Friday, September 08, 2006

Chili Dogs and Food-as-Lifestyle

Last weekend S___ and I took our friend N___ out for our monthly gourmet food-on-the-cheap shopping dash. This involves the Lebanese Taverna deli for garlic sauce, Arrowine for cheese and pasta, Heidelberg Bakery for pretzels and marzipan frogs, Mediterranean Bakery for spices... sometimes we'll hit an Asian gorcery store for random things, just not last time. N___ seemed to enjoy himself, in the sense that he kept looking at his wallet and looking very, very sad.

I was wondering if this made me a foodie.

Wikipedia defines a foodie as synonymous with a gourmet, with some differences. As an aside, shut the fuck up about Wikipedia being inaccurate and unreliable. I want the information on some things to be argued about and I want that argument to be visible to me, the information searcher. Just cruise on over to the Israel/Palestine Conflict page and click on the "discussion" or "history" tabs at the top. The "teach the controversy" argument for intelligent design might be utter horseshit, but in this case it will tell you more than you ever wanted to know AND the facts.

I'm allowed to digress; I'm rabid.

Anyway, Wikipedia defines a foodie as synonymous with a gourmet, with some differences. "Some gourmets would not consider themseleves foodies and many foodies would not consider themseleves gourmets. A foodie might easily get caught up in a taco hunt--a search for the best taco stands and trucks in an area. But this would not be an adventure for a gourmet, strictly speaking." I hadn't really considered that distinction before. I post on a bulletin board for the gourmet folk and I thought I'd see that split in the posters. The creator of the board is rumored to have never cooked himself dinner and attempts a different restaraunt every night, no matter how much that costs. At the same time, this gourmet Keyzer Soze also just posted about how delicious Chik-Fil-A can be and then, because it's a bulletin board, listed his favorite regional Chik-Fil-As. The best is apparently in Reston. I shit you not.

Instead of the foodie/gourmet split being along lines of class/price/complexity, I think it divides people from those that can make food their lifestyle and those who can still see food as potential energy to fill a belly. A vegetarian or a vegan sees food as a lifestyle; I haven't heard arguments that people are born not wanting meat, stubby little canine teeth or no. Perhaps that's forthcoming. A gourmet is someone who chooses a lifestyle where food doesn't necessarily have to be filling. Taco carts fall outside their purvue not because they're cheap, but because you can get filled up at a taco cart without having much diversity in taco taste.

Some restaraunts that serve small plate meals have taken to calling the selections "amusements." This is the crux of the gourmet choice- you can fill up on "amusements," but only if you have three or four different dishes. This doesn't bother me and I have had some fantastic small plates, but chili dogs... chili dogs are something else entirely.

Chili dogs are in the same vein as a ploughman's lunch, which I loved when I was in England. Starch, complex carbs, and protein will get you through all the long days you need until you get scurvy and can't eat anymore forever. I just had a chili dog and cheese fries at Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street. I am good to go, foodwise, until late, late tonight. I could plow a field or fix a car. It's a good thing that I rode my bike there, as when I was done I heard a million veins and arteries cry out, then suddenly silenced.

Was the food good? It was good for what it does; I've had better chili and better cheese fries. I've never had a better combination, however. The building is old, the rap on the jukebox is dancable, and the vibe is busy. I got chili juice in all the crenelations on my ring, the wrinkles in my knuckles, and I hope it doesn't come out for a while.

Same deal with the Vienna Inn. There was a hostess there who used to yell at people if they wore their ties in the restaraunt. She just hated ties. Great chili dogs, though. Again, not delicious, not an "amusement", but filling, warm, spicy, and cheap. Every seat faces a TV and the floor creaks without being stepped on. Plus, they have birch beer on tap! I'm not sure if that was found to be carcinogenic in rats or not, because any drink that comes out blood red and fizzy can not be good for you.

I think those two paragraphs render me a foodie. I have gourmet tendancies: my homemade chili doesn't taste quite as good without buffalo in it and good lord I enjoy some ash-wrapped goat cheese. Deep down, though, I don't want to be amused by my food. I want to be full of something good without having to muck around. I want a steak and it had better be covered in onions. I want Five Guys because I haven't been able to finish a "normal" sized burger there in a while. My baby makes me peach cobbler and I have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I am the dark desires of a gourmand that would cast him from his polite society.

I am a foodie. It's not a lifestyle, I'm just hungry.


Anonymous Shanon W. said...

I couldn't agree more! When I think of an "amusement," I think of singing or dancing or witty bantter. I don't want to think of my food as providing any of those things. Amuse me with the dinner conversation, a good book, or even just people watching. As for food, I'll settle for something yummy that stops the tummy grumbles.

10:36 AM  

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