Photo: Sayler's Old Country Kitchen
It looks like the populist fever that's been sweeping through American politics this season has hit the food world -- in Portland, Oregon, of all places.Food lovers have been flocking to Portland for years; the place is a culinary mecca and practically synonymous with the whole ethos of sustainability ("organic," "locally grown") that's swept through American cooking over the past decade. To criticize someone for being a "foodie" in Portland is like talking smack about steaks in Texas.
But one local writer lambasted foodie-culture in a piece that introduced last week's "Non-Foodies Food Guide" in the Orgeonian, the city's major daily paper. "I am not a foodie," writes Lee Williams. "To me, food is what you eat, not what you pray to. Call them gourmands, connoisseurs, picky eaters, or just plain old snobs. Foodies blog, write and chat about pet restaurants, trends and chefs. They leave little room on their plates or in their hearts for fast food, family dining and the untrendy. And they can be pretty mean to some places we love."
As if to rub organic sea salt into the wound, the paper also ran a Jeff Foxworthy-style sidebar, "You Might Be a Foodie If..." A few are funny ("Your toddler asks if her Goldfish crackers are farm-raised or wild-caught"), a few flop ("You're working toward your tattooing license so you can spend more time with Portland's tattooed chefs"), and some are downright bizarre or scary, take your pick ("You hate American cheese. And, honestly, America.")
Ostensibly, the "Non-Foodies Food Guide" seeks to highlight a number of affordable chain restaurants that are locally based, such as Taco Time, the Old Spaghetti Factory, and Shari's. But it's the brash tone of anti-elitist indignation that's got Portland's foodies up in arms, particularly in a city that's decidedly more NPR than Fox News.
As the Willamette Week, the city's alternative weekly, put it on its website: "We can't figure out whether the story was prompted by misguided faux-populism, demands from the advertising department or group dementia brought on by an office-wide outbreak of syphilis; in any case, its angry, anti-food lover's tone is puzzling and pissing off a hell of a lotta locals."