef tenderloin steak? Probably not. And it’s because people haven’t tried a steak before or even know what a steak is supposed to look like.

Everyone is a ‘foodie’ these days. If you have the time to write a blog or you’re extremely active on Zomato (I have nothing against Zomato, I love them, in fact!), then you’re a foodie. You write scathing reviews about restaurants and cafes because they gave you one less potato wedge than your eating companion, you write an angry blog entry because a restaurant didn’t want to host you for free. You know who the free food is reserved for? Serious critics. The people that can truly give the restaurant the attention and the kind of feedback that they want. And yes, some critics do define themselves as foodies. 

These days, if you Instagram your meals you’re a foodie, if you’re on top of the game with the latest in food trends, you’re a foodie. If you follow every food related account on every social media service, you’re a foodie. The term has lost it’s value and either we get it back, or we change it up and leave everyone else in the dust.

More suitable terms

Maybe someone out there has come up with a better term than the one we’re all currently obsessed with, but I’ve got a few ideas that we could work with.

ø Food Enthusiast
ø Food Fanatic
ø Lover of Food
ø Food Nerd (my personal favourite)

Agree or disagree with me and my opinions and thoughts, leave a comment and let’s talk about it. Got other words that we could use instead? Let me know.