Yes, I am a foodie. But isn’t everyone these days? What makes me think that I have stumbled upon a secret love of food only shared by the select few? Of course I haven’t. Years ago, perhaps this idea of a secret foodie club might hold some truth. Before the advent of Food Network, Ina Garten, and Jamie Oliver the term may have conjured up images of twenty-something hipsters strolling through their weekend farmers market in search of all things organic and raw, or perhaps it brought to mind snooty sophisticates who prefer their steak au poivre and their duck confit. Today however, I would argue that the word is neither and yet it is both, simultaneously. The demand for better (organic, sustainable, artisan) food has increased and supply is constantly improving. The love and appreciation of food is more prevalent now than ever before.
As Americans today, our choices are vast. We can just as easily elect to by organic grass-fed beef as we can factory farmed and processed ground chuck. Our supermarkets are stocked with items once found only online or in specialty stores. We, as consumers and eaters, can literally eat completely organic if we choose, or buy specialized products such as imported Spanish sardines in olive oil or fresh morels. This kind of access can turn anyone into a foodie—and it’s great. It has made the appreciation of food mainstream, which in turn, makes consumers more aware of what they are buying and maybe more importantly, what they are feeding their body.
Perhaps this trend toward food appreciation could someday turn into a unilateral foodie movement leading the country out of our GMO-consuming, factory-farm eating habits. Might it be possible that foodies lead the way into a more aware and conscious collective demanding good food, raised without hormones, antibiotics or toxic pesticides? I think so. Of course, this will take time, but the shift towards whole, sustainable, and artisanal food has already begun. West coast cities like San Francisco and Portland are producing some of the most exciting farm to table cooking in the country and consumers are taking notice. There’s a reason why Michael Pollan’s books (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, et al.) appear on the New York Times bestseller list: Because, fundamentally, the general public cares about what they eat. And they’re hungry for some guidance.
As a self-professed foodie, I identify with both the organic food buyer seeking out clean and wholesome natural foods, but also with the nutritionally shameless in search of decadent pastries and rich buttercream cakes. And yes, I am aware of the dichotomy here. How can I preach on about sustainable eating, but also approve the consumption of sugary cakes and cookies? I think the answer to that question lies in a rationale that is both time-honored and valid—and it’s the most simplistic. Moderation. Our bodies do not thrive on chemically processed foods—and we know this. This information is not new. However, the pendulum of nutritionally sound eating has swung so far away from sustainable foods that it’s difficult to find our way back to the healthy middle. It should be a conscious choice to, whenever possible, seek out and eat whole, unprocessed foods. In fact, make that the goal and focus of each meal and snack. But, it’s OK to allow an indulgence every now and then, especially if it’s made with whole ingredients. Make easy swaps, such as whole-wheat flour instead of refined; use organic milk and eggs. In fact, I think it can be both, and more importantly should be both. If we are to succeed as conscientious eaters we must find balance between nutritious whole, unprocessed foods, while also allowing ourselves a little decadence, whether in the form of triple-chocolate brownies or blueberry pie. In order to build and sustain a system of eaters who choose the sustainable food lifestyle, we must also be able to reward ourselves with a little ice cream every now and then. Preferably homemade.