Well, I’ll be. Turns out it isn’t just food trucks that are causing a stir on the food scene. The people who talk about, photograph, write about and eat food are – simultaneously – labeled as responsible for culinary art reaching heights never before seen in our lifetimes…and also ruining the experience for everybody.
With the stratospheric popularity of absolutely everything Food Network, Cooking Channel and celebrity chef cook-offs, there are fans. Lots of them. And some are well-behaved and grateful for the exposure to a type of artistry that goes in their belly. Some are a little less…reserved: taking their new-found knowledge/obsession and loudly pontificating about produce; stalking certain restaurateurs as if they were rockstars; and occasionally…well…just generally making an ass out of themselves.
In the best of cases, the obsession with ingestion has to do with serious food politics: Big Agra, US school lunches, fast food – these things are Bad. Working to make a difference in the system so that people across all socio-economic systems have affordable access to healthy food is Good. But blindly spouting off about Jamie Oliver to the guy who’s working the grill at your neighborhood block party is Annoying.
In the worst of cases, there’s an unapologetic snobbery that feels more like playground bullying than breaking bread. Not everyone can afford a jar of artisan elderflower honey cultivated by monks in Tibet, and – for most of us – a dollop of Sue Bee will do just fine. Sometimes you just have to get over it. Like Grandma always says, that’s the way the Scottish shortbread cookie, crafted exquisitely of stone-ground wheat flour and creamy Irish butter, cradling a soupçon of ruby-hued English strawberry preserves crumbles.
But these days everyone seems to have a camera and an opinion, and – often – an attitude of entitlement that’s a little hard to swallow. And the general irritation within the food writing world seems to be at a boiling point. There has been a recent blaze of “friendly” fire (or, perhaps, flambe?) directed at the very culture which feeds the most voracious of the eater/complainers. Food bloggers are fed up with foodies.
This war of words is happening everywhere. From the always entertaining Shut Up Foodies folks in New York, to Katharine Shilcutt’s rage-inciting article on Houston Press Blogs, “Has the ‘Foodie’ Backlash Begun?” In LA, there’s Amy Scattergood and her two-part SquidInk post, the “Top10 Foodie Words We Hate: Starting With Foodie”; and Heather John, who wrote in the September issue of Bon Appetit: “Somewhere along the revolutionary road, honest artisans who used to be known as bartenders became loftily titled ‘mixologists,’ and alchemy gave way to the absurd.” A lot of people are pretty fired up over the way we talk about food.
Given the heated political and social atmosphere in the food world, it’s not always easy to tell which words are going to set someone off. So, in an effort to carefully navigate the minefield of spicy hot emotion and avoid getting myself into some sort of linguistic pickle, I’m writing today’s Food Truck Times post without using any word, phrase or description that might incite food people to anger.