I feel comfortable calling myself a foodie because of the way I define the word “foodie,” and it’s this: Someone who considers food one of life’s great pleasures and someone who thinks* about what she is cooking and eating.
Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Puree
(one of my favorites)
|The lowly, Food Networky Giada de Laurentis combines 3 fairly simple components to create a dish with an amazing balance of flavors.|
This issue reared its ugly head recently because of a link I found lurking at this unsavory place. I actually think Bruni raises a good point about unseemly food snobbery, but in doing so manages to indulge in a little snobbery of his own.
See, in the column, Bruni lumps Paula Deen and Sandra Lee (a woman I detest) in with the Food Network Kitchens and Rachel Ray. This is a mistake.
While I would agree that all four of these recipe resources focus mainly on fairly simple recipes that are appropriate to whip up for a family on a weeknight, but the similarities end there. Full disclosure: I have nothing against Paula Deen. I’m a Southerner and I enjoy Southern cooking, however her show really just isn’t for me. I don’t consider the fare particularly sophisticated and obviously I don’t consider a lot of it nutritionally sound. Sandra Lee, on the other hand, relies far too much on processed ingredients and focuses on making singularly unsophisticated food, all while wearing a dimwitted smile on her Botoxed face and referring to herself as “Aunt Sand.”
Meanwhile, the Food Network Kitchens introduced me to this recipe, which while being extraordinarily healthy, is also unbelievably tasty and even pleasing to the eye. Rachel Ray–if you know anything about her at all (and I’m guessing most of her critics do not)–focuses a lot on recipes that are considered time-honored classics. Some of them are treasured peasant food like any number of Mediterranean soups and stews (such as Ratatouille and Menestra) and some of them are the anachronistic French classics that have all but disappeared from restaurant menus here in the States (like Coq Au Vin or Bouillabaisse). Many of these take hours (even days) to complete. What Rachel does is update and streamline these recipes to make them more health-conscious and easier to prepare in her self-imposed 30-minute time constraint. (Never once have I made a Rachel Ray recipe that only took 30 minutes to make, which is fine with me.) This means sometimes transforming a braise into a casserole or a stew. Are stews and casseroles as sophisticated as a braise? Probably not. But I’d rather have people eating Rachel’s veggie-infused updates than something they pulled out of their freezer or plopped out of a can.
A few years back, I made a salad. It was something I created on the fly because I craved something tasty and healthy. I thinly sliced some leftover steak and added it to a salad composed of romaine, parsley, tomato wedges, red onions and blanched sugar snap peas. I dressed all this with a simple red wine vinaigrette. Hardly difficult, hardly exotic, but–I thought–rather clever. It was amazingly delicious.
Which brings me to my point about unseemly food snobbery. See, like music, I feel like good food snobbery is an opportunity to bring people in. “Hey, this is amazing–try it.” “Hey, this song is amazing–listen to it!” But I feel many approach food–and, yes, music– as an opportunity to exclude. That’s bad and silly snobbery, people.
How does one exclude? Well, you could do it the way this guy did. He wrote a book about salads–which I regrettably bought–then demanded that people use ingredients like fresh hearts of palm. Um, where exactly does one procure fresh hearts of palm? Why don’t I just add a dash of Pink Fairy Armadillo sperm and soupcon of Unicorn blood while I’m at it? I’m not normally one to balk at an exotic–a qualifier always up for debate–ingredient, but come the fuck on. I’ll stick with my steak and sugar snap pea salad, thanks.
You also exclude by demanding that food be difficult. Or the ingredients esoteric. You know what food should be? Nourishing and tasty. I make nourishing and tasty food. I have an amazing palate. I am a foodie.
*In other words, I care greatly about my ingredients, I am pretty familiar with preferred or “professional” cooking techniques, I am confident in the kitchen, I have great knife skills, I am obsessed with having the proper cooking implements, I care greatly about how my food tastes, I avoid processed foods as much as possible, and I also try to avoid foods with trans fats, hydrogenated oils and preservatives. Obviously, I am not a slave to this effort, but I certainly try, and probably a great deal more than the average American.