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?

43 comments
M
M

I forgot to add dog to my list of fuud that I have eaten...

Annoddah_Dave
Annoddah_Dave

Chef Ed,

I offer another term:
Gofoeet (Hawaiian Pidgin, circa 1950s) dual meaning, to dine and/or adventuresome fuud indulgence. Ex: Eh! wea u guys gofoeet? or Brah! chek da fried cheeken okole wit dah feddahs, I stay gofoeet!!!

M
M

Howzit Ed,
I'm a foodie. I'll eat anything at least once. I eat balut, rocky mountain oysters, fugi, natto, fried bugs, sea cucumber, jelly fish, elk, moose, buffalo, pig feet, ox tail, tripe, fish eye, cow tongue, pig intestine, liver, heart, blood sausage, cow brains, chicken feet, 1000 yr. old duck egg, bitter melon, You name it I'll eat it as long as it won't kill me or make me sick. I could survive anywhere.

turkfontaine
turkfontaine

a foodie. when i first got to Japan some Tokyo friends were so kind to take me and my wife many times to eat in some of the best places extant at the time. this was years ago. they were amused by me because i scarfed down everything and anything. Japanese food was so new, so strange. i'd never been exposed to anything but American country cooking at home and burgers and fries on the road. i loved it. i still do, especially seafood. i was lucky in that respect because i grew up on the Chesapeake Bay with raw oysters and steamed crabs, fish and beach shellfish. in the last few years, i discovered Vietnamese food and i've come to love it too. (check out Andrea Nguyen's vietworldkitchen.com and her cookbooks. the most recent is 'Asian Dumplings' i think the thing i like about both cuisines is the freshness, the closeness to the land and to the sea. when i'm in Honolulu, i eat Asian food almost exclusively, except for my 5:30am ritual sausage biscuit at McDs, Keeaumoku. that's where i met@lavagal and a whole bunch of much, much stranger people. with that diet and all the exercise i get in the water, i drop pounds like crazy. then when i come back to the foggy Bay Area i wind up adding back cause i can't stay away from the Italian restaurants in North Beach. so, i'm a foodie. i like new things and i like to try them with new people- cause half of eating food is sharing time. there may be enough of the former, but never of the latter.

Ynaku
Ynaku

I guess I'm a foodie. I love to eat. In fact I live to eat :) But I also know what I don't want to eat. Sorry, I can't handle lamb and goat. I guess in my suppressed memories of keed time. I can't swallow it. That's ok, I'm sure Melissa will eat my share. LOL she can put it away and still look good.

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

i'm getting an idea. jeffrey steingarten started his career as a food critic by tackling the foods he loathed, starting w/ kimchee. the field is wide open in hawaii. for u, ed, it's natto (steingarten kept eating it until he began to appreciate kimchee, then like it. now he calls it his 'national pickle'), for me it's balut. omgomgomg

johngarcia
johngarcia moderator

Food snob here! Whoo who! ;-)

Melissa808
Melissa808 moderator

LOL eh we even had that cabernet natto sauce at Alan Wong, remember?

I think I'm a foodie--as you know, I'm pretty much an omnivore and have definitely tried things once before deciding! I also don't pooh-pooh food just because it is "last year's trend," as if dining is like fashion. Yes, I like creative/new dishes, but just because someone does something delicious over & over doesn't make them bad at all.

Jayparasco
Jayparasco

You have the same definition of foodie as I do. Saying that "a food snob believes that the organic produce costs more, therefore must be better" is simplistic. Many foodies prefer organic produce because of the harm chemicals and pesticides pose to the environment and their health. Eating from fast food chains is making the world obese and taking money away from local restaurants as well as farms that grow vegetables and raise animals ethically. There are many reasons to avoid fast food and non-local/organic products, the biggest is having a conscience.

Eric
Eric

After researching the definition for Natto ... I think this would be a good candidate for my "no touch" list too...LOL

Eric
Eric

I consider myself to be a foodie. However, there are some things that I will never taste/eat ....e.g., Balut and thousand year old egg, as noted by @harrycovair

harrycovair
harrycovair

Foodie for me. I'll eat anything once and sometimes more than once.

Natto is good for you if you can get over the smell, sliminess, stickness, and strong flavor, uhhhmmm I not helping you am I? Yes, I eat Natto. I prefer it over a hot bowl of rice.

One true test of a Foodie: Chicken or Duck Feet. Thousand Year Old Egg. Balut.

Wait, I'll draw the line at Balut. Haven't tried it yet and I'm not sure I'd like to.

Sushi
Sushi

I'm definitely more of a foodie, though I do draw the line at some things. Roadkill, anyone?

russkar
russkar

What a relief, I'm classified as a Foodie and not the Food Snob most of my friends think I am just because I don't want to eat at some of their favorite restaurants, like the Golden Arches, etc

edmorita
edmorita moderator

@M I've had dog before. I keep teasing my cousin's annoying little dog that one day I'm going to cook that little rat!

edmorita
edmorita moderator

@M They say that 1 in 60 people who eat fugu die, so if you're at a party of 60 that serves fugu and everyone else has already eaten, don't eat the fugu. =P

M
M

Should be fugu not fugi...

edmorita
edmorita moderator

@Melissa808 I'll eat a whole package of natto if you shave your head.

Melissa808
Melissa808 moderator

@edmorita It was good!! But I remember your face as soon as they said the word "natto." hee hee heeeeee

edmorita
edmorita moderator

@Melissa808 All due respect to Chef Alan, but why would you ruin a perfectly good short-rib by braising it with natto? Blarg!

edmorita
edmorita moderator

@Jayparasco I'm not talking about paying for quality, I'm talking about people who don't take the quality into consideration. They buy the more expensive product just for the sake of buying the more expensive product. I've worked with people like this my entire career. I worked with a chef who used to buy eggs milk and cream from a local "Organic" farm. They charged us ridiculous amounts for a very substandard product, but the chef's rational was that the product must be exceptional because they are charging a lot for it.

Jayparasco
Jayparasco

@nonstopmari Glad your health issue was resolved :) @edmorita There are a host of distinctions between what I would consider a foodie and a food snob that don't involve the motivation behind buying organic or not eating fast food. Those are two examples of paying more for quality. The quality is not generated by the price, the price results from the quality. An informed foodie would make the same purchasing decisions as a food snob in these situations. jmho

edmorita
edmorita moderator

@Jayparasco I don't believe that it is simplistic at all. I'm not saying that everyone who eats organic is a food snob. People like @nonstopmari choose to eat organic because they made an informed decision to do so. It is the people who buy organic just because it costs more and as such has a higher perceived value that I believe are food snobs.

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

@Jayparasco almost exactly what i was going to say. at one point i had estrogen-related tumors that grew visibly after i gorged one thanksgiving; they had to be surgically removed and i've appreciated hormone- and antibiotic-free meat ever since. organic produce i prefer bc i know i'm not eating chemical pesticides and fertilizers, so i will pay more. it's not a foodie/food snob thing, it's knowledge of what cheap food can do to the body and, by extrapolation, what it's doing to modern societies. jmho

Eric
Eric

@nonstopmari Ha Ha.... dentist's spit cup... sounds much better now! Good eating.

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

@Eric u cannot READ abt natto. u have to experience it. tony bourdain said it was like eating out of his dentist's spit cup. it's an acquired taste. at one point sake was an acquired taste for me too. now both are pleasures.

harrycovair
harrycovair

@Eric Not really hazing because you'll be eating the Balut (or whatever) by your own hands and under your own terms. It'll be hazing if I hit you with a 4 x 4 when you don't expect it and make you eat more Balut (or whatever).

Eric
Eric

@harrycovair close your eyes and pinch your nose... sounds like hazing to me!

harrycovair
harrycovair

@Eric Just close your eyes and pinch your nose shut just before you start eating Natto and you won't even taste it.

If I have to eat Balut, there better be at least one 1 liter bottle of fresh water next to the Balut and a couple of swigs of mouthwash too.

Grew up eating 1000 Year Old Egg. Basically it's cased in clay with ash, lime, and salt and left sitting for a few weeks or slightly longer. Others complain they smell Ammonia or Sulphur when it's cut open but I guess I've grown accustomed to the scent.

harrycovair
harrycovair

@Melissa808 @edmorita I knew I read a Bizzare Food article on Hawai`i before. Didn't realize it was yours Melissa. I can't recall reading bizarre1 but I;ve scanned thru bizzare2 before.

I'll reserve my comments on the chilled monkey brains till later. It's more of a personal risk undertaking imho.

harrycovair
harrycovair

@edmorita @Melissa808 Shades of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Clue".

You do know the what the cultural belief/cure of eating Monkey Brains is? <Think along the lines of Sildenafil.>

I'd probably eat the Balut instead of the monkey brain.

BTW @Melissa808, do you have any pictures of you eating the Balut?

Melissa808
Melissa808 moderator

@harrycovair I've done balut! I don't need to try it again, but at least I know I've done it. *wears the badge proudly*

edmorita
edmorita moderator

@russkar That's fine as long as you made an informed decision. You tried it, and didn't like it.

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