There’s a very specific subculture that’s cropped up and nudged its way into the mainstream in the past few years – somewhere between Food Network junkie and high-scale food connoisseur: the foodie. Food enthusiasts, purveyors of restaurant openings, photographers of edible delights – foodies are the friends who always have an opinion on the latest sushi joint or get overly excited about trying things drizzled in a “reduction.
And the truth of the matter is, this obsession with food isn’t by any means an unusual one; we do, after all, spend a good portion of our days (or at least I know I do) thinking about the next meal and the accompanying satisfaction that comes with it. Thinking about food means thinking about the great company I’ll have to dine with, or the welcome solo meal outdoors, or the hours and hours of conversation I’ll enjoy with old friends and family. Eating, in other words, is exciting because of the experience.
Part of the reason why discovering a new restaurant or a unique dish is so satisfying is because food is a universal language. It expands beyond the boundaries of culture, generation and political affiliation. When you break bread with someone, you also simultaneously break down whatever preconceptions you might have had about each other. You’re both human, you both eat to survive. These are the basic facts.
Eat to live, live to eat.
And what we eat and how we eat it tells so much about our own customs, habits, socioeconomic status and preferences. Grabbing a late-night Frostee and fries combo versus waking up early to drink home-squeezed soy milk – these are two very different lifestyles. The truth about food is that we as a society spend so much time thinking and obsessing over it that it dictates our patterns of living in a way that is both frustratingly difficult to change and weirdly reassuring. Food is grounding because it is the basis of our existence (really!) and so important in determining the outlook we have each day. No breakfast? Sad stomach, sad start of the day. Burnt leftovers? Hungry to bed, hungry to rise. Have a great meal or a favorite snack, on the other hand, and we’re whistling all the way to work.
Food is also great in that it represents that unquestioning cycle of give-and-take. Back in the third grade, I remember learning a little ditty called “Dirt, You Made My Lunch” – it was exactly as basic and memorable as it sounds. The lyrics were as follows: “Dirt, you made my lunch/ Dirt, you made my lunch/ Thank you dirt, thanks a bunch/ Dirt, you made my lunch.” And on and on the song would go, the point being that everything we eat is an understood give-and-take. We rely on dirt to provide for our poor, hungry souls – regardless of whether it’s a few stray grains of rice or a full-fledged filet mignon. It’s a cycle and a great-functioning one at that.
So these food elitists – foodies, as it were – are onto something. Snapping a few photos of your next meal might not be instinctual at first, but it is a first step toward respecting a substance that plays such a large role in your life. And really, there should be thanks all around for the great giver that is our entrée. Dirt, you made my lunch.