Mark Bittman is one of my favorite food writers. His writing usually leaves me with something to think about. Earlier this week, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, Rethinking the Word ‘Foodie.’ I’ve definitely been left with something to think about, perhaps even work on, after reading his latest piece.

In the op-ed, Bittman says that he wants the word “foodie to be a tad more meaningful.” As it stands, anyone who loves food can call themselves a foodie, but many of those food lovers would be better called “new-style epicures” than “foodies,” according to Bittman.

He believes a foodie should be conscious that “producing food has an effect beyond the opportunity for pleasure.” Well-intentioned foodies need to also pay attention to “how food is produced and the impact it has.”

He says foodies should care about “good” food and sketches out what that means.

Good food is real, it’s healthy, it’s produced sustainably, it’s fair and it’s affordable.
Because most of what he said can be interpreted subjectively, he goes on to define what the terms he uses mean to him.
  • If a food existed 100 years ago, it’s real.
  • Healthy means “whole” or “real.” It means eating more fruits and vegetables.
  • Sustainable means when food is produced, farmers put as much back into the soil as they take out and use water wisely.
  • All people must earn living wages for food to be fair and affordable and good food must be subsidized.
I love how simple and concise this is, but as Bittman points out, simple doesn’t mean easy. Changes need to be made on an individual level and on a societal level.

I always start with how I can make changes as an individual first, so I decided to use Bittman’s definition of good food as a personal check list to see where I may be able to step up my “conscious foodie-ness.”

  • Real food? I understand that and fill my home with real food.
  • Healthy food? I agree wholeheartedly with his definition. Whole food is healthy. Processed food, less so or sometimes not at all.
  • Sustainably produced? I’m a believer in “know your farmer, know your food.” I ask questions and understand that food producers can be sustainable even if they’re not USDA certified organic. I spend more money on food I know has been produced sustainably because I believe it’s better for my family, better for the environment, and I believe the farmers who commit to sustainable farming deserve to paid a fair price for what they produce.
  • Fair and affordable? Here’s where I realize I have the most work to do. I do believe good food must be subsidized. But, although I’m in favor of raising the minimum wage and making sure everyone has enough money to live on, I wouldn’t call myself an advocate for it.
I now see an area I can work on because I do care about good food and everyone having access to it. I'll start by educating myself more about the issues and see where I can go from there.

Are you Mark Bittman’s type of foodie, and if you are, do you see any area you need to work on based on Bittman’s thoughts about good food?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Mark Bittman wants foodies to be more conscious
In an op-ed piece, the food writer and activist lays out exactly what he believes foodies should care about. Are you his kind of foodie?