The other day I passed a fancy new restaurant in the West Village from whose windows camera bulbs were popping with lightning intensity. I assumed there was a fancy-pants magazine photo shoot in progress and peeked to see who was posing. A model? An actress? SJP? Wrong. It was a chicken dish, bathed in professional lights, the center of attention for a team of attendants who were hovering off to the side, waiting to attend to the chicken’s every whim. A surreptitious little piece of tinfoil was propping up the chicken into a sexier, more angled pose, the poultry equivalent of a girl on the cover of Maxim arching her back and spreading her legs. Which is when it hit me—I’m really sick of foodies.
You know who I’m talking about: people who take pride in fetishizing food. Fussy eaters who glorify the transformation of nutrition into fashion. Foodie culture. Foodie bloggers. People for whom the opening of a new Mario Batali restaurant spurs the same excited panting as a dose of Viagra.
I remember the first time I heard a co-worker refer to himself as a foodie. It immediately irritated me. Was he implying that he appreciated food more than other people? That his love of eating was somehow more evolved than mine? Don’t all people love the thing we can’t live without? The word strikes me as absurd. It’s as if I called myself an “Airie.” Because I’m simply nuts for air.
Let me be clear: I really love eating and I love food. I think anyone who knows how to cook anything is a genius, and I always appreciate the time and love that goes into a home-made meal. And I love going to restaurants. I love menus and forks and appetizers and the anticipation of desserts. But I hate that foodies feel like every meal has to have the same wow-factor as their birthday blowjob. I once tried to make dining plans with a foodie friend and it took over ninety minutes to agree on a place that met all of her qualifications for ambiance, cuisine, and service. You would have thought we were negotiating Israeli borders.
I’m sick of the foodies who need every morsel that goes into their mouth to be a Picasso painting, a Giacometti sculpture, a Proust novel, evoking the world with each crumb. Foodies who need everything to be caramelized, sauteed in a blabla reduction, nested in a bed of shredded whatevers, served with a mushroom top hat and a julienne of leeks that have been knitted into a sequined scarf. It’s not that wonderful food doesn’t make me drool—I’m a bit of a St Bernard when I start thinking about cheese—it’s just the foodie chatter I can’t stand, the circle jerking in print and on an ever growing number of websites over this new place and that revamped old place, the obsessive fawning over such and such amuse-bouche, the kerfuffle over truffles.
The chicken in the restaurant window was treated like a celebrity rather than a meal, a potential threat to Kate Hudson in a “Who Wore it Better” face-off (although I acknowledge that this would be a fun face-off). But Food doesn’t need paparazzi. If stars are just like us, so are foodies. There isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t love to eat, and most likely those who are most enthusiastic about it are the ones for whom food is always a humble and scarce affair. In a few weeks, we’ll gather around the Thanksgiving table to be grateful as we chow down. I’m sure that, as usual, I will end up stuffing myself. There’s a fine line between loving your dinner because it tastes super awesome, and worshipping it à la the Golden Calf.
Jessi Klein is a writer and comedian who has frequently appeared on Comedy Central, CNN, VH1, and the Today show. She is currently writing a screenplay for Universal Studios, as well as occasionally drawing animals for her best friend’s letterpress card company. She also likes to think she has value as a human being aside from her numerous credits in the entertainment industry.