So, I’m kind of a food person. Cooking is a hobby that I engage in with enthusiasm and curiosity. I also have a sort of an amateur interest in agriculture and nutrition that has come about as a natural offshoot of my interest in cooking and food. So as you can imagine, I do a lot of reading about food, diet, and agriculture and as such, I run across a lot of information from those areas, and a lot of misinformation and stupidity as well. Since nutritional science is really still sort of in its infancy, and since food is such a hot topic these days, people are talking about food a lot, and many of the people who are talking about food don’t seem to have any idea what they’re saying, which is unfortunate, since nutritional misinformation can negatively impact people’s ability to feed themselves well.
Since cooking and cuisine have become fashionable, there’s also been a lot of snobbery and ridiculousness surrounding food… this has been a trend in prior eras, and as Americans start to realize how crappy a lot of their food is, people have been seeking out better food, and in some cases people have been trying to find the best food. I understand this drive, but it gets so intense sometimes that food snobbery is developing a lexicon of its own that I have also had the misfortune of witnessing. So here’s a short, incomplete list of food words that annoy me, and the reasons why.
Foodie. Okay, first of all, what other thing do we have this kind of diminutive name for? People who like sports aren’t “sporties.” people who like to knit aren’t “knitties.” People who like art aren’t “arties.” Do we do this just because it’s food, and it’s some cute little thing? Because food and eating are a pretty big deal, and not everyone takes a specific interest in them, but everyone runs into food and eating almost every day. Why do we make it so inconsequential? In addition, people who call themselves foodies are the worst people. The minute I hear someone say, “Oh, I’m a bit of a foodie,” I translate that in my brain to mean, “I have officially given myself permission to be an asshole about what I’m served.” I have found that a lot of people who call themselves foodies don’t even cook with any regularity. They just go to restaurants or dinner parties for the express purpose of being a jerk because it makes them feel better about themselves.
Clean Food. This is a phrase that means NOTHING. I see it all over the place, people talking about “clean food,” and “eating clean” and a “clean diet.” Every person who says this probably has a completely different idea of what it means. For some people, clean eating means whole, organic food. For others it can mean things as extreme as veganism or only eating food that you grow yourself. If you come to me to talk about eating “clean food,” you had best be prepared to explain yourself, because calling your food clean means nothing.
Superfood. Guys, I’m sorry, but at this point the word “superfood” is just marketing lingo, and yet I see people falling for this stuff all the time. A superfood is supposedly a food high in nutritional content that promotes good health. This is great for people to know; I want everyone to eat food that promotes health. Guess what, though. Almost all whole fresh fruits and vegetables are superfoods. Almost all fruits and vegetables contain high concentrations of nutrients and are foods that promote health. Remember when tomatoes and blueberries and spinach were superfoods? Well, in our zeal to market products to people, we have moved on to more exotic things, straight past dragonfruit to acai berries and chia seeds. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat these things; go for it. But don’t fall for the hype that you need these things for good health. Every environment on this planet that originally supported human life comes with the nutritional building blocks for good nutrition. You don’t need to import anything from the Andes.
Paleo. For those of you who haven’t run into this, I envy your innocence. Paleo was hit the mainstream as the name of a diet, which was supposed to mimic the eating habits of paleolithic man. The reason this was considered a good thing is because hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are thought to be diseases of the modern western world. The inventor of the paleo diet and many paleo people since have gone on to say that agriculture was a bad idea from the outset and that things like grains and legumes are bad for you. I have talked about paleo with paleo dieters and they have told me that the diet suggests that you eat up to sixty percent of your calories in grass-fed organic meat. Aside from this being an astonishingly expensive way to live, paleolithic man did not eat this way. Evidence suggests that paleolithic man ate relatively little meat, since the calorie expenditure to hunt large animals was very high. A large amount of the animal protein that paleolithic man consumed came from bugs, small mammals (think squirrels and rats) and tidepool sealife, like sea urchins, limpets, snails and small crabs. Most of their diet, however, came from plant sources… tubers, nuts, greens, legumes, and fruits, because this involved a small amount of energy expenditure to gain a large number of calories. And guess what. Paleolithic man ate grains, even prior to anything we would identify as agriculture. In fact, anthropologists suggest that the reason our ancestors lived on savannahs and grasslands was due to the abundance of edible grass seeds… in other words, grains. Eat what you want. Just don’t involve the paleolithic folks, and stop telling people that grains and legumes are poison. Most of the world subsists on legumes and grains.