Social media can be fun and frustrating. I like interacting with like-minded people, but there’s a fair amount of assumption and name calling that happens because it’s difficult for people to really get to know you from your brief sporadic updates. As the blog has grown and my involvement in social media like twitter and facebook has declined, there are two names I’ve been called that have led to a good bit of discourse and disagreement.
The word “foodie” has been a common descriptor. I have some basic reasons why I dislike the word. Mainly, it sounds ridiculous. Try this: stand up straight with your shoulders back and your chest out in front of a mirror and say, “I am a foodie.” What do you think?
Some of us are public about everyday decisions, and that’s what causes these classifications. Sure, I write about food and many of my updates on social media reflect my current thoughts about food, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing I think about. I spend more time thinking about which Beatles album I want to hear or what exercises I want to do in one day than I spend grocery shopping in a week.
The term “foodie” also has been thrown around so much in a snobby way that its developed a negative connotation in the food industry. [Don’t believe me, let me google that for you.] As a dining consumer, I believe that many successful experiences are dependent on a certain level of mystery. When I walk out of a meal saying, “damn, that was great! I have no idea how ___”, that’s a special thing. It’s frustrating when people break things down to a level where the mystery is marred, or worse, when they act like they know the secret yet are wrong, and I’m sure that frustration is ten-fold for a business owner.
One of my hobbies is playing guitar. I’ve learned enough about music theory and how to play that I can break down songs to their fundamentals: time, composition, rhythm, key, etc. Does that mean I can walk around saying I can write something just as good as “Stairway to Heaven” or that I know why it’s such a great song? Absolutely not. What I can say is why everything in that song comes together in a way that sounds great to me and that I hope that is the same reason others love it so much. It also doesn’t mean that I know everything about the song; there’s a lot that I’m sure was in the moment that I’ll never be able to grasp. The same is true for anything.
Another thing I’ve been called is a critic.
Am I a critic? Absolutely.
You know who else is a critic?
It’s natural to scrutinize something you purchase. You have standards. Those standards are set by your life experiences. Based on the situation, your standards adapt, and you’re able to live your life in the 21st century as a consumer in the free market living among other human beings. Some people have experienced all they want and have their routines; others constantly try new things and gain new perspectives.
I recently read Steve Barnes’s take on What makes a critic. He makes the argument that experience, judgment and the willingness to take the time to write about an experience are at the heart of being a critic. I think that’s fair, and that last part is what makes people recognizable as critics. [And when it’s your job, that label is bestowed upon you. The same way I am a chemist because it is my profession.]
What I try to do with this blog is share how experiences alter my outlook. I have a lot of fun putting together things for “derryX dines” and everything else I prepare. I feel that sharing can be helpful for someone else who is gathering data to determine whether an experience is worth their time and money. I’m honest when I’m not confident with new things, and I think that honesty and the fact that I’m willing to attach my name and face to what I’m writing is what people admire about this, and why people use the “critic” descriptor. [Let’s not get me started on yelp! and anonymous opinions on the internet.]
I was having lunch out one day, and the owner, whom I had become acquainted with earlier and who was aware of a derryX dines post I wrote about his business, introduced me to his staff as a “food critic.” My exact response was “I’m a customer, then I’m a critic.” The owner explained that I write a blog about all different types of places I try. I fully appreciate that having a public blog where my opinions are documented meets the classification, and it’s not like I have a huge issue with it, but I want to be clear that, first and foremost, I am a customer just like everybody else.
My overall point about the two terms is that considering someone a foodie or a critic or whatever shouldn’t make their business any more or less important than anyone else’s. And also, we’re all human beings; let’s stick to the names we were given.
Not everything requires a classification.
Postscript: I am a humongous fan of LOST, and I can’t stand the term “lostie,” and, likewise, I am becoming a fan of the Star Trek mythology, but do not like the term “trekie.” They both sound stupid.