Are ‘Foodiots’ the New Foodies? (And Where Did They Come From, Anyway?)

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Photo: istockphoto

Okay. We know we have a problem — we’ve spoken the word gazpacho more than anyone except perhaps a waiter at a Spanish restaurant, and in the past month, we’ve tweeted about more hot dogs than a 6-year-old has probably eaten in a year. We’ve doubtlessly bored our dinner companions — and let’s face it, ourselves — with talk about everything we’ve put in our mouth in the past week. In fact, we’ve even interrupted celebrities telling us about their New York Diets to tell them about our own. But what do we call ourselves? Certainly not a “foodie”— that’s like the word hipster; everyone is one, but nobody wants to call themselves one. Well, the Observer has a suggestion: “Foodiots”!

What are foodiots, you ask? Well, as far as we can gather from the overly anecdotal and somewhat discombobulated piece, they’re foodies who tweet/blog/brag about everything they’ve eaten, whether it’s a pork croquette at Gramercy Tavern or a freaking Hot Pocket. They’re becoming more ubiquitous, says the Observer piece, but it doesn’t delve into the why of it.

So when exactly did foodies pass the torch to foodiots? We’re just talking off the top of our heads here, but it might’ve been when Danny Mayer opened Shake Shack in New York, serving fast food with an Eleven Madison Park lineage. The foodies and their blogs latched onto the concept, and suddenly eating a hamburger was a point of pride. Shake Shack perpetuated its own mythology, installing a camera to document the lines (a precursor to restaurant Twitter pages), and suddenly restaurateurs were realizing the publicity potential in well-packaged, media-friendly comfort-food concepts. At the same time, blogs started looking for the next Shake Shack — and when Momofuku Noodle Bar came along, they were ready to go batty for it.

Meanwhile, blogs like Slice, A Hamburger Today and Midtown Lunch waxed poetic about previously pedestrian foods. The corner slice joint became just as blogworthy as Per Se, and your reputation as a top food blogger didn’t suffer one bit if you admitted to the New York Times that you had no idea what went into white sauce. (Of course, we should also give the Food[iot?] Network its due.)

And it’s only gotten worse — with more and more food blogs launching ,and sources and publicists becoming less and less loyal to one blog or another, the competition for information (and the pressure to churn out content) has become fierce, and blogs that previously had the luxury of focusing on the city’s top restaurants are now publishing just about any piece of original information that they can get their hands on. As the playing field broadens, the bar is lowered. Even the top critics don’t just review the lavish new multi-star contenders, they also tell us about their stops into the Smith.

Considering all this, it’s interesting to contrast two recent reviews of Gus & Gabriel: Pete Wells slammed Michael Psilakis’s “gastropub” in the Times, while Jay Cheshes praised it in Time Out. Are we looking at the differences between a foodie and a foodiot here? Wells thinks the food consists of “colossal misfires,” where Cheshes thinks “much of it is delicious.” Cheshes believes the burger with bacon, Gruyère, onion rings, and fried egg is “a triumph,” while Wells thinks it’s “greasy and indistinct.”

What’s notable about the two reviews is that Wells goes into some detail about flavoring, while Cheshes can’t stop talking about how fattening and “obscene” the food is, something that apparently pleases him since he gives the place three stars versus Wells’s zero. Here are all the expression Cheshes uses without going into much detail about how the food actually tastes: “fast-food canon through a diabolical lens,” “fatty foods rarely encountered outside the Midwest,” “nearly all of it is obscene,” “an awfully good time,” “more-is-more spirit,” “generous,” “pure stoner genius,” “as disturbing as it is delicious,” “perilously filling” “portions [are] enormous, even by the elastic-waistband standards of Middle America,” “suitable snack for a WWE wrestler,” “going for excess over extravagance,” “stacked like timber” “just as excessive as everything else,” “perfect for your inner fat kid.”

Taking these two reviews, it’s easy to see the rift between foodies and foodiots, though we’re not saying Wells or Cheshes qualifies as one or the other (since we haven’t had a chance to get up to Gus & Gabriel, we can’t agree or disagree with either critic — though you know where we stand on G&G;’s crap-beer program). As the food blogosphere and food television expand, food becomes more and more about sensationalism and gimmickry, and it has become more and more acceptable to praise something just because it’s wacky or indulgent (or because it got kicked out of its parking space), not because it’s artful.

So will the tide turn back? Maybe. The other night at a restaurant opening, we confessed to a chowhound that dirty-water hot dogs do nothing for us. In this environment, it felt like confessing that we found oysters gross or that sushi was icky. Then again, we were probably being a foodiot just by bringing this up, and also that we couldn’t help but assure the person that we do love Gray’s Papaya.

The Foodiots [NYO]