user guide to a foodie

Some people worry about a zombie invasion. Others about a foodie invasion. Yes, these meal-obsessed loved ones endless talk about what goes into their mouth. Or someone else’s mouth.  But what do we do about them?  Below is a simple guide on how to handle the situation.

Cherry Street a mouthful of tapas

Foodie in action

Identify the severity of the foodie fever

Administer the following test.

Count the number of clicks then find the level below:

0-5      Foodie as hobbyist: appreciates finer things of the culinary world, but has other interests which occupy the mind

6-10     Situational foodie: would identify themselves as a foodie in the right company; has had or currently fantasizes about owning a restaurant

11-15     Self proclaimed foodie: no problem with the term and likely seeks out foodie company on a regular basis; writes restaurant reviews with impeccable detail

16-20     Foodie missionary: on quest to bring religion to the un-initiated; probably has volunteered in a professional kitchen for free just to get the experience

21-25     Foodie’s foodie: considered a definitive authority on ingredients, gadgets, restaurants, the personal lives of celebrity chefs; does not understand that there’s a practical limit to the number of cookbooks one can own

Inside the gear-box of the foodie

Knowing what makes that egg timer tick inside of your foodie is the first and most important step.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his seminal book, Flow describes the optimal experience.  In this place, one loses track of time. She becomes self aware without being self-conscious.

It is an experience reported by professionals in their occupation or amateurs in their hobby. It’s what drives people to continuously get to the next level. Whether in a video game or climbing a mountain. It is on the edge between boredom and anxiety where people just challenged just beyond their current skill.

Professor Csikszentmihalyi further explains* that the appreciation of music can also elicit feelings of Flow.  It’s not uncommon to hear about kids being tortured by the symphony. Then grow up enraptured by it as adults. As the listener or the player gains skill (competence) they hunger for greater complexity.  For an increasingly difficult challenge.

Same with food enjoyment. Or wine. As tastes mature, the sophistication of delivery must also improve.  Gourmets look for recipes that are increasingly challenging.  Diners seek meals where flavors are more complex and layered. Where the whole sensory experience is engaged.

Foodies operate in a different plane of enjoyment than majority of folks. Eating engages their high order thinking. Or if it does not, they move on.

Johnathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind describes an innate function of some people to crave novelty.** He focuses our attention on a genetic foundation for liberalism (actively seeking novelty) and conservatism (actively pursuing stability).

It is my theory that foodies too are novelty seekers. They are born that way.  Even if their palette of flavors is decidedly limited, they go to no end to try multiple variations.

For example, if margarita pizza is about adventurous as they like to go, a foodie will try it in as many pizzerias as possible. They are on the hunt for something new. Even when they find the ultimate expression of this dish, a foodie will continue to seek out different renditions.

It would be easy to conclude from the statements above that foodies are more liberal than conservatives. That correlation requires a proper scientific study not afforded here.

Yet it is curious to note that one of the top caterers in Austin (the capital of Texas), Steve Konarik of Kurant Events does observe a difference between what Republicans and Democrats order for their meetings. GOP events are filled with red meat and potatoes. Classic presentations of family favorites.

The Dems flock to brightly colored, local-sourced, fusion dishes. Knowing Steve for 20 years, I can promise that dishes on both sides of the isle are packed with flavor and beautiful to the eye.

It is just too coincidental not to mention. What Dr. Haidt found to be true about novelty in how people might innately lean one direction or another, might also be true for how they fill up their plate.

Another important consideration about foodies is their need for self-expression. Roy H. Williams teaches us at the Wizard Academy that we buy brands for how we see ourselves.  The same could be said for foodies in pursuit of haughty cuisine. Foodies pride themselves arriving at perfect temperature for brisket or the sultriness of the BBQ sauce.

Foodies see the dishes they make as extension of themselves.  When they serve you a plate, they give a piece of themselves.

In their minds, the delight of the gustatory process leads to self-actualization.  Sharing a meal is bonding since by it’s vary nature, we become the food we eat. Literally.  When we eat together we become closer together.

Business deals are closed over lunch. Associates dine together. For the foodie, this metaphor is especially meaningful.

When they offer a bite, they want you to experience the same mental or spiritual transformation.

Three things to do differently about the foodie in your life

1. Give the foodie room to experiment

This does not mean without boundaries, of course. However the more restrictions that are placed, the more caged they will behave. Expect discontent when the leash is too short. This is true for anyone who feels their freedom is arbitrarily constrained.

If there are competing priorities, find the win-win.  For example when he prefers to spend $7,000 for an exotic French stove and you worry about uncertainty in the stock market, suggest a compromise.  Yes to the stove AND an equal amount to the Roth IRA.

2. Engage the foodie on their level

Yes, paté looks and probably tastes like cat food. However it won’t kill you to try a bite.  Put a lot of cornichorns on the cracker too. That will cut the fatty flavor. And yes, those ridiculously small pickles are the cornichorns.

Remember that they attempt to connect with you every time they pass a fork under your nose. This is their love language. Repeat the practice. Send a spoon back of the mash potatoes. Roll back your eyes and add a “mmmmm” on your prior bite to amplify the effect. Even if you know that it’s ordinary, the foodie will appreciate the gesture.

3. Look for diversity in friendships

Being married or committed to a partner who is a foodie when you are not is probably one of the more challenging situations. Don’t get frustrated. When you socialize, find couples with a similar dynamic. This will allow the foodies to exercise their passions for an evening while you can talk about truly meaningful topics.

It’s not unlike owning working dogs, like border collies. If they don’t get their exercise, they wind up chewing the table legs or licking the drywall until a baseball size divot appears.  To be clear, foodies would likely properly season with salt and pepper in both situations.

Bottom line, don’t get mad. Recognize that being a foodie is an important part of that special person in your life. Remember without them, it would be back to eating lunch meat over the sink because you did plan what’s for dinner. The foodie takes care of all that. And probably the grocery shopping too.

Foodie in his natural habitat

Foodie in his natural habitat

Got other tips and tricks for managing a foodie?  Add them to the comment line.

We cannot wait to obsess….er…ponder them.

*Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008, pg. 108-116

**The Righteous Mind, Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt, Vintage Books, 2013, pg. 324-325


    • I’m kind of in the camp of @MattDuckor. If the Trekkies and Geeks have gone past their concern for nerdom, why shouldn’t we? Besides any other alternative sounds even more dorky. Food Folks? Yep. Right up there with the other races of Middle Earth. 🙂

      Thanks for the reply and the warm welcome. –Ant

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