Allow me though to clarify before the torches and pitchforks are raised. I’m not sure of the entomology, but my guess is that somewhere in the early 2000’s, at a rest stop between Flavortown and Twitter, “foodie” emerged on our doorstep like a rescue dog in a basket. We didn’t ask questions, we just took it in as our own, and relinquished any concerns in lieu of our newfound love. Fast forward a couple of years, and we were introduced to Instagram. This necessary evil quickly embedded itself into our daily lives as the ultimate medium of self-advertisement and promotion, and I am convinced this is where things started to go off the rails.
However, for every Coachella montage, and photoshopped Instagram model, there is a silver lining — photogenic education. Never have epicureans had more access to the restaurants, bars, chefs, producers, wineries, and more. The world is literally at our fingertips, and we should be forever grateful for this visual catalogue of knowledge and engagement. With every innovation though, there are side effects, which brings me to exhibit A, otherwise known as “influencers.”
It only makes sense with a platform like Instagram that people should try to capitalize on its potential. I admittedly am one of those hapless souls attempting to scrounge a living amongst the wreckage of shameless self-promotion. I pay my bills by helping others build their brands and businesses, and I shamelessly promote my own dribbling such like this via the digital avenue. The terrible truth though, is things are not always what they appear to be with social media. When I first started The Best Ceats In fact, I got a text from a dear friend asking if everything was ok, because to him, it looked like I was going out every single night, when in fact I was posting old photos from home just trying to build a following and establish brand continuity.
If everyone on Yelp is the next Jonathan Gold (RIP) then it makes sense that a lot of Instagram believe themselves to be the next Paul Nicklen (who is very much alive). Coming full circle, why do I hate the word “foodie” then? To torture the metaphor from earlier, we let the dog off the leash and didn’t ask questions. For every person trying to “be real” on social media, and promote awareness for things that matter, there are hundreds out there paying for followers, and posting photos of trays of fast food with their shoes blurred out in the background as they label themselves “foodies.” The issue is, that these “foodies” are reaching real people, which, for every chef trying to celebrate a hard-working farmer with only 490 followers, there is some would-be in West Hollywood with 9231 followers celebrating a plastic tray of dipping sauces from their neighborhood McDonald’s.
I think it is time for a revolution then. I believe it is high time that the word “foodie” is reclaimed. We should celebrate those who tell stories, and showcase real people, as opposed to trays of commercial garbage with a filtered backdrop. If the world is at our collective fingertips, then I think we should have a say in what that world looks like, and when it comes to food and drink, that world should not look like a commercial billboard. It should look like the pastures, local produce, the dedicated breweries and distilleries, and the people working on the line to make great food. The world should be real, honest, and vulnerable.
As “foodies,” we always want to know where the products on our plate comes from, but we apparently don’t want to ask where the photos in our feed are from. Until we change that, being called a “foodie” is an insult in my eyes. We need to change the context of what the word is associated with. Ultimately, it is up to our thumbs to simply not hit the follow button, and not double tap for a meaningless heart. Let’s be honest, collectively, we all were able to break free of whatever lard-laden spell Paula Deen had on us, so I think we can handle a couple of poorly funded millennials.
Let’s get to work.