Thursday, January 21, 2010

Obsessed With the Food-Obsessed

In the past year I have written about more than eighty restaurants. Not once have I felt compelled to use the word "foodie," nor any of the hyphenated euphemisms for it that the New York Times' editorial policy appears to require (as I've previously noted).[*]

Meanwhile, in nearly half of the sixteen restaurant reviews he has published since taking over the helm last October, Sam Sifton has given us some variation on the "foodie" theme (never, though, actually uttering the word, which apparently has the same effect as saying "Beetlejuice!" three times). His first three reviews brought us "food-obsessed mouths," followed the next week by the converse, a wine list that "may run unfamiliar to nonobsessives," returning the following week to the "food-obsessed in New York."

There was a brief respite, but it seems to have returned with a vengeance. A few weeks ago the "food-obsessed" came back to discuss the decline of French cooking in New York. Then someone apparently broke out the thesaurus, as we heard last Wednesday about the "food crazies," (who know from Chef April Bloomfield - at least the New York "food crazies" do), while this week brought us the "food-enthralled" (who apparently call guanciale "face bacon").

I'm not sure which bothers me more: the incessant reference to what the food-obsessed/crazy/enthralled think or say, or the pussyfooting around over using that most dreaded word - "foodie."

As for the former, honestly, who cares? Aren't I reading to find out what this one particular food-obsessed critic has to say, not what the rest of the flock may be gibbering about? It's all the more frustrating to me because Sifton clearly has the ability to communicate with a unique and witty voice. This is someone who described The Breslin as "Hogwarts for hipsters," who in describing the crowd at La Grenouille says that "some have spent too much time in the sun, doing nothing much more than turning the pages of a book," while others "examine the restaurant and chart customers as handicappers do horses at Belmont." Please, more of that, less about the "food-obsessed."

As for the latter issue - "foodie foodie foodie" - look, I don't like it either. But these tortuous euphemisms are certainly no better. Which brings me full circle to a question I briefly pondered (and quickly abandoned) when I started writing here: if not "foodie," then what? Well, what do we call someone who enjoys and appreciates art? Or music? If "art lover" and "music lover" will do, why not "food lover"? Is the concern that we'll confuse a "food lover" with the "Chicken Lover"? Actually, in his latest review Sifton gives another alternative: "gastro-nerd." I'd take that over "food-obsessed" any day. At least I don't have to be reminded of this:

[*]Actually, "foodie" makes regular appearances in other parts of the NYT, so this must just be a Sifton thang.

1 comment:

  1. I can imagine you saw the discussion between Chowfather, Eater, and myself on Twitter? I think your "food lover" is probably the best substitute so far. I dont know why I cant stand the word foodie so much. Maybe because its so lame? and emasculating?