The Other Side (The Non-Foodie Lament)

“What are your plans for this weekend?”

It was my manager asking me the standard Friday small-talk question. After a week of being ill, my guard was down and I answered fully and honestly.

“Well, I’m going to try to rest in order to get over this cold. But what I’m really looking forward to some reading,” I said.

“Oh. What are you reading?” she asked.

“Several books about noodles.”

It was then that I received that “look”, the one that most people with harmless obsessions get when they bring up their passion. The one that’s a cross between pity and bemusement.

My lame attempts to defend how exciting the history and influence of the starch only heightened the look. So I played off my excitement with a shared laugh with my manager. “Oh my,” I said. “Did I really just try to pass off noodles as being ‘exciting’?” Intentionally blushing is a rare skill, but one I learned several years ago. It helped lessen the awkwardness of the moment.

There are times when one has to defend one’s passion. And then there are times when it is best to simply acknowledge that others won’t understand, no matter how passionate one may sound. The moments when the latter occurs is when I realize that for many people, food simply does not matter.

Well, let me rephrase that. Food does matter to most people, just not in that fan-girl sense that I (and many of my food blogging kin) seem to carry. Most people, for example, would eat Velveeta cheese without any sense of guilt or feel as if they had to defend their choice. They’d just eat the stuff and then get on with their day.

When I see people making food choices, I wonder what thoughts go through their heads. I wonder why people choose places like Outback Steakhouse or McDonalds, or pick up a box of Tuna Helper. I don’t believe in the idea of mindless consumption. I believe these choices are made for a reason. Sometimes it’s convenience, other times it’s for reliability, sometimes it’s even for taste. As incredible as it sounds, people have been known to like things like Twinkies or Coca-Cola or even *shudder* Kraft Singles. Not only do they like them, they actively seek them out. The truth is that most people have interests and passions in things that prevent them from really caring for the passion that gourmands have.

My point here is one that I try to make to myself every so often. The reality is that those of us who write about food, or take our pictures, or advocate one restaurant over another; the reality is that it really is a very silly thing to be doing – all sound and fury but signifying nothing, at least in the big picture. Yes, there are folks who are advocating political food philosophies. But calling these people “foodies” (or chowhounds, or gourmets, or gourmands, or, yes, even hedonists”) is like saying people who advocate for sensible automobile regulations would feel at home at a Monster truck rally. Buying local is different from knowing where to find the best fig compote.

But I will say this…I wouldn’t have any other passion out there. Because really, if I’m going to have a fig compote, you can be damn sure that I’m going to find the best. And if other people can’t understand that, that means more for me.