Certain slang words can become so ingrained in our colloquial language that they begin to take on a life and meaning entirely of their own. For our generation, "foodie" is one of those words, a term first used in 1980. Merriam-Webster defines it as "a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads," while Wikipedia describes it as "a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. [This person] seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger."
With Twitter, Instagram and Facebook creating an entirely new world in which food and food-related news can exist, our obsession with all that is culinary has peaked in recent years. As a result, though, the term "foodie" is now loaded with a context that extends beyond the above online definitions.
This became clear to me as I was sitting with a friend at dinner who vehemently rejected the label of foodie because she "hates when people take pictures of their food." It occurred to me that our frequent and commonplace use of "foodie" has given it a negative connotation—at least for some people. After seeing this friend take the term as an insult, I asked nine people of varying ages how they would actually define it, and this is what I got.
1. Kristen, 19
"A foodie is someone who posts excessive amounts of food pictures on social media accounts and will drive 3 hours to eat a single cronut."
2. Lia, 20
"A foodie is someone who is particularly interested in trying new foods, and/or stays up-to-date on food trends and likes to learn about food culture and history."
3. Declan, 23
"Millennials in the 1% who use their parents' credit cards to eat at restaurants that they would not be able to afford themselves."
4. Stephanie, 56
"An aficionado: someone with a great appreciation for food as a cultural experience."
5. Puji, 21
"Someone who is into trying new types of food and goes out of his or her way to make food a priority."
6. Clare, 17
"A person who really loves eating/cooking food, is adventurous with trying new things and is constantly trying to find new situations that would allow them to try new things."
7. Reede, 20
"Someone who is passionate about food. Usually, they are willing to travel for good food or express their passion through a blog or another online platform."
8. MJ, 21
"A person who uses food as a hobby. Someone who enjoys cooking or exploring restaurants that they are interested in. It's not just about eating good food, but also the culture surrounding it."
9. Sophie, 19
"Someone who spends their free time watching food videos, making recipes, finding new restaurants and browsing food porn...someone intrigued and obsessed by food."
It's no surprise that everyone has a different definition of "foodie." Most of the younger people optimistically attributed a genuine interest in culture and exploring new foods to the term. But others associated the term with the overwhelming social media obsession that highlights a particular type or appearance of food—as opposed to the experience of eating it.
I think "foodie" has gotten a bad rap as a result of our generation's preoccupation with social media. After hearing everyone's thoughts on the term, I believe that thinking of yourself as a foodie means you have a certain interest in or passion for food/cooking that causes you to prioritize it in your life. To completely associate the term with overzealous social media users ignores those who approach food culture with respect and curiosity. All foodies are not linked to food porn Instagram accounts that are just trying to rack up likes.
Because of the food photography trend, we associate an interest in exploring new and interesting food with wanting to show the world what you're eating. In reality, if you can stand waiting in a three hour line for a doughnut ice cream sandwich, you're probably a foodie even if you don't post a photo of the sandwich on Instagram.
Either way, the conflicting viewpoints on what it means to be a foodie reflect the growing use of the term—which bodes well for food culture and the restaurant business. However you define it, we are becoming a society more and more centered around finding good food, eating it and sharing our experiences with it—and I think that's something that everyone can get behind.