Editor’s note: This piece appeared recently in Northwest Palate magazine. The author, Cole Danehower, is the co-publisher and editor-in-chief of the magazine.
What should we call ourselves, we lovers of fine food, beverages, and the experiences that surround them?
“Foodie” is incomplete and belittling. “Gourmet” implies haughtiness, while “epicure” connotes hedonism. “Gastronome” is passé, and there isn’t a decent designation for someone who appreciates (ahem) alcoholic beverages.
I pondered this void in our culinary vocabulary as I worked on the cover story for the latest issue of Northwest Palate magazine. I worried that someone like me who is interested in wine and spirits might become known — perish the thought — as a “drinkie,” or something even worse.
Terms are important. The labels that describe things determine how we feel about them. The lack of a good term to describe our interests opens us up to being ignored or, worse, marginalized.
For example, a recent discussion of “organic” food on local public radio hinged on the remarkably naïve and simplistic argument that “it’s more expensive.” Although unvoiced, the dismissive conclusion — “and therefore not worth the consideration of regular folks” — hung heavy over the conversation.
“Organic” should not suggest “elite,” and when we consider the larger interests of food and drink, “foodie” should not signify “frivolous.” There’s nothing trivial or upper-class about an earnest interest in our culinary culture.
Food sustains our lives, so due attention to the source, quality, and kind of nourishment we ingest is more than warranted. Food enriches our lives through physical gratification and shared experiences with family and friends, so deepening our understanding of the social and emotional aspects of food and drink is certainly appropriate.
Food affects our society as well. People with an informed interest in food will help resolve such public-policy issues as land-use regulation, health and food safety, sustainable rural economies, carbon impacts, and food availability.
And food is a vital thread of our economy, running through areas of production, consumption, and even disposal. So concern about our food resources is part of the legacy we will leave to future generations.
But unless we can come up with a better label than “foodie,” I fear our voices will be increasingly ignored.
What do you think? Do you have any ideas for a new name to describe our shared alimentary enthusiasm?
Cole Danehower is a James Beard Award-winning wine writer who has been writing about the Northwest wine and food scene since 1999. His upcoming book, Wine Countries of the Pacific Northwest: The Wine Curious Consumer’s Guide to the Appellations of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Idaho is due to be published next spring.
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