Foodie Underground: From Trendy to Tradition

ColumnWhy we have to stop thinking of the “foodie” movement as a trend.

Luxury continues to inspire the culinary world, and its eager diners. From $3,000 dinner reservations to a select list of the world’s 50 best restaurants, the top tier of the food chain is elevating the art of eating with price tags to match. In contrast, the general public faces rising food prices (which is even worse for the developing world).

The foodie echelon is always looking for the latest and greatest; those concerned and engaged with what they eat are often branded as pretentious fools who care too much about food. Tell your friends you’re thinking about checking out the new artisan charcuterie and you may earn an elevated eyebrow.

When did caring about food become food snobbery?

First, we have to remember not to take ourselves too seriously. Toothpaste for Dinner has a wry comic poking fun at food pretension:

We can all find a little humor in poking fun at our gustatory obsession with local-this, organic-that, but, as self-described foodies, are we aspiring to become the kind of food snobs people do poke fun at or are we just creating healthy attitudes?

When I think foodie, I envision a person equally as interested in getting their hands dirty in a bed of their own homegrown kale as they are in throwing down a couple extra dollars at the farmers’ market to score the best chanterelles; a person concerned with real food who is willing to spend their hard-earned money to buy and enjoy it. Only equating foodies with luxury or upscale concoctions is simplistic. For sellers to elevate the prices of whole or organic food, it essentially privatizes it, taking out of the hands of the people willing to defend it and use it daily, not just for frivolous occasions. But as we have learned in the past year of the Foodie Underground column, this is fortunately not the case – despite mainstream media hype.

Despite how easy it is for mass media to focus on $3,000 dinners and $600 cookbooks, food culture isn’t changing because of shock value. It’s changing because of markets where shoppers can talk to their farmers. It’s changing because of friends who get together and see how many ingredients they can source locally for their dinner party. It’s changing because schools are starting to think about the benefits of serving organic to children. It’s changing because there’s a new media world full of food-savvy individuals who are encouraging others to contemplate their relationship to food.

With a love for what we eat, we have to stop thinking of good and creative food as a trend and start thinking about how we make it a resilient American tradition.

The underground markets featuring the DIY products of urban-dwelling bakers. The apartment windowsill herb garden turned full-blown balcony vegetable garden. It’s reveling in taste. It’s getting our hands dirty. It’s engaging with our community. It’s ensuring that everyone can be involved. And that is no trend.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.

Images: Anna Brones, Toothpaste for Dinner, Anna Brones

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.