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Are You a Foodie?

by Ann Zuccardy

So much food to sample; so little time. Ahhh, the foodie’s quandary. What’s a foodie, you ask?

I first heard the term from a European friend who used it to describe himself about 20 years ago. Grocery shopping with this man was a delight. He’d lift a plump cantaloupe in the market, squeeze it gently, sniff it and joyfully proclaim it ripe, while gazing at it reverently.

In the meat section of the market, he’d paw through the beef until he found the most perfectly marbled steak of the bunch. (“Not too lean, you need a little fat to give it flavor,” he’d say.) He’d hold the package as if cradling a newborn baby and declare it “gorgeous.” To this suburban middle class American girl who grew up in the 1960s and '70s on Rice-a-Roni, white bread, casseroles made with cream of mushroom soup, and Velveeta, all this hoo-ha about food was initially, well…bizarre, to me.

Tell me, when was the last time, you gazed at a brightly colored carrot with its green leafy top attached, a perfectly grilled steak that you cooked outdoors, or the ultimate slice of apple pie (not too mushy and runny, not too crunchy with golden flaky crust made from scratch, and vanilla ice cream just beginning to melt over the sides) and marveled at its texture, color, and the way it feeeeeels in your mouth as you slowly revel in that first bite?

Are you over the moon because you’re sharing an amazing meal with your partner or a group of friends or family? Are you mixing in a dash of laughter or conversation with your meals? Are you focused on only the meal and the company rather than multitasking? Do you see food as one of life’s great joys rather than necessary fuel for your body?

If you’ve done this recently, congratulations, you’re a foodie (in this writer’s opinion). If you haven’t, I invite you to slowly and purposefully give it a try. Sit down at a table (not at your desk). Arrange your meal so it looks attractive on the plate (maybe add a garnish for a splash of color?). Notice the food’s size and shape. Breathe in its aroma and joyfully anticipate each bite while giving thanks for the abundance you have before you. Share a bite with a friend or lover. Savor each mouthful slowly, mindfully, and gratefully. By the way, you can do this with a peanut butter sandwich or you can do it with filet mignon. That’s the beauty of being a foodie.

The way I see it, becoming a foodie doesn’t have so much to do with your ability to cook, or your penchant for fancy gourmet food, but rather your openness to all food experiences and your willingness to partake in the great banquet of life by surrounding yourself with people and sharing food you love. It’s about balance, too.

This foodie enjoys her once-a-year Big Mac or the occasional Ring Ding just as much as she enjoyed the osso bucco, foie gras, and tuna tartare she ate last weekend at a trendy eatery. And yes, this foodie will always love the comfort food she grew up on (Campbell’s Tomato Soup with Ritz Crackers, anyone?) because it evokes beautiful memories of cold winter days spent playing in the snow, breaking only for a warm lunch before playing some more.

Balance. Variety. Moderation. Beauty. Gratitude. To heck with the carb police, I say! My European friend was my model as I grew into a foodie. He never obsessed about calories, fat, or content, he never over ate – he simply enjoyed everything, without judgment or agenda. We Americans aren’t always so good at that.

Fellow foodies and foodie wannabes, there is so much out there to try. And today, it’s easier than ever to find your favorite ethnic food at your local grocery store or quickly order your favorite gourmet treat online. My challenge to you this month is to try one new slightly outrageous food item and buy one old comfort food item. Share them with people you like. Savor it. Indulge. Feel the luxury of enjoying a simple meal or a lovingly prepared dessert. Approach each bite with childlike wonder as you chew slowly. Talk. Laugh.

Congratulations, you’re now a foodie. It’s easy.

Copyright 2006, Ann Zuccardy.

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