The Traditional Foodie

Tag: foodie

How to be a traditional foodie?

This article is the result of many years in the world of gastronomy, observing the behaviour of many people who call themselves ‘foodies’. But they do not really correspond to the definition of the foodie, as we will see later. I would like to define a new type of foodie: the traditional foodie. Whos interest radicate on traditional food, history of gastronomy and the local and seasonal food consumption.

The definition of ‘foodie’ is controversial. This urban tribe of Instagrammers posting everything edible with the only condition of being visually acceptable.

Yet, there are many foodies that do not identify with urban tribe.

Table of content
What is a foodie?
Definition of a ‘traditional foodie’

A traditional foodie:


But first, what is a foodie?

First and foremost, let’s take a look at the definition of ‘foodie’

The term foodie was introduced in 1984 by Paul Levy, Anna Barr and Mat Sloan in their book “The Official Foodie Handbook” from 1984.

foodie noun
a person who loves food and is very interested in different types of food.
Similar words epicure, epicurean, gastronome, gourmet

Cambridge Dictionary

During the 80s and 90s, the foodie movement led to:

  • the appearance of food networks
  • specialised food tv shows took place
  • a renaissance of cookbooks and specialist magazines
  • augmentation of foodie blogs
  • the regulation of geographical indications and designations of origin for the protection of agricultural products and foodstuffs

The key motivation for the birth of foodies as a small tribe was to escape the proliferation of prefabricated food chains in the globalized culture from developed countries. But on the other hand, the chefs began to be seen as divas, belittling the lifelong cooks, sometimes more experienced.

The profile of a foodie corresponds to young people between 30 and 40 years of age, from the middle and upper-middle classes. For them, eating is more than just nourishment.

They do not usually have professional ties to the world of cooking or drinking. Their interest lies in what’s new. They know the latest restaurant, where the best wine tastings take place, where you can find the best French bread or the perfect cocktails.

The term foodie has always sounded very snob to me.

Yet, when I was studying for my master’s degree in food identity, I and my colleagues liked to call ourselves ‘foodies’.

We loved everything about traditional food: stories, territories or terroirs, food culture and intellectual property.

We were foodies of traditional food.

So I allowed myself to invent my own definition of a traditional foodie.

Definition of a ‘traditional foodie’

A traditional foodie is a person who loves traditional food in all its forms. It is someone who’s behind not the new trends on food but the old traditions of every gastronomic culture.

The Traditional Foodie

Let me describe other characteristics of a traditional foodie.

A traditional foodie is curious about the other cultures

You can learn a lot from the gastronomic traditions of a country. So every time you meet someone, ask them what is the typical food of their country. 

This answer can be surprising. Sometimes we think we know the answer to this question in some cases and we don’t. 

For example, if you ask about traditional food to a Japanese person, he will surely not tell you about sushi. Sushi is not Japanese, it was created in the third century in the Mekong River in the region where today are the countries of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

A traditional foodie asks a local

When he or she travels, a traditional foodie does not search for food blogs or guides to find the best restaurant, he asks the locals! The locals are a great asset on a trip, they can help us find an address, but they can also tell us a good place to eat. We can ask them where to eat but also what to eat. But pay attention, not everybody knows what is traditional. Many people don’t understand that what is normal for them can be a novelty for others. Do not ask a local if he can advise you where and what to eat. He will probably send you to the most expensive and not necessarily good restaurant.

Ask a local (if he or she is nice), what is the traditional food from the city, or what their grandmothers used to cook to them when they were little. That is how you will find out about very good, local and traditional food from a place.

When you know what local food to try, you can go online and check where to eat it, or you can ask again a local.

A traditional foodie doesn’t care about aesthetics

A traditional foodie does not judge things for their envelope.

Do you have a story about the time you finished in the ugliest of the restaurants, and eating the best meal in your life? That’s what I am talking about.

I have a foodie friend that when are looking for a place to eat he says ‘look through the windows if the tablecloths of the restaurant are ugly, it means the food will be good’.

I don’t mean you have to jump in the ugliest place you find. Today, cafes and restaurants are designed around “Instagrammable” aesthetics, but that can be a trap too.

Traditional restaurants rarely change the interior decor, they are busy cooking good food. So don’t be afraid to jump in.

A traditional fodie doesn't care about aesthetics.

Los restaurantes locales antiguos suelen tener mucha experiencia, aman lo que hacen. Tuvieron buenos y malos momentos. Siguieron cocinando no sólo por su economía sino también por sus clientes históricos, que seguirán yendo pase lo que pase.

También la comida tradicional puede no ser la más bonita, pero el sabor y la historia que contiene supera cualquier tostada con aguacate y queso crema.

Si eres un turista, probablemente serás el único no local en el restaurante, y tendrás una verdadera experiencia gastronómica tradicional.

A traditional foodie knows that food is the way to overcome socially awkward situations

A traditional foodie always knows what to talk about in situations involving food. And this is, of course, food. 

Food is the most practical way to say to someone that you love him or making someone feel comfortable. A food story is something that people always love to hear. Tell someone a story and you will give him a gift. Tell someone a story about food and you will give him love.

Food stories are always a great way to break the ice in any situation involving food. Whether it’s work, family, date.

As an example, the history of port wine in my article ‘5 wines that changed the history of traditional food’ contains five small stories to discuss the history of the birth of these wines and the tradition surrounding them.

We spend an average of 40 minutes a day thinking about food. Food unites us and is in our daily lives, without it, we cannot live.

So knowing a story or two about food can often improve a situation of social discomfort. And it’s much better than telling a joke.

Nowadays we don’t know who might get offended.

A traditional foodie eats seasonal veggies

A traditional foodie knows that to maintain tradition we must take care of the environment.

And he knows that we can’t eat the same fruits and vegetables all year round. Nature is wise and at every time of the year, it provides us with the fruits and vegetables we need to be healthy. For example, vitamin C prevents colds, so it is not a coincidence that oranges grow more in winter. And watermelons which grow during summer have a lot of water to help hydrate in that period.

Eating fruits and vegetables produced out of season (oranges in summer or zucchini in winter) increases the carbon and water footprint. This is because these fruits and vegetables come from greenhouses where more resources are spent. Or they are imported from other countries where they are in season.

A traditional foodie eats local

A traditional foodie does not eat avocado if it is not in Mexico or in a producing region.

One way to respect the tradition of a society is not to forget it. Consuming local food means promoting what we have nearby and helping primary producers.

Cooking local recipes and promoting them means that traditions are maintained and valued.

It increases the love for the place where you live and the sense of belonging.

One takes over the local natural resources and turns them into a local and traditional recipe for giving love to others. And so the history of a place continues to be written, generation to generation.

What are you waiting for to become a traditional foodie?

A traditional foodie loves the timelessness of food, its soul. 

He doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone so he doesn’t care about fashions and trends. He loves to know what he eats and tries to share it with others.

A traditional foodie loves the world through food.

Jamon español comida tradicional española

Traditional food: the new trend in gastronomy

No matter where we come from, we grew up eating our grandma’s food and enjoying those deliciously old recipes our whole life without giving them much importance, or maybe taking them for granted. Nowadays, the tendency in gastronomy is to give value to our traditional foods and cherish them to the fullest.
Local and Traditional food is attracting chefs attention, governments agendas and consumers whom appreciate food all around the world.
We are living changing times and people are looking for different, yet exciting ways to vary their diets. Especially we´re looking for new recipes and —why not— recipes that are typical of other countries as well. Variety is the key to the taste.

In this article you will find:

What is traditional food?

Around ten thousand years ago, the firsts sedentary societies used to take what they needed from the environment freely on a daily basics. People were hungry, so they had to invent ways to make the elements around them edible, but tasty as well.

First steps of humanity on the way to traditional food, ploughing with a yoke of horned cattle in Ancient Egypt
Ploughing with a yoke of horned cattle in Ancient Egypt. Painting from the burial chamber of Sennedjem, c. 1200 BC.

Civilizations learned some tricks on cooking and they kept developing it. The knowledge passed through generations. At the same time, populations adapted to the nutrients they received depending on where they settle. The traditional food adapts to the people, at the same time that people get acquainted to the environment. It is unprocessed, nutritious, organic and high in fats to satiate working people. Ultimately, it is the food that we find in our local community that will make the difference.

Why should we talk about traditional food?

In the 20th century, accentuated by the two World Wars, developed countries began to change their diets for many reasons, leaving aside traditional foods or make them exclusively into a private only familiar dish. The era of a so-called globalized societies’ diet started then: Fast foods, pizzas, sushi, hamburgers, high in sugar cereals for breakfast, etc. Big companies and publicity convinced people this was better for them, for health or fashion reasons, but most importantly they saved you time and money, so people were all in.

In 1935, scientists began to foreseen what was happening. They knew that if we didn’t get attention to promote and protect our products, they would soon disappear. So, they came up with the solution to back to the origins and consume local food.

Since 1975, obesity has almost tripled worldwide. How come illnesses were increasing if we were taking ¨healthier¨ products? A theory is that we are consuming meals for which our system is not well-adjusted and that brings us health problems.

7-up pub: setting up your child for a happy life (and tooth decay)
7-up: setting up your child for a happy life (and tooth decay) Credit: THELUNCHTRAY.COM

In 1955, 7-Up suggested that mixing the fizzy lemon drink in “equal parts” to a toddler’s milk was an excellent and responsible way to encourage them to drink – assuring mothers that it was a “wholesome combination”.

What makes a product traditional?

To call a food as traditional, it must certainly have an intrinsic link to the society in which it is generated. It must have a birth history, become a legend or be part of written documents that prove it.
A traditional product should also be easily obtained in the area and time of year in which it is produced because it is made with natural resources available in a particular place.

There are countless examples in the world of traditional food. However, not all of them are certified to prove it.

How do I identify a traditional product?

There are quality standards to promote and protect traditional products: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)Geographical Indication (GI) and the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). Many countries around the globe have adopted this system. These standards are only applicable to food and beverages. They serve to identify a local and traditional product.

European quality labels for traditional products
European quality labels for traditional products

To get one of the certifications, there must be a link between the product and the place where it is produced. For example, a molecule that gives a certain aroma to the product and is only found in that place. Or the microclimate of the region that gives the product its characteristics.

Examples of traditional food

Let’s take a look at some examples. Mozzarella is a cheese that we all know, it melts and it goes well with other fresh products. We usually use it on pizza or in salads. Surprisingly, Mozzarella is not a traditional food, but a generic food product. Nonetheless, there is only one type of mozzarella that is traditional.

The producers own the name of the product; we can call it like that if it is produced in the place meeting specific quality standards. For example, the Mozzarella di Bufala di Campana comes from a southern italian region called Campana.

Mozarella Protected Designation of Origin
Mozzarella di Bufala di Campana PDO

Mozzarella di Bufala di Campana is a traditional product with a Protected Designation of Origin. This certification lets us identify it as a traditional product.

The Jabugo Ham PDO or Jamón de Jabugo in Spanish is a cured ham made from black pigs of Iberian breed. These pigs live in the pastures of the provinces of Badajoz, Cáceres, Seville, Córdoba, Cádiz, Málaga and Huelva in Spain. They feed mostly on acorns, which give the meat a delicate and smooth taste.

It is easy to relate the Iberian Ham with something traditional, because of the great reputation it has. But in reality, Jamón Ibérico refers to any ham made with black pork from the Iberian breed, which may or may not be traditional. In fact, we can find several designations of origin for hams from Iberian pigs in Spain , such as Jabugo Ham DOP, Dehesa de Extremadura Ham DOP, Los Pedroches Ham DOP, Guijuelo Ham DOP.

We still have a long way to go

Traditional products will still be in the local communities and patron saint festivities, but we need to raise awareness to incorporate them back into our diets.

When we travel to a country with a bast traditional history, like Italy or Spain, the gastronomic richness amazes us, but in fact, every country has a gastronomic variety or identity, although sometimes they aren´t very valued or appreciated. Every region should be proud of their local products, protect them and enjoy them.

Over the generations, the traditional dishes and food are disappearing. It would be a pity to lose the cultural and historical richness that the gastronomy of a region offers us.

How traditional food can determine the fate of society. The history of the potato

Parmentier holding a potatoe plant, painting by François Dumont
Parmentier holding a potato plant. Painting by François Dumont CREDIT REPRODART

To conclude, I would like to tell you about the history of the potato or how food can determine the fate of a population. In South America 8000 to 5000 years ago, the Inca Empire domesticated plants of potatoes and some specialists believe this was the cause of the greatness of the empire. The potato arrived in Europe in 1579, but in that time they believed the potato was indigestible and caused leprosy. The people fed the animals and the homeless with it.

It was not until a botanist named Antoine Parmentier started to promote the benefits of the potato against famine. We all know that with famine comes looting, violence and war. Nowadays, scientists mostly agree on its importance in the decrease of violence in Europe for about 200 years, not to mention the tremendously nutritional benefits.

Not surprisingly, the term ‘parmentier potatoes‘ is now used to describe any dish made with cooked potatoes. Perhaps as a way of paying tribute to the French scientist who did so much to fight hunger in Europe.

Food becomes traditional when it modifies the course of history in our society and it contributes against hunger, wars, and hard times. Most importantly, traditional food makes any moment of life a compelling memorial celebration.

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