Sunday, October 20, 2013

Foodie is NOT A Four Letter Word

"Love people:  cook them tasty food"

                              --Penzeys Spices

I love good food and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  This isn't news to anyone who reads my food blog.  I subscribe to way too many culinary magazines and spend hours on end getting inspired by other's food blogs, I ran out of space on my cookbook shelf years ago, and my kitchen (both of them) cabinets are bursting with gadgets and utensils that regularly get put to good use.  Whether it be eating it, cooking it, or simply dreaming up new recipes, food is often on my mind.  During my long bouts with insomnia I fantasize about new flavor combinations and develop menus for future dinners. When eating out I'm the person who will taste a dish for the first time and then spend the rest of the meal trying to determine the source of all of the flavors with the plan of replicating the dish at home.  And not all food has to be fancy, five star experiences; some of the best food I've ever tasted has been purchased from street vendors or hole-in-the-wall type establishments.  I'll try anything at least once since that is how I've made some of my favorite culinary discoveries.  After all, variety is the spice of culinary life.  For me, all I ask is that food is well prepared with love.  

One of my biggest disappointments about our time in Albania has been the lack of culinary variety here.  I've tasted some good Albanian food but repeatedly walk away from the traditional tables craving more variety since the options presented to us are often limited to just a few items.  While the variety of what is available has improved over the past two years I still find it to be lacking so our trips outside of the country have served as culinary lifesavers where I can enjoy the foods I crave while discovering new foods and flavors with the hope of recreating them at home.  Whether it be noshing on grilled meats from a street vendor in Ljubljana, eating a formal traditional Polish feast in Warsaw, or consuming the best pizza I've ever had at a roadside gas station in Naples, I've enjoyed it all.  As a lover of Asian foods of all kinds, and unable to find really good Asian food here in Tirana, we make it a point to eat at Indian and Thai restaurants in every foreign city we visit.  (The quality of my own Asian cooking has increased significantly since we've arrived here because making it myself has been my only real option).  And of course we also eat as local as we can.  With the exception of the requisite cheeseburger from a Hard Rock Cafe, we avoid western chain restaurants like the plague.  (My family loves good burgers and have yet to find one overseas outside of a HRC that even comes close to the Kelly's Tavern burgers what we are craving).  Repeatedly, I return home from each trip culinarily inspired and always spend the next few days in the kitchen attempting to recreate the dishes I enjoyed so much.

There is a word for people like me:  foodie.  A foodie is simply someone who has a keen interest in food and drink and views eating and drinking as a hobby to be enjoyed rather than a chore that simply fuels their body.  There is nothing wrong with liking and enjoying food but somewhere along the way, and I'm not really sure where or when this happened, being a foodie became a dirty word.  I'm an avid reader of the Washington Post food column and eagerly look forward to food writer Tom Sietsema's weekly online chat about the D.C. food scene.  (Of course Glenn just tells me that this is a form of self imposed torture since I am only able to dream about partaking in all of the dining options).  I've been following this chat for years but have noticed that as of late,  an increasing number of participants have been commenting snidely about the use of the word foodie as though being one is a bad thing.  Why or why is being labeled as a foodie turning into a bad thing?  Is it wrong to like good tasting food and seek it out?  Why should I feel ashamed for caring about what I put in my family's mouths?  Is it wrong that I prefer quality over quantity? (Americans eating at high end restaurants often complain that portions are too small).  Call me a food snob but I refuse to apologize for liking good food.

Yes, I'm a foodie and I am proud of it.  And with that, I'm going to spend the rest of my Sunday cooking up a storm.

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