The Traditional Foodie

Tag: Terroir

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.

What is terroir, the untranslatable word

Terroir is a French term and concept. With no equivalent word in English. But what is ‘terroir’?

Nowadays, in the foodie world and especially in the world of wine there is a lot of talk about this term.

It might look similar to the territory. But it is much more than that.

In this article you will learn:

What is a terroir (UNESCO definition)

What does each element of the definition mean?

How is a terroir born?

What is terroir? The firsts descriptions of the word “terroir” date from 1229, as a reconstruction of ancient forms (tioroer, tieroir) originating from the popular Latin “territorium”.

Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication protect and promote the terroirs.

The definition of ‘terroir’, adopted by UNESCO in 2005

The definition was created between 2001 and 2003 by a group of scientists that included agronomist, anthropologists, economists, and engineers from the French National Institute for Agriculture (INRAE) and the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO).

« A Terroir is a geographically limited area where a human community generates and accumulates along with its history a set of cultural distinctive features, knowledge and practices based on a system of interactions between biophysical and human factors. The combination of techniques involved in production reveals originality, confers typicity and leads to a reputation for goods originating from this geographical area, and therefore for its inhabitants.»

What does each element of the definition mean?

The delimitation takes the form of a geographically determined border

The delimited space or territory is constructed through a process of negotiation and sociopolitical compromise, where natural, technical, cultural, historical, economic and political factors come into play.

What is terroir? Wine Terroirs in France
Wine terroirs in France. Credit

The “human community” is well located geographically in the designated space. It can also include parts of its own that are not inside the delimitation, it has a history, and sometimes a social name.

The human community along its history generates and accumulates a set of cultural distinctive features, knowledge and practices

The knowledge is the result of an evolutionary process of accumulation of individual and collective experiences over time. It is constructed and inscribed in a historical process. It is also a history being made, with continuous innovations, which are composed of existing knowledge.

The terroir is not the result of an explicit and intentional project. Rather, it is a Right emanating from the activity of men in the community.

A system of interactions between biophysical and human factors characterize the cultural features

These interactions include:

  • Environmental factors (e.g., climate, topography, plants, animals, microorganisms, etc.)
  • Human factors which refer to the collective knowledge of the community
  • And the usage, which results from the experience acquired in interaction with the environment.

The combination of techniques involved in production reveals originality, confers typicity and leads to a reputation

These techniques qualify as “socio-technical”, as social knowledge influences the technique and is produced by its implementation.

The socio-technical routes lead to a reputation.

Goods originate from the geographical area, and thus from its inhabitants

In this sense, what does ‘good’ mean?

Its meaning is larger than that of product or service.

A good originates from the geographical area and enhances it. It includes the products with its originality, typicality and reputation. But also, economic or non-economic goods, private or public and associated services. In particular, public goods include landscapes and the environment.

The terroirs are living and innovating spaces

It is not only about tradition.

A more simple definition of “terroir”, in the sense that interests today’s producers, could be:

“A fragment of the earth’s surface on which a human group obtains, by certain methods, products characterized by intrinsic qualities”. Such a definition may be too simple, but it has the merit of reminding us that terroir is an eco-cultural situation.

The specificity of the product emerges from the elements that produce it.

These elements are

  • the territory (soil characteristics, climate)
  • or the human factor (know-how, history).

In the oenology, we use terroir to characterize a wine for the territory where it comes from, like Beaujolais wines are rather light and fruity many sommeliers claim to know the wine terroir by tasting it. However, the term is not limited to the wine world, but more than that: it includes every traditional food and traditional spirits.

The traditional food products demand legal protection and promotion. And here is where the Protected Geographical Indication and Protected Designation of Origin take place.

And why do traditional food needs legal protection?

Neighbour villages tend to copy the product and give it the same name to enjoy its reputation.

How is a terroir born? Time for a story

The story goes like this:

In the Middle Age, a peasant family lives in a city called Altamura, in Italy. They use dough of durum wheat, sourdough, marine salt and water to bake bread in a traditional public oven.

The parents teach this tradition to their children. When they grow up, those children will teach their children how to cook the bread early in the morning with the same technique as their parents. The same will happen with the next generation.

Bread making, what is terroir
Bread making

Every generation will add some feature:

  • social,
  • raw material
  • or technique

Until they generate a unique product – a traditional bread – with the elements of the region:

  • durum wheat and even potable water from the area,
  • local machinery,
  • and a specific technique.

With time, this bread will gain a reputation: Pliny the elder defines it as the ‘best bread in the world’. And even the city of Altamura referred to bread making in its Municipal Statutes of 1527.

To protect it from imitation, the Altamura bread received a Protected Designation of Origin in 2003.

This story I told is true, it is the history of the traditional product of terroir: Pane di Altamura DOP

And it is one of the more than 3397 stories of traditional products that are legally recognized today in the World.

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