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Why I’m a Foodie

I’m not here to defend being a foodie, because I don’t think it needs defending. But enough people seem concerned about my fixation with food that I thought I’d spell it out nice and clear. Here, in brief, is why I fucking love food.

Despite the fact that it’s been implied in certain places that caring a lot about food (and, for me, how what I eat directly affects the way I feel in my body and the way my body functions healthfully or unhealthfully) is somehow a form of mental illness, I don’t see it as any different than my other primary mental occupation (literature). In the same way that we need mental stimulation, and I am overmuch excited by the way I choose to mentally stimulate myself (good books), we also need to eat, and I am overmuch excited by the way I choose to feed myself; my enthusiasm for the way I feed myself and those around me–and where the food comes from, and how it gets put together in infinitely tasty combinations, and how to experiment with it, and where to get it for special occasions, and so forth–knows very few bounds indeed.

See, I understand my foodie fixation as being the culmination of a huge number of factors in my life. Here are some of them, as I see them.

Family: My mother is not a soft and cuddly person. She was a pastor’s wife who hated hugging strangers and reviled the idea of “women’s craft groups.” But she knew that she could show affection for her family, and communicate it effectively, through making, with care, the food we all enjoyed. That is why, to this day, homemade macaroni and cheese is inextricably linked in my brain with familial tenderness and taking care of the people in your home. It just is; it’s an equivalency that I have questioned and come to happy terms with.

Background: I’m an alcoholic. I have had unhealthy fixations on things I put into my body, so I know what that looks like. I know what it feels like in my body not to eat at all for a week and just get sustenance from vodka and cranberry juice. That is sick. That is a sick relationship with food. That is a sick relationship with yourself. But after sobering up and rediscovering my appetite, I found that food wasn’t just necessary, wasn’t just fuel. It was also fun. It was a delicious use of the senses I had returned to myself when I chose to stop drinking. This bullet point alone in my roster of foodieness is enough to make me want to shake people who try to tell me how “unhealthy” or “unnatural” my fixation with food is. I can look back just two years and show you unhealthy and unnatural. Food obsession has been an essential part of returning myself into my body, fully, in an overpowering awareness. And the thing is, for other foodies I know, it didn’t have to be alcoholism. It could be the destructive culture of dieting we live in, or a weariness with the ennui that they woke up from via their tastebuds first, but later the rest of their selves. Food, properly enjoyed, is an awakening.

Necessity: And the thing is, we all have to eat it. We all have to eat. Period. If you are reading this you are a person who has to eat food, because only people in extreme catatonia can survive for long without food. So it kind of baffles me when people ask me why I’m so into food, because I guess my response has to be another question: why aren’t you? Why allow the thing that powers you through life, the thing you have to do multiple times daily, to be merely a mediocre fueling, when it is so easy to merely slow down, choose to enjoy the sensation of eating, and notice the flavors, smells, textures, sounds, and visuals of what you put into your body? I realize that this is a point that those who disagree with me and I will just have to part ways on, but I literally cannot wrap my head around the idea of a person who does not divine bliss out of the act of eating. Have you ever eaten chocolate? A Pink Lady apple? Tomato soup? Fucking cheese? Cheese is evidence on its own of God in the world.

Speaking of God: I know, I can easily see how this can be construed as over the top, but I have a fraught relationship with my own intensely religious background, and one of the only things I’ve ever been able to wholeheartedly get on an automatic basis out of my entire lifetime of Christian education is how food and the body, and spiritual sustenance and the spirit are all essentially tied together, one and the same. Whether you’re talking about the mystery of the Eucharist, the Orthodox church’s seasonal tides of feasting and fasting, or even the way that so many holy days (you know, holidays?) have food rites and routines and traditions directly associated with them, Christianity, and for that matter most other spiritual traditions as well, is a little bit obsessed with the inherency of food in our understanding of the divine.

But what it all boils down to: is that it’s just something I’m good at, that I get extreme pleasure out of, and that proceeds as a natural extension of my experiences, abilities, and interests. And it makes me ragebaffled that people consider this passion a form of mental illness, because I think that signifies not only a true ignorance of what it means to be a foodie (not just for people with culinary degrees; come on, now), but also divorcedness from their own bodies and the enjoyment therein.

In the end, for me, it comes down to unadulterated enjoyment. I know plenty of people out there (ahem, the patriarchy, ahem) have an issue with women enjoying themselves without restriction or apology. But I kind of expect everyone who isn’t The Man to get it. What it’s about isn’t just calories in, calories out, or carefully tiptoeing around my second cousin’s eating disorder. What it’s about, for me, and for the many other foodies of varying degrees out there like me, is simply bliss. It’s simply joy. It’s simply a very, very keen, very conscious appetite.

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

11 replies on “Why I’m a Foodie”

My dad would probably worship you after reading this (not that he’s on PM that I know off, but still). He’s very big on “you’re putting it into your body, it’s your nourishment, why WOULDN’T you care about it/be interested in it?”

I do that in a smaller way, enjoy myself with quality food but don’t feel bad when it’s junkfood. As long as the taste is good and it suits my needs at that moment.

Hi PapaFreckle. Welcome.

I don’t think enjoying junkfood precludes being a foodie; I think it can be part of it. (It is for me.) Being a foodie isn’t about food snobbery (like wannabemusicologist below, I think budget is a real concern for most people in today’s economy, and when Gwyneth talks about being a foodie with Mario Batali making her pizzas in her backyard woodfire pizza oven I roll my eyes HARD). I think being a foodie is just about caring about food. Nutrition can be a subset of that; exoticism and experimentation can, too. But I think it ultimately comes down to savoring, enjoying, slowing down. Eating, rather than inhaling. Putting care into the preparation of your food (even if it’s just Kraft Mac & Cheese) rather than slopping something together and wolfing it down because there’s an empty feeling somewhere in the middle of your body. Basically: giving your taste buds their due, too.

I am also a foodie (I think- I don’t buy super expensive ingredients because I am a grad student on a fixed income). For me food is really tied up in showing people that I love and care for them, a home-cooked meal is a small way I can brighten someone’s day. Also, because I live by myself (hopefully not for long, my partner might be moving  really soon to where I go to school) cooking for people gives me a way to experiment with different dishes and ingredients. Also- I love living in my current city, because there are so many different ingredients available.  To me, cooking is a creative act, an experimental act, and an act of love for others and also for oneself.

When I think back to the earliest inclinations I may have had that involved me exquisitely enjoying food, it was with really simple, inexpensive dishes: like a perfect apple, al dente pasta, a fried egg sandwich. I don’t think you have to buy Pink Himalayan Salt for your eggs to consider yourself a foodie; I think foodies are people who enjoy food enough to choose to slow down and savor it, take note of it, and praise it.

My current city (San Francisco) has been a treasure trove of fresh fruits and vegetables, far more so than the last place I lived, and I have made a real game each week of noting what new things are in season. I am working up the nerve to try persimmons, because they are selling them right now. So I know what you mean about being able to appreciate a location for what it has to offer food-wise.

And yes, to all the rest! I admit that food isn’t just how I take care of others, but, like you said, it’s also the way I care for myself. (Well, one of the ways.) I wish you the best fortune in your partner’s hopeful relocation. It’s a sweet pleasure to be able to cook for someone you love.

This isn’t a secret, and we’re not embarrassed, so I don’t feel bad saying: My partner and I have been going through a rough patch in our intimate lives since I sobered up and since we adopted a very high-maintenance dog who needs All of Our Attention and Emotional Energy All of the Time, and we have been pleasantly surprised to find that food is another way that we are able to connect emotionally and physically together. Of course it is not the same, and of course it will not suffice forever, but in the interim, while we’re working through other things, it has been a small grace to have this other branch of our lives afford us intimacy and pleasure.

EXTREMELY PLEASURABLE: yes indeed.

Hear, hear!

I am an unabashed foodie. I love food. I love cooking. I love fancy foods that take me all day to prepare, and I love a good, greasy burger. I make sure to eat healthy most of the time so that when an opportunity to really indulge myself comes up, I am prepared to take advantage without guilt.

This hit me most recently when a good friend of mine passed away. The wake was to be Saturday night, and I let the organizer know to not worry about appetizers (he had enough on his mind!). I cooked all day. By the time of the festivities, I was pretty exhausted, but the cooking and then eating of various dishes was very therapeutic. There was a range from the quick-and-terrible-for-you (spinach-artichoke dip, sour-cream-stuffed mushrooms) to the takes-all-day-to-cook-and-is-terrible-for-you (Deviled eggs, bacon-wrapped potatoes), but… I don’t know.

Last night, a bunch of friends came over for game night, but before we did game night, we did “family dinner.” I cooked the food (French Onion soup, roasted asparagus, quinoa pilaf), someone else brought dessert. It was our first real get-together after the one member of our gang passed away, and… I think doing a big family dinner was important. Okay, yes, I was also craving a bunch of foods that are hard to cook in small doses, and it gave me a reason to cook.

I don’t really know what I’m getting at here, but ultimately, I think it’s that food is important. It’s more than fuel; it’s a social thing. And, yes, that can cause some people to go overboard or underboard or whatever. But people can do that with ANYTHING.

I’m so sorry for your loss.

And I definitely hear where you’re coming from. Cooking is therapeutic for me, too. It is a way I know how to express my care and compassion and concern for others, and I think you used it to memorialize a friend in one way, but also to console the friends who were left, in another.

I read somewhere that only 10% of the serotonin in our body is produced in the brain, and that 90% is in the stomach; in that way, our brain and our “gut” are inextricably linked, and I think that’s at least part of why comfort food is so reliably comforting for so many of us.

Cheese is evidence on its own of God in the world.

Cheese is proof that I have a place in the universe, and that happiness is attainable.

I like food. I like eating it, occasionally I like preparing it, I like socializing with people around a table full of it. I think about food a lot. Because I like it. No, you know what? I love it. I love food. That does not make me mentally ill. It makes me a person who loves food and gets enjoyment out of eating it.

Precisely.

Was it Graham Greene who said that hatred is a failure of the imagination? I know being a foodie isn’t for everyone. And I don’t care if anyone else shares my passion for it. I love food, and that’s enough for me. I don’t need a bevy of followers to justify or validate my interest. I’d have it whether I had a writing platform to discuss it or not. But I also know plenty of people who have passions I don’t share, but my own passion allows me to compassionately view and understand theirs. I may not share my friend’s compulsion to climb rock faces every weekend (distinctly more dangerous and therefore questionably LESS healthy than my own fixation), but because I’m passionate about one thing, I can kinda tell him I know how he feels, and get excited for him when he has a good climb. So I don’t get why people have to look at being passionate about food, as a hobbyist, as some kind of nutter fixation that they need to shit on. And slinging around accusations of mental illness when there are real mental illnesses out there associated with food, well, that’s just fucking insensitive, man.

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