Foodology

Kurt Chandler’s March letter to our readers, and a readers’ contest.

Here are a few things I learned from this month’s cover story, “The Epicure’s Guide to Milwaukee”:

You can restore the bubbles to a bottle of Champagne by dropping a raisin or two inside.

The best way to tell if a pan is hot is to place your hand 3 inches above it. Your hand should not be uncomfortably seared. (I thought melting a quarter-pound of butter was the telltale sign, but what do I know?)

It’s legal to own a pig in Waukesha if it’s housed at least 200 yards from a residence or public street. (There’s a joke there somewhere about bacon all over the highway.)

Oxtails don’t actually come from an ox, but from the round cut of a cow.

Improperly preserving garden vegetables can be deadly. For canning some foods, use a pressure canner to kill the bacteria that can cause botulism poisoning.

You will find these and other nuggets of culinary wisdom in 10 scrumptious pages, beginning on Page 32 (in print).

Another thing I learned this month is that the term “foodie” has run its course. Among people with a passion for all things food, “foodie” is pretentious, a shallow put-down, a catch-all that says nothing about cooking, dining, serving or food quality.

In December, “foodie” made the 40th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and Uselessness, along with “swag,” “polar vortex,” and “bae,” social-media slang for “babe” or “before anyone else.”

Among food writers, the word has become vocabulum non grata. “When people ask me, ‘Are you a foodie?,’ it’s like nails on a chalkboard,” says David Kamp, author of The Food Snob’s Dictionary. “I prefer the term ‘enthusiast.’” Likewise, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has registered his cringe-worthy distaste for the term, calling foodies “demeaning” to food aficionados.

I am not a true food aficionado. My only qualification is that I like to eat. I’ve had success boiling pasta (I’m half-Italian, after all), but I leave the cooking to others. At dinner parties, my talent is manning the corkscrew. Nevertheless, I agree that the term foodie is meaningless.

You may have noticed that Milwaukee Magazine has run a few food stories over the ages. And this month, as the staff brainstormed on what to call our cover story, we challenged ourselves to come up with a better term for foodie, something fresh, new. We pondered, we argued, we brooded, we argued. And we failed. The best we could come up with were a few well-worn, thesaurus-inspired phrases. Nothing original sprung forth from our dim imaginations.

So, we decided to put the test to our readers. In fact, we’re turning this into a readers’ contest: Come up with a creative, original replacement to the term “foodie,” just a word or two. Email it to letters@milwaukeemag.com, and I’ll put it to a vote among the staff. The winner will receive a one-year subscription to the magazine and a gift certificate for a complimentary lunch at Three Lions Pub in Shorewood.

Good luck, foodies. Er… whatever.

‘Foodology’ appears in the March, 2015, issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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UPDATE: Because of an overwhelming number of submissions, we’re closing the contest. Look for the winner in our April issue and thanks for submitting your replacements for “foodie.”

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Kurt Chandler began working at Milwaukee Magazine in 1998 as a senior editor, writing investigative articles, profiles, narratives and commentaries. He was editor in chief from August 2013-November 2015. An award-winning writer, Chandler has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, editor and author. He has been published in a number of metro newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Minneapolis Star Tribune, to Marie Claire, The Writer, and Salon.com. He also has authored, coauthored or edited 12 books. His writing awards are many: He has won the National Headliners Award for magazine writing five times. He has been named Writer of the Year by the City & Regional Magazine Association, and Journalist of the Year by the Milwaukee Press Club. As a staff writer with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and chosen as a finalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Award. In previous lives, Chandler worked construction, drove a cab and played the banjo (not necessarily at the same time). He has toiled as a writer and journalist for three decades now and, unmindful of his sage father’s advice, has nothing to fall back on. Yet he is not without a specialized set of skills: He can take notes in the dark and is pretty good with active verbs.