“She’s a real foodie”
This was the description one friend told to my new acquaintance, when we met in a noisy alleyway of clamouring cafes. Intended as the summary of my entire life journey, these were the four words that my friend chose to describe my essential personality.
Urban Dictionary defines a ‘foodie’ as:
I hate people like me.
Instagram addicts, Urbanspoon shamers, fad hopping, trend blogging, image conscious, queue lining fuck wits.
So, yup, that’s me.
It’s a description that I struggle with, yet love to identify with.
I think the reason is that the word ‘foodie’ implies change – in the same way that ‘hipster’ and ‘gentrification’ does. The word foodie brings with it the same set of contradictions.
When I was growing up in Melbourne, Vietnamese food was unknown. Restaurants were limited to the migrant communities which huddled around the commission flats in Richmond, Springvale and Footscray.
Victoria Street, Richmond back in the 90s was infamous for its heroin smuggling, extortionist gangs and murders. But hey, Pho Hung Vuong had the best pho going so as a Vietnamese family, you braved the streets to go eat.
Two decades on, Vietnamese cuisine became the bees knees across the city. Poor students caught onto its healthy cheapness. Glutards and lactards rejoiced at the rice and soy based dishes. Chefs marveled at its diverse balance of all five elemental tastes.
Foodies couldn’t seem to get enough of it, and soon Vietnamese restaurateurs were churning out banh xeo like Big Macs. Branded franchise chains, food trucks, shopping center food courts.
As the lexicon of bun bo hue entered the mainstream, so too came the standardisation of Vietnamese cuisine to capitalise on the desires of the mass foodie market.
The bustle that was created from turbulent years of displacement that occurred around Vic St, was now replaced with assimilation and acceptance. The food moved from defying the norm to defining the mainstream. The people grew from uncertainty to stability, including my own family and relatives.
So is being a foodie a good or a bad thing, I have no idea. But the notion of “foodie” brings with it the idea of gentrification and change. And change is a funny, contradictory thing. As Tupac said, that’s just the way it is.