Do you remember your first taste of a beautifully prepared curried chicken or raspberry crème broule? When you went to that fancy restaurant on your anniversary, did you try the fried zucchini blossoms out of curiosity? Is your social calendar sprinkled with notes that say, “baby artichokes in season now!” and “time to go peach picking!” People who find themselves preoccupied with such thoughts of food preparation and consumption are very likely to emerge from their kitchens one day as full-blown foodies.
Foodies have an enthusiastic interest in food. We’re amateurs, hobbyists who love food. We’re not gourmets who can distinguish the faintest hint of black truffle oil in a dish, or who would willingly travel the globe to taste oddities like the innards of a yak or the wings of a beetle. Because we are ardent about food, however, we keep learning about ingredients and cooking methods available in our own sphere of life. Food is a constant source of surprise and delight. The more we learn, the more sophisticated our knowledge becomes concerning the culinary possibilities within our immediate environment.
One of the earliest signs that you might be evolving into a foodie is the amount of reading material you’re accumulating that is related to food. This goes well beyond cookbooks. You may have books devoted to behind the scenes stories of what it takes to become a chef, collected essays by MFK Fisher, annual anthologies of food writing, biographies of food celebrities and subscriptions to several food magazines. You may also find yourself following food blogs by the dozens. As a result, foodies frequently engage in animated discussions with anyone who will listen about the locavore movement, organic diets, genetically altered crops and how to feed a starving planet.
If the only time you sit down in front of the TV for any length of time is when one of your favorite shows is on the food channel, you might be becoming a foodie. While others in the family are devoted to their crime series and news programs, you are determined to see every single minute of “The Next Food Network Star,” “Worst Cooks In America,” “Chopped,” and “Iron Chef.” More importantly, you pay attention to details during these shows, absorbing knife skills and grilling tips, learning how to braise and smoke, constantly picking up ideas and thinking about where you can apply them in your own kitchen.
This passion for food leads some foodies to develop a keen interest in farming and food production. Do your social engagements involve meeting people at local u-pick sites, so that you can talk while picking your own apples and sugar snap peas and strawberries? Have you been trying your hand at a backyard vegetable garden, and finding that the size of the plot and the variety of your crops keeps expanding year by year? Are you a farm stand junkie, familiar with every farm stand in a 50-mile radius? Perhaps you are a farmer’s market groupie who goes religiously to the weekly open air markets in the summer. Do you feel such a void at the end of the growing season that you make a point to attend winter farmer’s markets, too, wherever they may be held? These are but faint hints of the potential foodie within, compared to taking the big step – buying a share in a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) or a CISA (Communities Involved In Sustainable Agriculture) farm. For a while you might be able to ignore the invitations to join such endeavors, thinking the plentiful farm stands will be enough to sate your foodie interests for another season. You do, after all, have other things to do with your time.
But if you are a budding foodie, the day comes when you take the leap and buy a share in one kind of farm or another. It maybe single-item farming, like cheeses or grass-fed beef, or a farm specializing in ethnic produce, or one of the more common organic vegetable farms that finally tantalizes you with the rich array of crops that will be harvested throughout the season. It is impossible to hold back once you have invested in a farm share. You watch the weather like a farmer, observe fields of crops being harvested and feel the pride of ownership when you see the farm’s logo on a passing truck.
The day of your first pick up of your share of the week’s produce will be one of those moments that divides time. Before, a watermelon was a watermelon. Now it might be yellow! Before, radishes were red and came with leaves attached. Now, radishes might also be the ruby watermelon type or long, white Daikon varieties. Chard, kale, carrots, potatoes and squash are introduced in a surprising rainbow of colors, and tiny little brussels sprouts still attached to their stalk beg to be lovingly removed, one by one.
The quantity of produce you receive with your weekly farm share might be daunting at first. You bring it all home, wash it, spread in on the counter to dry, and make a beeline for your computer. Cookbooks, no matter how many you have, will be inadequate and passé. Fannie Farmer, Irma Rombaur and Betty Crocker had no idea! You need to know how to cook four different kinds of greens this week, preferably tonight, or else learn how to store them for a day or two. Next week, you’ll be looking up how to do a sauce of caramelized onions, and a paste of ginger and garlic, so you can freeze the 6 or 7 pounds of onions and garlic you’ve already accumulated. It’s a total immersion experience for the burgeoning foodie. Sooner or later, though, it settles into a routine.
Perhaps the most obvious sign that you have crossed the threshold and should admit to being a foodie is when you find yourself at the farm share pick-up exchanging ideas with other share-holders about the versatility of callaloo and lacinato, ramps and garlic scapes. Then you wander over to the lettuce bins and exclaim to a total stranger, “Isn’t that absolutely gorgeous!” as you hold a gigantic head of red leaf Boston lettuce up to the light for proper appreciation.