Grilled cheese and tomato soup, one of Sean Pruett's favorite meals
Somewhere along the line, I realized I really liked food. (I’m guessing if you are a regular reader of our site, you might have had a similar moment.) I don’t mean that I like it in a gluttonous, all-you-can-eat all the time kind of way. I like food as an experience. I enjoy trying new cuisines, new restaurants, new recipes. I enjoy revisiting old favorites and having that moment of nostalgia as I’m transported back in time. I enjoy talking about food with fellow lovers of food. There’s not much about food I dislike.
But don’t call me a foodie.
As much as I like food, I really dislike the word "foodie." Sometime between the emerging popularity of food blogs and the now-ubiquitous over-the-top Instagram posts, the f-word took over. I’m pretty sure at first it was just a way to refer to someone who was well-versed in the culinary scene, but it has morphed since then. Foodie carries an air of snobbery and pretension that doesn’t resonate with most true food lovers. It's a label people use when what they really want to say is, “You like weird food," "I'm not like you," and, even worse, "I know more about food than you." All just because someone happens to make food a hobby the way some people golf, or needlepoint, or woodwork.
One of my favorite columns we produce here at Southern Kitchen is Saving Southern Recipes. It's a feature where we collect reader submissions of old family recipes and either reverse engineer the measures — how much exactly is a “bowlful” of flour or a “big pinch” of sugar? — or simply try to recreate the end product in an effort to salvage what is often a lost piece of someone’s childhood. Most likely no one ever called any our collective grandma’s foodies, but I’m willing to bet good food was near and dear to all of their hearts.
People find it odd when I tell them that one of my favorite meals is an Oscar Mayer hot dog with Castleberry’s hot dog chili, Publix coleslaw and Kraft mac-and-cheese. That’s about as “basic AF” (I think that's what the kids are saying these days) as you can get. But here's the thing: I’m just as happy to talk about the most perfect bite of head cheese I’ve ever had and how it was redolent of porkiness and paired so well with Sea Island red peas. Grilled cheese, made with plain old yellow American cheese, and tomato soup (Campbell’s from a can) is a staple in my house. So is a warm lentil and zucchini salad topped with a fresh basil vinaigrette and buttery burrata. From American classics to modern creations, from hyper-local to exotic imports, there is joy to be found all along the dining spectrum.
You don’t have to be a so-called “foodie” to love the experience of eating, you just need to be open to enjoying it. Enjoy the way a food tastes, enjoy the people you are eating it with, enjoy the way it brings back a great memory. Be it a slice of pizza on a street corner, an elaborate tasting meal in a super-chic bistro, or burgers on the backyard grill, take a minute to pause with your next bite and look around. If you’re enjoying the moment, you might just be a food-lover too.