Monday, December 17, 2007

An epicure, defined.

December 17 ...

There is someone who can settle the problem of the word “foodie” after all, and I am reasonably reliably informed that his birthday is today. Happy birthday William Safire. Mr. Safire, as I am sure you, my hungry readers, well know, is the spectacularly readable political columnist for the New York Time Magazine and an expert “On Language”.

The problem of the word “foodie” is only a problem for a few folk, but they are so vociferous in their hatred of it that one has to be very deft in dodging the cyber-spittle and sharp hackles raised by their reactions to it. I don’t have a problem with the word myself, but that is OK. Live and let live, I say. Viva la debate. The more opinions the better. Etc etc etc. I do, however, have one issue with the foodie word haters: no matter how vehement their hatred of it, no matter how vigorously they wish it expunged from the lexicon, no matter how frequently they launch their diatribes at the rest of us more mild-mannered folk – they never, ever, ever offer an alternative word to take its place.

I know Mr. Safire could do it, because he has spoken with his usual eloquence on related nouns for those with a particular relationship with food:

“In the lexicon of lip-smacking, an epicure is fastidious in his choice and enjoyment of food, just a soupçon more expert than a gastronome; a gourmet is a connoisseur of the exotic, taste buds attuned to the calibrations of deliciousness, who savors the masterly techniques of great chefs; a gourmand is a hearty bon vivant who enjoys food without truffles and flourishes; a glutton overindulges greedily, the word rooted in the Latin for ‘one who devours’. … After eating, an epicure gives a thin smile of satisfaction; a gastronome, burping into his napkin, praises the food in a magazine; a gourmet, repressing his burp, criticizes the food in the same magazine; a gourmand belches happily and tells everybody where he ate; a glutton embraces the white porcelain altar, or, more plainly, he barfs”.

How about it Mr. Safire? Your authoritative voice could surely end the battle once and for all. Do please add another word to the lexicon of lip-smacking, for ‘those with a particular relationship with food not fully explained by the above, and currently designated by the controversial word "foodie".

I have taken today’s recipe from the aptly named 1842 publication The Epicure's Almanac, or Diary of Good Living, by Benson Earle Hill (a grand name, that). It is eminently suited to a birthday or Christmas, or any other celebration where alcohol is not eschewed. The author seems to me however to be misguided in his advice that the dish would be much admired by ‘the better sex’ – my impression is that the ‘less good sex’ are also fond of a good boozy ‘trifle’ too.

Tipsey Cakes.
Lay as many sponge cakes as the dish you intend to use will contain, pour over these three glasses of Sherry, and one of Brandy, mixed together; when the cakes have absorbed the wine and spirit, spread red currant jelly on the top of each, about half an inch thick, and stick through the jelly, into the cakes, sweet almonds, blanched, and split in four; about a dozen of these to each cake will be sufficient.
Observation. - This is a tasteful and easily prepared dish, particularly applicable to supper tables, and is usually much admired by the better sex.

It may be ironic that the aphorism given for December in this book is “Remember, we eat that we may live: not live that we may eat”. Surely, the reverse is true of a f****e? And if a definition is close, can a word be far behind?

Over to you, Mr. Safire.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Melba mixes it up.

Quotation for the Day …

It is precisely because no one needs soup, fish, meat, salad, cheese, and dessert at one meal that we so badly need to sit down to them from time to time. It was largesse that made us all; we were not created to fast forever. . . . Enter here, therefore, as a sovereign remedy for the narrowness of our minds and the stinginess of our souls. Robert Farrer Capon.


Barbara said...

I love how you write with such intelligence.

David T. Macknet said...

You know, I'm so out of this that it's not even funny, as I'd never even noticed that people minded being called 'foodie' ... and I suppose I can see their point - the word, after all, seems to be modeled after the word 'groupie,' which certainly has a negative connotation. It would seem in keeping with the concept of food blogs being sometimes called 'food porn,' would it not?

Rosemary in Utah said...

What I get from this post, and from Safire's words, is that there is already a word, "foodie", that fits.
Both "foodie" and "groupie" mean affection and enthusiasm to me, as well as great attention to detail and widespread interest in the subject.