Foodie vs. food snob: Which are you?

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During a recent discussion, someone accused me of being a food snob. This was not the first time I had been accused of being a food snob, and it probably won’t be the last. My immediate response was, “I’m not a food snob; I’m a foodie. There’s a difference.” Many have asked about the difference, and although many use these terms interchangeably, I feel that they are two distinctive classifications.

The two terms are often used interchangeably most likely because there is no real definition of a foodie or a food snob. To compound matters, when people have tried to define these two terms, they are so vague that their definitions end up confusing people further. For instance, Wikipedia (which people rely far too much on as accurate information) describes the difference between a foodie and a gourmet like this: “…gourmets are epicures of refined taste who may or may not be professionals in the food industry, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news.” Based on this distinction, a foodie does not have “refined taste,” nor can be a food industry professional, and a gourmet doesn’t care about the “study, preparation and news” about food. However, the madness does not end there.

For centuries, the gastronomic community has been divided into a hierarchy that is just as confusing as its modern counterparts. Although few use these titles anymore, you can see below that these terms are just as interchangeable, and in many cases, use each other as definitions. Hence, the ambiguity of not only these distinctions, but also for foodie and food snob.

  • Gastronome: (French; First Known Use: 1823) a lover of good food; especially: one with a serious interest in gastronomy.
  • Gourmet: (French; First Known Use: 1820) a connoisseur of food and drink.
  • Epicure: (from the Greek Epicurus; First Known Use: 1565) a person who cultivates a discriminating palate for the enjoyment of good food and drink; gourmet. (lesser known use: Friand)
  • Gourmand: (from the Middle English gourmaunt; First Known Use: 15th century)
    1: one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking
    2: one who is heartily interested in good food and drink
  • Glutton/Goulu: (from the Middle English glotoun; First Known Use: 13th century) one given habitually to greedy and voracious eating and drinking.
  • Goinfre (French: greedy guts): a gluttonous person.

What is the difference between a foodie and a food snob?

I believe the difference is not in how much you love food, but in the attitude with which you view food. The way that I differentiate the two is that to me a foodie can enjoy any kind of food no matter where it came from as long as it tastes good. Based on my definition, a foodie can appreciate seared foie gras just as much as a $1.99 hot dog from Costco. Although the two may not be comparable to one other, the fact that they both taste good is reason enough for a foodie to love them both.

Conversely, food snobs assign value to what they perceive as quality. To them, an Angus beef hamburger from the posh gourmet burger joint is better than the same burger from the fast-food chain because the posh burger joint charges more. Another example would be the higher perceived value in more expensive organic produce. Although there have been many studies that prove that organic and non-organic produce are nutritionally identical, and in many cases, taste virtually the same, a food snob believes that the organic produce costs more, therefore must be better.

Which am I?

The easiest way to distinguish the difference between being a foodie or a food snob is by asking yourself the question: “Would I try anything once?” If you’re answer is yes, then you are a foodie. You can appreciate food no matter what it is, how much it costs, or where you got it just so long as it tastes good.

That’s not to say that a foodie likes everything. Everyone has foods that for one reason or another they don’t like. Foodies would at least try something before deciding whether or not they hate it, whereas a food snob would make their decision based on predisposed values without even tasting anything.

Foodie: I tried it, and I don’t like it.
Food snob: I don’t have to try it. I know I won’t like it because it’s (cheap, looks funny, has a funny name, etc.)

I can proudly say that I am a foodie because I appreciate all food, and will try anything once; a fact that my friend Melissa Chang has used more than a few times to get me to eat natto (an ingredient that I loathe). There have been times when we were out and the chef sends out a dish made with natto. I scrunch my face and push the plate away, but then she says, “You have to try it at least once.” I shoot her a death stare and take a bite, which I immediately regret. The fact still remains, I tried it before deciding whether or not I hated it.

So, based on this blog post, are you a foodie or a food snob?