I’m currently reading The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan. I love food; I love learning about it, growing it, cooking it, experiencing it with friends and family at new restaurants, canning it…you get the idea. My love of food is something simple, something natural, a love that has been around forever. People have grown and cooked their own food out of necessity for hundreds of years, until society slowly changed to favor an industrial and commercialized system instead. These acts of getting back to our roots with food, while noble and incredibly important, are nothing new: just something that unfortunately has been forgotten in pockets throughout time, and many of us are starting to feel around those pockets again, in search of something sacred.
There are many things wrong with the current system: pesticides and other agrichemicals, pollution, unfair labor compensation, and profit over health for our bodies, minds, and environment. Needless to say, I’m very happy that people are awakening to these issues and choosing to take action. So much has been done to “food” as we know it, that there has to be a serious conversation and great change to solve these problems. But to pretend that how I enjoy food is something novel and new, and that it should be exclusive, is a farce. This is how people have lived for generation after generation, except now, amidst an obesity epidemic and quickly degrading environment, there is a growing conversation on how to fix it. A hugely important conversation that we all need to have.
This excerpt from The American Way of Eating easily explains the negative connotations of “foodie”. It stuck out at me, and I wanted to share.
“The evening lazes on, and it might just have faded into bedtime except that Martina, Christina’s younger sister, shows up, striding up the sidewalk, kissing Gabriel on the cheek, and introducing herself to me. Gabriel leans over to her.
You have to tell her about the foodie!
Oh, are you a foodie? she asks me, a hint of a challenge in her voice. After a few days of living with Christina, once it was clear that being honest about my work wouldn’t endanger my undercover status at Walmart, I explained that I’m actually a writer. Gabriel already knew all about it when we met, so I’m sure Martina’s already heard it, too.
Well, I like food. I like to cook.
She sighs and tells me a story.
So, I work at the radio station, and there’s this guy I work with, he’s younger, white, and he was talking and talking about these people called “foodies”; he’s one of them. So I ask him what that meant, “What’s a foodie?” And he goes, “It’s someone who’s really, really into food, and grows their own, and then does things like make preserves and pickles and cans their food.” Martina sighs again.
‘They’re like, really, really into food.” And he’s a foodie. And so I say, “Oh, like my mom, she does that.” Or, says Martina, leaning closer, she did, but now she’s old. But, when I was a kid, she used to grow all these herbs and tomatoes and chiles and everything, just like back on the rancho in Mexico.
Gabriel looks at me. You’ve seen the garden, right? I nod: In back of the house there are two long strips of flowers and herbs, and plenty of room to grow food.
You mean she would pickle jalapeños and salsas from scratch? And you could eat it all year? Just from the backyard? I ask, remembering the meals I ate in Greenfield.
Yes! says Martina. And so this guy, he says, “Oh no, not like that.” and I can’t get him to tell me what the difference is, he just keeps saying, “It’s just, like, you really, really like your food,” and I keep saying “Like. My. Mom.” And we go back and forth like this, and finally I just told him, straight up, “That’s classist, you just don’t get it.” And all he could say was, “Foodies really care about what they eat.”
What does that even mean, says Gabriel, that you really care about food?”