Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Foodies and fandom

I have been told from time to time that I am a 'foodie'. This is one of those things that anyone who knows me would consider obvious, just as anyone walking into my home office would take me for a Beatle fan, because there's a big Beatles poster on the wall, some Beatles plastic figures perched on a bookshelf, another Beatles picture, two shelves of books about and by them, etc. etc.

The thing is, I don't consider myself either a foodie or a Beatle fan. I like eating good food, but I also sometimes like eating bad food. (Maybe it would be better to say that I like eating what I consider good food.) I have loved listening to the Beatles ever since I started listening to music, but I am well aware that some of their stuff is kind of awful, or at any rate shoddy. All of my Beatlesabilia, other than the books, were things that people gave me because they know I like the Beatles. (I'll try, from here on, to keep this post on the subject of food because after all, this blog is called Notes on Meals.)

A while ago I returned from holiday by myself, leaving I. and L. (wife and child) on holiday, because I had to go back to work but they didn't. I had three weeks in the flat on my own. During that period, I found it very hard to interest myself in food. Had I been a 'foodie', I imagine that I would have run wild and indulged my most extravagant and/or perverse tastes, but in fact I learned that I am chiefly interested in sharing food with other people, not so much in cooking it for myself. I like cooking a brand new dish for myself first, so as to verify that it is in fact tasty before trying it out on others, but the real fun is in witnessing other people appreciating what I've cooked. Likewise, I am fascinated by the Beatles, but I do not worship them.

Food, like music, is sometimes put together for very strange reasons, and consumed for equally strange and quite different reasons which may have nothing to do with its actual quality, savour or digestibility. The British attitude towards curry, for example, owes more to competitive sport than it does to cuisine. The Scottish attitude to food owes way too much to questions of national identity and not nearly enough to commonsensical tests of what combinations actually taste good - haggis, neaps and tatties being only the most well-known and offensively stodgiest offender.

I have a few observations to make about food snobbery and cooking-related one-upmanship, but I'll save them till later. In the meantime, I don't plan for this blog to be just about great food and how to make it (or what a great cook I am). I would like to get a conversation going about what role food plays in our lives.


  1. Okay, I'll bite HAHAHA sorry.

    I hardly ever cook for myself, and when I do it is weird obsessive comfort-food shit like dulce de leche or junket or custard or Eton mess. (Could I BE any more half-English? I think not.) But cooking for friends and family is an intense pleasure, and one of the things I dreamed of doing when I grew up that turns out to be even better than I hoped it would be.

    I have a congruent dawning interest in gardening, because getting the food from seed to table seems... complete, somehow. If I had the balls I'd be Novella Carpenter and raise and slaughter my own meat.

    I think you misconstrue a little bit what people mean by "foodie"; out here at least it is not necessarily synonymous with food snob. It's more likely to mean someone who tries to hit the farmer's market and buy ethical meat, but who suspends these rules for an excellent burrito; someone who is as excited about the hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese with the incredible Imperial rolls as they are about French Laundry. Someone who sees the occasional burger and fries as an important part of a balanced diet. But your mileage may vary.

  2. I find it hard to hear the word 'foodie' without hearing connotations of snob but maybe that's cause I live in the UK, and although the Scots like to pretend that they are utterly different from the English, they share the common British obsession with class. Here, everything everyone says to everyone else about everything is basically about class. It's one of the reasons I miss Ireland; in Ireland the class system is merely about how much money you have, but in the UK it's about where you come from.