Policy

May 24, 2013 at 7:45 am

Why I’m not a “Foodie”

(Flickr)

(Flickr)

After moving back to Milwaukee, my home city, last year and eating my newly non-vegan way through a few of the “greener” restaurants, I started to wonder who else pondered a few obvious things:

  • Why is this food so damn expensive?
  • Why does just about everyone in here look the same?
  • Why am I eating here?

Sustainable food systems have exploded in popularity in the past couple of years. I feel enthused that so many individuals, businesses, coalitions, and organizations are getting passionate and involved but I do wonder if some of our actions contribute to problems instead of solutions.

I am not immune from blame. Yes, I have tasted such a thing as duck fillet nachos and I may even have spent fourteen dollars on them. I encouraged my girlfriend to buy organic produce at the mega-market. I have spent a significant amount of time growing, cooking, eating, and talking about kale, often at restaurants. How comfortable it felt to slide into an easy routine of frequenting the newest trendy restaurant with paycheck extras. I had easily become a “young professional” (read: middle class, college-educated, white) without even knowing it.

But I had to stop myself. Something wasn’t right. Foodie-ism and the narrow emphasis on eating organic/local/artisan food was not an act of protest or activism.

In fact, it was pretty conservative. Foodieism reinforced and replicated systems of food injustice. Eat expensive grass-fed beef in your LEED-certified ivory tower and you might as well be dining on Chilean sea bass at the CPAC with Rush Limbaugh.

(Flickr)

(Flickr)

This is why I am not a foodie and why you shouldn’t be one either.

Calling myself a foodie would signify that the duck nachos, the seven-dollar cocktail with pounded basil in the bottom, the gluten-free tater tots made with local sweet potatoes are experiences that anyone could choose to take instead of monetized privileges that are gifted to some and not others. It would imply that these hipster foods are inherently more valuable than the foods that are eaten outside of those gentrifying restaurants. It is, often, also racist exotification.

These systems put values not only on food but on people. Who do we typically think of when we imagine what a foodie looks like? The only media representations I’ve seen are people who look like me (read: white, young, college-educated, thin). They may be voyeuristically buying food from “ethnic” or “authentic” people.

But why do we never call the “ethnic” people foodies?

And, really, who doesn’t like good food?

The other side of the foodie problem is that it loves to take food out of its context. “We want your fried plantains but we don’t want you,” the movement seems to be saying. “We want to eat wild ramps and organic tomatoes but we don’t want to think about who foraged or picked them and why.”

And what does it mean when the tagline of a white-owned restaurant is something like “Modern Mexican Cuisine”? What does it mean when that restaurant charges three times more for enchiladas than the family-owned place down the street that has been there for 25 years? It means that “modern” equals white, and that “ethnic” equals antiquated and dirty. These restaurants cater to privileged people who are scared of leaving their comfortable zone but want to feel adventurous.

This restaurant gentrification shows that racist-classist power dynamics are at play. When we say the only entities that get people excited about sustainable food systems are the ones that attract thirty-year-old bankers, we are just replicating the racism/classism our food systems already holds strong.

School lunch line(Flickr | USDA)

School lunch line
(Flickr | USDA)

After about six months in Milwaukee, my work evolved. I started working in classrooms to do school garden support and vegetable taste tests with elementary and middle school students. We tried lots of vegetables, including varieties that none of us had heard of before.

Have you ever tried mache? It is a lettuce variety with a nutty taste and small, soft clusters of leaves that my kindergarteners ate a whole pint of. Did you know that you can eat both the stunning flower and the spicy, round leaves of the nasturtium plant? Some of my middle school students made a salad out of nasturtiums they had grown themselves in their classroom aquaponics system.

Some of these students left that day talking about how they should really go into business this summer making salad dressing out of olive oil and vinegar. “Line up for your salad!” one student yelled. These comments and experiences occurred well outside of the scope of Milwaukee’s downtown foodie restaurants—these comments occurred at schools where nearly 80% of students receive free or reduced lunch.

For people to claim that kids don’t like vegetables or that poor people don’t like good food, is obviously ridiculous. I want to wear a sandwich board and walk down the streets of young-professional-gentrification evangelizing against this disconnect.

Foodieism has a misplaced emphasis on value-added quality over community. I wonder how to make the patrons of those restaurants think about and act on this. Our communities, together, are poised to create a true revolution for just and equitable food. If people of privilege want to join in, we just need to shut our mouths, open our eyes, and follow along.

What we need as communities, cooks, and people proclaiming their love of food is not another establishment that serves eleven-dollar local swiss chard every Wednesday. Rather, we need to think about food in a way that targets our most systemic community concerns and looks out for all stakeholders in an equitable manner, not just the ones who consider themselves “foodies.”

-Freesia McKee

73 Comments

  1. Agree with this author. The foodie scene in Philadelphia seems self-indulgent, more passionate about savors and recipies than about the 60,000 hungry children surrounding Center City.

    As food stamps are cut, hordes of hungry should invade Whole Foods and take what they urgently need. For my part, I’ve started an orchard project here that has planted 34 urban orchards so far.

    Famine sours the best ingredients.

  2. wonder how many of you upset folks drive cars to work.

  3. I found this an interesting read. I personally feel like what you are experiance is your dismay in how the system works. I am not even sure if they is about food. It sounds like you talking about the same old social problems we have always had and it also sounds like the problem is capitalism, but that is the country we live and that is how it works. I may no agree but I dont go around calling people hipsters because of the food they eat. I feel that just adds to what you are truly talking about and that is social issues. If you are white, get over it its not a burden also if you arent cool, what I am saying is people are people. Hipster is like calling someone an inflammatory remark and i know a few will disagree but its the same as calling someone a nigger. How? you see me and make a judgement call, there is something you don’t like about me so you create a name for it. SO its the same thing. I digress. it’s just food. treat others how you want to be treated etc etc etc.

  4. I’d like to point out that equating ‘foodie’ and eating in expensive trending restaurants is just plain wrong. I would definitely call myself a foodie, and I seek out great food wherever I can find it. Often, that’s at an ethnic-owned and run restaurant…which may or may not be an expensive restaurant or even a food truck.

    Seeking out high-priced food at trendy restaurants doesn’t make you a foodie. It might mean that you’re a snob, though.

    Seeking out food that is organic and local doesn’t make you a foodie. It might mean that you’re socially conscious.

    And, finally, being a foodie reflects not one whit on your race or ethnicity. Being a foodie simply means you like good food. To imply that ethnic people can’t be foodies is simply racist.

  5. planb247 says:

    the problem isn’t elitism/classism/racism… it’s CAPITALISM and our completely effed up political system that is owned by large corporations. that’s why the food costs so much and why people pay the extra, because they want to support a different way of doing things. this article is just your white guilt on display.

  6. there are some good points here, but it also feels like the kind of knee-jerk, reflexive Hipster-hating that is so popular right now, in which anyone who grows their own food, pickles their own slaw, or shops at the farmers market is automatically assumed to be a privileged child of wealth who is doing it for all the wrong reasons. There are definitely some hardcore douchebags in the foodie scene, but the blanket foodie-hating is becoming equally tiresome, and counter-productive. Why does everything in America have to go through this love-backlash-lame cycle?

  7. “Why is this food so damn expensive?”
    Because it costs more to grow things on a small farm, or organically, or grass-fed, or free-range. Or because really good chefs get paid more.

    “Why does just about everyone in here look the same?”
    Because race and class and neighborhood are highly correlated in the US.

    “Why am I eating here?”
    Because it’s good for the environment, or the animals. Or because it’s delicious.

    “Foodie-ism and the narrow emphasis on eating organic/local/artisan food was not an act of protest or activism.”
    Eating top-tier food is not a protest; it’s a luxury that some people really value. Eating food that’s good for the environment or kinder to the animals is not a protest, but it is good for the world to do it.

    “Eat expensive grass-fed beef in your LEED-certified ivory tower and you might as well be dining on Chilean sea bass at the CPAC with Rush Limbaugh.”
    That’s not an explanation of your claim that foodie-ism is conservative, it’s just claiming it again, and it’s not believable.

    “Calling myself a foodie would signify that the duck nachos … are experiences that anyone could choose to take instead of monetized privileges that are gifted to some and not others.”
    No it wouldn’t. No one claims that everyone can afford to eat like a foodie.

    “It would imply that these hipster foods are inherently more valuable than the foods that are eaten outside of those gentrifying restaurants.”
    Maybe you’re starting to get to something worth writing about here. But I still feel like pricey food often *is* more delicious, and food that’s better for the earth is more valuable in a certain way.

    “It is, often, also racist exotification.”
    This is worth thinking about. I would read an article analyzing when foodie-ism becomes racist exotification.

    “But why do we never call the “ethnic” people foodies?”
    I think we do, when they are, but they are less often, because of the above-mentioned correlation. If you’re against buying luxury goods, write about that.

    “For people to claim that kids don’t like vegetables or that poor people don’t like good food, is obviously ridiculous.”
    Great (foodie-unrelated) message about kids liking vegetables. Who on earth thinks poor people don’t like good food?

    “It means that “modern” equals white, and that “ethnic” equals antiquated and dirty. These restaurants cater to privileged people who are scared of leaving their comfortable zone but want to feel adventurous.”
    With all the racism around I’m sure that’s true for a lot of people, but don’t forget that “modern” is the opposite of “traditional”. When you change the cuisine from a place you shouldn’t call it traditional anymore, you should admit that you’re, say, a white American who likes Mexican food but is fusing it with their own culture and style. That’s the right thing to do, and “modern” has positive connotations so it’s a good way of branding non-traditional food, despite the fact that people often value “authentic” food more. This is a complex topic worth looking at.

    “If people of privilege want to join in, we just need to shut our mouths, open our eyes, and follow along.”
    Privileged people need to think about the contributions of other people, but thinking that underprivileged people are the only ones who should lead the way is in the same category as racist exotification, I think. Also: local food has a lot to do with community! And finally: the politics of food, like the Farm Bill, and politics in general, like our crazy wealth gap in the US, have much more effect on these problems than whether or not you eat duck nachos.

    • Yes, Yes, and Yes. Thank you for articulating what I was struggling to identify while reading this article. While I understand what the author was trying to achieve, many of her points are way off the mark and some don’t even make sense.

    • Why is beef more costly than soybean

  8. This is one of the stupidest, most clueless, and immature articles I have ever read. Space does not permit me to detail all the reasons for my loathing, and I’m afraid I’d have to wait for my blood to stop boiling before I could actually articulate all my reasons anyway. Let me just say in summary: caring about good, sustainably produced food has nothing to do with eating in the latest trendy restaurant, darling.

  9. Ruth Grene says:

    I agree with the author. The whole movement, at this point, smells of elitism. Middle class people who want to feel virtuous and superior to others lap this stuff up. I have yet to meet a genuine person of rural origin who wants anything to do with becoming a foodies.

    Remember a certain French queen who played at being a dairy maid before the people chopped off her head??

    • Matthew Marion says:

      @Ruth:

      So you’ve done extensive interview with city folk that want to eat right and have determined that they are snobs, not folk that care about anything? It’d be interesting to see your research.

      “Remember a certain French queen who played at being a dairy maid before the people chopped off her head??”

      She stole from the poor. The people being referenced by the author are not doing that, they are paying a fortune for local labor which costs a fortune. Why they do this could be for any reason.

      “The whole movement, at this point, smells of elitism. Middle class people who want to feel virtuous and superior to others lap this stuff up.”

      Ummmm, what movement? Buying organic because it’s a fact that soil degredation is sverly reducing viable growing land? Because one doesn’t want poor farmers to be covered in a carcinogen? Or maybe it’s buying local that’s so horrendous, paying more for local labor because unlike our foreign slaves we pay each other well, so well that it costs a fortune in comparison.

      The author has a good heart but she’s lumping badness on folk she’s never met without knowing of their reasons (as are you).

      “I have yet to meet a genuine person of rural origin who wants anything to do with becoming a foodies”

      What does this even mean? Foodie is a term that folk use to label others that eat better than they do because they don’t want to admit that they too can eat better by sacrificing things that don’t actually matter. Someone that spends all their money on an SUV and eats Kraft Dinner will label someone like me, who doesn’t drive and raises a family of 4 in a basement, a foodie because they know that food is more important than their global warming machine but in our society we don’t admit things, we make others look bad so we don’t have to.

      I grew up far from any city and also in Canada where we have far more wilderness and far less local food variety. There are folk where I grew up that cared about what they ate and folk that didn’t, just like there are in the city I currently live in. When I go home to the tiny little town I can often get the same quality food for much cheaper as the labor and shipping costs of moving the food to the city is not there.

      There’s no “movement”, there’s a bunch of poople that care and want to help. The only ones that use terms such as “foodie” or “movement” are ignorant people that should talk to others a little more.

  10. Pingback: Why I Am a Foodie | Table to Farm

  11. Couldn’t get past the conservative jabs to see if this article had any merit, and I’m no Republican. I highly suggest authors put the politics aside when addressing an issue that impacts everyone, especially on a global scale.

  12. ugh. just simply ugh

  13. So I consider myself a foodie because I thought the definition of a foodie was just someone who has an interest in food and loves to try new foods. The Merriam-Websters dictionary says that a foodie is “a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads.” I don’t agree with this article because for one, I can’t wait until I start my own garden and grow the food that I can myself. Obviously it is difficult to grow your own rice or something. There is one fact that is terrible, however, due to people being Foodies, and it has to do with Quinoa. If you don’t know what Quinoa is, google it, but it is a staple food in the diets of many people in South America and due to its rising popularity and increasing price, the poor people who depend on it can’t afford it anymore.

  14. Holy shit, this article sucks really hard. Or maybe it’s just the pretentious, racist, generalizing author. And ‘foodie’ simply implies someone that enjoys food as a hobby, not the pretentious hipsters that the author probably surrounds herself with. She’s basically telling all the people trying to support the local organic sustainable movement that they suck just because it’s not at a point where everyone can afford the food yet? She needs a remedial economics class to learn about supply and demand. When more farms rise to the organic demand, costs will lower and product will be available to everybody. Does she expect an entire organic industry to just manifest itself out of nowhere and give her quality food for next to nothing? She’s the real elitist snob that feels entitled to other peoples hard work.

    And to make race any part of the issue is just sickening. She’s a terrible person.

    • “She’s basically telling all the people trying to support the local organic sustainable movement that they suck”

      I really don’t think she is trying to imply that you or anyone else who supports this movement “sucks.” I think she is just trying to make her readers aware of their privileged position in which they can financially “support” the organic or local food movement, while others cannot. I am a big follower of sustainable and organic movements, especially on social media. This information is not always available to everyone. Not everyone is on social media or has a Whole Foods in their neighborhood. People continue to buy fast food and convenience foods because it is in their price range or because of a lack of education regarding the consequences. I see comments on the pages I follow that read something like this: “it sickens me to see parents feeding their kids Kraft mac n cheese.” THIS is where the author is coming from. There is a kind of attitude where people are “sickened” by those who are not as educated as they are and simply do not have the means to feed themselves “quality” food. Until there is less judgement directed at the people who simply cannot financially “support” the organic and local food movement, we will be in a better place.

      You must understand that you are privileged because you in fact know the benefits of organic farming, etc. YOU ARE PRIVILEGED. I think self-reflexivity was the point of the article. Nowhere did she say that anyone sucks (unless I am mistaken).

      • Matthew Marion says:

        “I really don’t think she is trying to imply that you or anyone else who supports this movement “sucks.” I think she is just trying to make her readers aware of their privileged position in which they can financially “support” the organic or local food movement, while others cannot.”

        My family makes much less than most of the families I hear talk like this. The difference is that they have a house and car. I live in a city and I’ve seen tonnes of poor folk with a car that don’t need one as there is public transit. This sucks a fortune from the budget that could be spent on food.

        I have a family of four and we don’t make much. We live in a basement apartment and take the bus or our own two feet (or bikes) to get around and save enough on that alone to afford to eat as much organic/local/fair trade as we can find.

        If we go out, our MAYBE one time a year we can, we’ll go to one of these “foodie” restaurants because we’re not making ourselves sick off McD’s.

        I can afford this stuff because I make it so by skipping out on many other things that food that call me a “foodie” assume are needs but are actually just wants.

  15. I think you are confused, author. I don’t know what all this has to do with being a foodie. Funny thing is I agree with most of your criticisms of aspects of the new food culture, and hipster food, elitism, cultural apropriation, etc.

    I like good food and know a bit about good food. I’m a foodie. I’m not a food snob, and I don’t belong to any of the orthorexias or obsessively strict food neuroses, or food fascisms, which you seem to casually lump together with foodies.

    It sounds like you are having a reaction to a very limited cultural experience of a few people who called themselves foodies.

    Sounds like you like good food too and know a little about it. That to me means you are a foodie. Too bad some people you don’t agree with are using the word too.

  16. Lance McKee says:

    Great article, Freesia! As your uncle, I’m very proud of you for the work you’re doing, and for elaborating and sharing the meaning of your work through your writing.

    Come to Worcester sometime and see the flowers and vegetables in my front yard!

    Your readers should take a look at Worcester’s Regional Environmental Council (www.recworcester.org). REC’s Urban Garden Resources of Worcester program (UGROW) coordinates a growing network of over 500 community gardeners — mostly youths — at 62 urban community gardens, 18 of which are located within public schools. These gardens produce over 15,000 pounds of food annually, which is given away or sold at community farmers’ markets.

    Kind of like what you’re doing in Milwaukee! Keep up the good work!

    Love, Lance

  17. Just like to point out one thing. Gluten intolerant people aren’t being persnickety eaters. If we eat it, it slowly kills part of the intestine lining that absorbs vitamins, minerals & nutrients. Thus, slowly malnutrition ourselves to death. No thanks. Its not the same as saying you only eat this or that kind of food.

  18. I think the author is attempting to level a charge at “foodies” because foodie is a label and the author very clearly hates labels.

    A more constructive article would have outlined what the author would like to see expanded, like food in schools, farmer-customer relations, a pricing model more accessible to low income families.

    It’s difficult to add to a discussion when your’e so focused on subtraction.

    • Well said. I knew there the author was trying to make a substantive point and that’s why I read it to the end. I just couldn’t find the substance. For example, for me there was a disconnect between the critique in the first half and the constructive work in schools in the second half. A more mature writer would have outlined the article as you say. That said, I look forward to hearing more from Freesia has he matures.

    • Another point is that I am not completely satisfied with the idea of supporting the Mexican family-run business that Freesia uses as an example. Those businesses typically use the same restaurant food outlets that provide the same mass-produced ingredients that we are looking for which we are looking for an alternative.

  19. It is positively astounding that so many people are getting pissed off in the comment section who don’t realize that they probably fall in line with you on many things ideologically because they’re too busy either patting themselves on the back or being so damn adherent to the comfort of a label.

    I agree with your points. I live in Chicago. I used to work in a disenfranchised part of the West side with middle schoolers and routinely brought it food for them to try for the basic lack of access in their surrounding communities and they were adventurous (for the most part–tamarind chutney isn’t for everyone).

    The problem with those reacting to the food system is when they counter it by creating a new identifier that isn’t free and available for and to everyone (yes, people can theoretically start a garden anywhere or return to the ‘basic’ way of living themselves but with lack of knowledge or, hello, funding resources!).

    I appreciate this, is all. I continue to feed my body well, and may not hold onto any guilt when I do so, but I also don’t want the world of good food or returning the process of gardening, harvesting, or cooking to the home to be an exclusionary or class-based one.

    • Whoops, correction:

      “yes, people can theoretically start a garden anywhere or return to the ‘basic’ way of living themselves but with lack of knowledge or, hello, funding resources!, how do they do it?”

  20. stopwiththetermonology says:

    “Foodie” is a stupid term. Why label yourself anything? It’s food! We all eat food. Who cares where you get it from, how fresh it is, etc….it is food. Everyone should have access to the same food, but we don’t, and it is no coincidence that the “foodie” movement involves largely white people – hipsters with money, or hippies with no money. And this article is talking about the majority of this movement, not everyone in it. But if you identify yourself as a “foodie,” then you are simply a nerd.

  21. i believe some wonderful points were raised in this post, as other’s have commented on the highlights. yes, the truth is much of this comes down to capitalism, which is a system based on the haves and have nots. it’s really about shifting the paradigm into a world where we value interdependance and that all have their basic needs cared for.

    until we have shifted the paradigm, i think it’s important to not get stuck on titles and judgements. i’d rather spend my money on delicious local organic food. although i rarely eat out, (meaning maybe twice a year) if i am going to eat out, it’s at a place that i know is conscious every step of the way.

    food is medicine. and to me, a foodie is really someone who buys real food to make real food in their own kitchen. someone who knows how to render tallow, or make their own yogurt or kefir or wine is a foodie. and to me, that is really all about bringing it all back home. and this movement, the diy movement will be part of what shifts the paradigm so that we aren’t shopping at walmarts and sam’s clubs, so that we may all be free from what turkey is currently facing.

    so yes, may we all have community organic gardens. may we all be investing in our local communities, especially with our youth. and may we all be moving beyond our judgements of one another, our fears and recognize we are all one, and it’s time to take care of each other as such!

    blessings to all!

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  23. Spoiling yourself because you can afford to goes way deeper than just skin color and interpretting the cultural differences in the value of work. It’s a human flaw that transcends all those opinions. Most people who can indulge, do so. Local artisans have to charge to more in order to survive because smaller operations need to pay their bills in same expensive place to live as you do. It’s no different than the fools who pay $150 to walk into the door of some high class club in Vegas. All the same stuff, the only reason you walked into that door instead of a less expensive one is because you can. It’s all just smart marketing, and smart business owners know how stupid everyone is, no matter how much education or money someone makes. You’re all given the same subliminal message when you walk into a grocery store past all the flowers, that are always right at the front entrance of every grocery store, everywhere. People are gullible and taken advantage for the sake of capital gain. It’s not about racism at all.

  24. There is nothing inherently inappropriate about being a foodie or foodie restaurants. It is a difficult and high risk business.Her article does point out the need for more educational opportunities as to home gardening, cooking and need for college opportunity for people of color. In California we are starting to see food trucks and other lower cost foodie outlets as well as a diverse clientele. There are many opportunities for people like the author who want to make a difference in their community.

  25. My area is loaded with local farms. Eating local means shopping at farmer’s markets from the families who own and work the fields, choosing locally owned restaurants and generally supporting the local economy. I couldn’t not care less whether those selling or serving the foods look like me. Actually, I love that the owners of the local Pho restaurant are speaking Vietnamese, the local taco stand are speaking Spanish and so on. It is the beauty of my Southern California neighborhood. What I do loathe are pretentious foodie DBs. They can stay in LA, pay too much for their food and let us enjoy nature’s bounty here.

    • Sorry for the typos. I should proof before I post.

    • Matthew Marion says:

      “What I do loathe are pretentious foodie DBs. They can stay in LA, pay too much for their food and let us enjoy nature’s bounty here.”

      My wife and I live in the middle of a city so that we don’t have to drive a car. Does this automatically make our love of helping the local community nothing and turn us into foodie DB’s? That’s another feeling I get.

      I grew up in the country and I must say, when I go back there the people are way fatter, that’s for sure. I also grew up on Kraft dinner and only learned to eat right after moving into a city, not into the country.

      Again, assumptions make an ass out of you and me. The author should know this by now given the number of people that have informed her that her views may be skewed. Are you sure you’re not doing the same?

      Also, the food from farmers markets in the city costs more as do the restaurants as cost of living is higher (so chefs and everyone in between need more money) and transportation is a bit further from the farm.

  26. someonesmarterthantheauthor says:

    The author is dumb

    • justbill says:

      agreed….Seeing everything through her “white-guilt” glasses has obviously given her a misplaced concept about restaurants, chefs and basic business principles. Also, sorry, but Milwaukee ain’t the rest of the country and it’s not even in the top ten for a true culinary destination. Odessa Piper helped to shape the farm to table movement in the Midwest 25 years ago but since her departure from L’Etoile her neck of the woods. In MANY cities in the U.S food carts and trucks and hole-in-the wall kitchens are given as much culinary creedence as their 5 star molecular gastronomy counterparts. On a recent trip to NYC a literal hole in the wall Banh mi joint was all the rage and was being enjoyed by all walks of people. New restaurants are more expensive than the place “down the road thats been there for 25 years” mainly because things cost more now than they did 25 years ago. New places incur more overhead, rent costs more, especially if its triple net, new places have lees equity. Oh and by the way, most culinarians know what Mache is and that nasturtiums are edible. It’s true the author isn’t a foodie, but that term is something people call other people, not what someone calls themselves. But with her gross oversimplifications, lack of understanding of how cooks function and steretyping you can bet the new rallying cry for scenesters and hipsters everywhere will be “I’m not a foodie”

  27. i think the author has a valid point – but im not sure attaching it to the term ‘foodie’ is fair.
    i know plenty of ‘foodies’ myself maybe included – that love the local spots with fantastic chicharones and street food that are cheap cheap cheap. foodie to me means food lover – not ‘expensive’ food lover. although i admit the two are not mutually exclusive. sometimes the good shit does cost a bit extra – other times it’s off the beaten path behind a gas station.

  28. the author SAYS she is saying you should NOT be a foodie, but in fact, she is actively CREATING more FOODIES, though for some strange reason, she doesn’t see it as such. The author thinks that “Foodies”, a journalist invented term that most people really interested in food dislike, by the way,are only rich white people. What she is DOING and Seeing, and should acknowledge is that All people of all colors and economic levels enjoy eating Real Good Food. Those restaurants serving $$ meals know and support the farmers that produce the food. They often list the farms and farmers on their menus, trying to educate their customers. The reason the “modern” mexican restaurant that serves organic and locally grown food charges more than the mom and pop shop thats been there for 25 years, is that the chefs/owners of the new restaurant are supporting FARMERS, not buying their food from giant warehouses filled with chemical laden food. What the author is doing, and what Many people who are in fact “foodies” do by way or donations or purchases, is to create More foodies of every socio-economic level… to demand that our food supply, and the food supply in lower income neighborhoods, are more than cheetos and pepsi and crappy cuts of beef from questionable vendors.

  29. Jess Bart-Williams says:

    This is brilliantly written. I’m glad people are upset. Clearly there is something here to discuss. Really well done.

    • Brilliant? If that’s what the kids these days are calling shallow observation and poorly informed criticism. I think the author needs to look a little more closely at the work being done in her local food system by people she hasn’t even met. Maybe she needs to talk to the chefs and urban gardeners. Recognize the core of dedicated activists and workers necessary to support a burgeoning farm-to-table movement that subsidizes the expensive shift from conventional soy to organic production, which is the first step in democratizing high-quality commercial produce. Wall Street and the USDA pretty much aren’t, and for now, thirty-year-old bankers are paying the freight and I’m thrilled out of my mind that we no longer have to work quite so hard to educate people on the real cost of ethical food.

      People have been doing this work for decades – starting community gardens, crafting land-use strategies that protect family farms, supporting migrant worker rights, creating CSAs accessible to low-income eaters, forming buying clubs for grassfed animal products, advocating for regulations and community resources that support low-cost entry to food-based businesses, linking small producers to land, tools, and markets so they can substantially supplement their regular incomes…

      And I don’t know a single “foodie” in my city who doesn’t know where the good Latina-owned taco truck is, or the family-owned Ethiopian restaurant using herbs from their own garden. Those places currently serve nonlocal, commodity, GMO products that don’t support our regional farmers, but that’s cool because food security and equity are complex, layered, multifocal issues and supporting businesses that serve people at all income levels is important, too.

      Listen. THEN speak.

  30. Nicole v. says:

    Seriously people, calm down…this is a good article making valid points, and being taken out of context.

    All of you people that farm and produce your own food, that is exactly what ms.mckee is supporting.

    she is merely saying that this should be a grass roots movement, accessible to people that don’t have the option of going to an expensive restaurant to find out about heirloom varieties, uncommonly used fruits and vegetables, and quality non processed meat sources. She is saying that we need to stop making and/or viewing “foodie-ism” as something elite. That everyone likes good food, and we shouldn’t let a consumer driven industry dictate who gets to try new or healthy foods.

    • Really? I guess I don’t think that’s very clear in what she is writing. It’s not clear to me what she wants to communicate other than people shouldn’t be proud of being a foodie. Which Wikipedia defines as: A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet. Basically I read that as, “Someone who likes to eat…a lot.”

      Poor people can and are foodies and actually often are the creators of amazing and innovative cuisine. (Trendy food like sweetbreads have origins in cooking from lower income communities) So I’m trying to figure out when being a food lover makes you think otherwise. I agree with her statements about ethnic voyeurism and elitism.. However, I wonder if she should have framed her article more specifically about race/class issues rather than talking about being anti foodie. I think the term is still too ambiguous to attack.

    • You know, after rereading the article and the comments, I honestly think it’s just the framing of the article. I think her points are sound but it’s hitting people’s defenses because many “foodies” take a lot of pride in the work and attention they give to ethical food systems. Perhaps the ask is that we all need to push harder to increase access and take the elitism out of our food culture. I think it’s a bit of a shame because she comes across as making some assumptions about foodies, but all foodies are not the same. This is creating animosity which is detracting attention from the many fine points she makes about our food culture.

  31. I wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading this annoying article. It perpetuates my perception that people who don’t grow food don’t understand anything—not climate change, not politics, not economics, not animal husbandry…. unless you sustainably farm, you shouldn’t spout off about ANYTHING. Is this a drastic statement? YES. One born from EXPERIENCE in politics and farming. Years of watching subsidies for CAFOs and GMOs and corporate protectionism… years of watching poor and rich people buy nutritionally dead food.

    I AM A FOODIE. I am proud to be a foodie. I care about where my food comes from and this is a NET POSITIVE for my community. When in excess, like most farms experience, I give my local food bank boxes full of eggs and apples, lettuce, vegetables, and herbs. I host a summer camp for kids to learn to grow and produce their own food, not wealthy elitist kids, but a wide variety of kids from all over my state.

    I am a foodie. This morning, I made cultured butter from our milk. I checked on my kombucha and I’m currently chilling my vanilla mint concoction for ice cream.

    I believe people who make broad statements like ‘foodies don’t care about community or are exclusively white’ do not farm.

    Your statements are as naive as calling me a rapist, a murderer, and a kidnapper by a self-proclaimed nonjudgemental spiritual poet because I raise animals on our permaculture farm. To explain his stupidity, he told me that simply having cattle means that I’m a kidnapper because we bought some from their larger families to start our suckler herd (which means calves are never weaned from their mothers but naturally decide when they don’t want milk anymore). I am a rapist because I let our jersey cow be around our angus bull because I wanted milk and I’m a murderer because I intend to butcher her son at 1 year old bc jersey bulls are notoriously dangerous and will even gore their own mother with their horns. This is stupidity. Vegetables are grown in animal MANURE! But that’s fine—if he weren’t out rapping, making videos, and spreading the word of veganism to people I wouldn’t care… I’d be happy he wants to be a breathatarian. That’s one less dumbass for the genepool. Self-selected out because his idealism forgot he’s a carbon-based life form needing carbon-based food….

    Is it all his fault? Nope, I think people who do not farm but want to be healthy become inundated with calls for vegetarianism or veganism. I believe this leads the well-meaning (and protein deficient) towards a misguided sense of pride. It did for me. I was a serious vegetarian for 10 years, a pescatarian for another 3, and I didn’t eat pork until I was pregnant and my baby demanded bacon 18 years after I quit all animals products at 11. I began eating meats and dairy again because I came to understand that my body does not thrive on plants alone. In fact, eating grains (even drinking wheat grass) makes me sick, achy, and cranky. Today, my blood work and other tests show I’m very healthy. Since I gave up grains and added a whole lot more fat to my diet, my body is dropping excess weight, my moods are more stable, and my endurance to work hard is better then ever.

    Since my honey and I went paleo, we put oil or butter in our coffee, we eat almost 50% of our foods from animals and 50% from plants. We do not follow the USDA recommendations.

    Likewise, I am completely against their approval of CAFOs. I think it’s awful for animals and humans.

    I CHEER FOR MISSOURI FOODIES WHO HAVE A CHOICE!! I don’t criticize foodies for wanting clean bacon! There are two farms in Washington, Missouri, and I cringe at the CAFO on Bluff Road, BUT I REJOICE at the Geisert Farm across town who hasn’t changed their animal husbandry practices in over 100 years. It’s the foodies who have allowed the Geisert’s to thrive. It’s the foodies who are thrilled to see Geisert’s name on menus because they know the food will be better tasting and healthier than if their pork came from the skyscrapers of pigs at the other farm across town.

    I do not believe we need CAFOs or GMOs to feed our country or the world. I believe that even if all you have is a porch with a clay pot full of carrots and a window box full of lettuces and herbs, that is a little less food you have to haul in and may not be as nutritionally dense as what you could have produced. I believe humans need interaction with soil. Thank god your school got kids growing mache because I know lots of kids and adults who believe food comes from the grocer.

    & I’m not just a country bumpkin. I lived in several cities. NYC, DC, STL, LA… I was intoxicated by them. Now, I adore seeing people create urban gardens. I think what Will Allen is doing in Detroit is nothing short of amazing and I draw inspiration from his ability to transform his community. BY THE WAY—WILL ALLEN IS BLACK!

    Articles like this are asinine. They get in the way of understanding that EVERYONE EATS and EVERYONE CAN GROW FOOD. Being a foodie helps me build HOPE that more people will wake up and grow some of their own food.

    On our permaculture farm/ranch (where animals are used to add nutrients and build fertility in the soil) I have community raised beds. I provide the soil, the seeds, the water… for the cost of their labor, I have people come and grow food for themselves and their families.

    Where I live was once a lush grassland but has been devastated by overgrazing…. we are now regreening the desert. I am raising my family to understand that as a community we can do better. As a community, we can restore the land and make one another healthier.

    I love my grassfed beef, my pastured chicken, and my pesticide-free ponds full of fish and frogs. Do you need to know my ethnic background? Do I need to tell you that I invite schools to come tour the farm so kids who are used to fast food know where eggs come from or how a cow is milked? Do I need to justify my foodie-ism by telling you that I’m allergic to wheat? Do I need to tell you that part of the higher cost for my beef goes to supporting our local food bank with a steer a year? No, it’s none of your business.. but it’s loud-mouthed people writing articles and creating music who craft opinions, wanna tax my cows farts, and don’t know anything about sustainable farming.

    Your article is stupid and pointless and contributes to the lack of knowledge about food. It is as mastabatory exercise in promoting one’s own sentiment over truth.

    It is further proof that there is a disconnect between what people idealize and what the reality is…

    • You don’t need to justify anything to anyone, you just need to stop acting like the author of this post isn’t entitled to her own personalized viewpoints and go be an Internet Martyr elsewhere.

      If you took a simple step down off of your grass-fed, plains-raised, free-rein, wild horse, you’d probably realize that there’s a larger implication to commodifying ethnicity, creating an ‘other,’ and a lack of open and available quality meal options for all people which is more a poignant critique on capitalism and class differentiation (that, yes, also make themselves very apparent in the world of food) than people who make their own kefir.

      Also, if you can’t identify your personal privilege in your lifestyle listed in the unabridged tl;dr comment above, then there isn’t a reason for me to say more here.

      For the record: this comment is brought to you courtesy of a woman who used to organize domestic migrant farm workers (and is the granddaughter of one) and considers the food system every single day, even if I was brought up by the poorer side of it.

  32. I’m not getting people taking offense at this. The consumerist nature of Western food-culture/foodieism means that there’s basically no choice BUT playing a game of oneupsmanship and taking advantage of producers.

    I still refer to myself as a foodie sometimes, but I’ve taken the fad element out of my dining and started leaning more toward health than conspicuous consumption and maximizing pleasure. I really like Saveur magazine for that…they have a general respect for all food, without being voyeuristic.

  33. This article made up my mind to ask to volunteer at a community garden serving at-risk youth. I do believe that all people need real food, and that teaching young people to grow it wherever is a means for providing. I grow food for my family in my urban yard.

  34. my favorite thing about this is that it is becoming a heated dialogue. this tells me that the subject itself is actually across a large enough spectrum of people that the market behaviors might be changing.
    The least favorite thing is how people take the personal scale as the be all and end all of a situation. I really wish folks would get the understanding that large scale and personal scale are not interchangeable. The author of this piece pretty accurately describes “foodie” issues in the incredibly rich context. Stop arguing that you are not like that and therefore the author is wrong. Hooray that you are not like that!

    But please get with the reality that buying 1.79 asparagus means the people that cut that asparagus are slaves. Buying 6.99 asparagus seems better, but you have to know where that money is going before you really know whether the people cutting that asparagus are slaves or farmers who get paid and labor that gets paid. The rest is f*ing PR, and everyone should know where that money goes already.

    I have been watching the US consumer attempt to come to terms with normalizing with the rest of the globe. It is going to be more painful and not less. US folks are used to spending only 13-15% of their “money” on food. Have a good look at what everyone else is spending. And why. The author of this article gets my thanks for today’s internet adventure.

  35. I absolutely agree, and have begun thinking this same thing, and had started to discuss this with people, as my own income has started to decline, and my access to such “Wednesday chard restaurant specials” declines… The biggest local organic fancy restaurants in town are just another way to separate the haves from the have nots, and the “I’m better than you because I know how to eat better” from those that don’t have any access to eat better because of time money or knowledge. I would still call myself a foodie, but I always also admit to eating everything – including food I can afford with my limited budget and time for my son and I, which sometimes includes junk food like chicken nuggets for example – but I wrap it in chard from my garden…so I consider myself pretty balanced – literally. I will use this article as inspiration to do what I can to help integrate and promote local greens and food in places where people can access it. Thank you.

  36. Nickolas says:

    What is a food snob? One who complains how food is too expensive or too cheap?

  37. There’s a whole lot more to so-called “foodie-ism” than expensive restaurants and school lunch debates. These are only factions of a broader shift in public perceptions about food and farming. http://www.nofanj.org/programs_incubatorfarm.html

    It has to do with our farmers too, and supporting a good food system doesn’t only mean growing vegetables for the rich: http://www.nbcfarmersmarket.com/

    What we need is more sustainably oriented farmers, not more complainers. Planting another garden would help more than this article.

  38. Whoa now, some comments are getting a little aggressive. Clearly you touched a nerve — not surprised. Here’s the problem, I think: the entirety of what the “good food” cultural movement is based upon is the removal of guilt from one of the most pervasive aspects of the (sub)urban dwelling American’s day: eating. I think a lot of people thought it was enough to be a marathon-runner, or a triathlete, and be able to justify eating yummy things — but then everyone started telling each other that the yummy things were made in 9th circle of hell or something, and so no amount of calorie burning could rid you of that kind of crime. In fact, you didn’t even have to run 10 miles today, just spend $10.99 a pound on some locally-raised ground lamb with a Bible verse on the package at the Farmer’s Market. The joke here is that no one is ever going to be free of the guilt of eating at the cost of many, many other people’s lives being spent in servitude toward producing it for you, and many of them (most) will never see a third of the wealth, affluence, etc. that their customers do.

    Oh but that’s such a load of shit, because in reality, the people closest to food — the ones that see it when it’s still alive, are probably a lot less worried about this kind of thing, and that’s something money can’t buy.

    • Matthew Marion says:

      @Maureen:

      “The joke here is that no one is ever going to be free of the guilt of eating at the cost of many, many other people’s lives being spent in servitude toward producing it for you, and many of them (most) will never see a third of the wealth, affluence, etc. that their customers do.”

      I get my meat from my local butcher. He gets it from a farm out of town or his family’s farm. If I can’t find it local, I’ll hunt for a fair trade version to ensure that, in fact, the people doing the production do end up seeing the money. I will go organic as that means no pesticides in my kids bellies or sprayed on the farmers producing the food (this is even more important when talking food produced in areas where they have less medical ability to deal with the result of the pesticides). The entire point of the whole thing is to try to lessen or override the fact that “many of them (most) will never see a third of the wealth, affluence, etc. that their customers do.”

      “Oh but that’s such a load of shit, because in reality, the people closest to food — the ones that see it when it’s still alive, are probably a lot less worried about this kind of thing, and that’s something money can’t buy.”

      Quantify this. Farmers all over the world are getting sick form pesticides. Europe just banned the pesticides that are killing all the bees (without the pollinators, life ceases as there is no way for plant life to spread and that means a loss of food supply as well as oxygen production). More and more countries are banning Monsanto genetic modifications because they require more, not less, pesticides and worse ones. Scientists are finding more and more, not less and less, serious potential negative effects of genetic modifications. There were over 2 million people that marched against Monsanto from around the world a week or so ago.

      I could go on but there’s probably no point.

    • Anonymiss says:

      Instead of feeling guilty that your local farmer doesn’t make as much money as you, you should feel pride in having supported your local farmer by buying his product. Trust me, he loves his job and isn’t in it to get rich. Eating locally should be something you do out of love for your community and respect for the environment, not because you feel guilt that someone thousands of miles away in a totally different economy is getting paid an appropriate wage.

      • Why can’t it be both? Love for community and respect for environment AND the added bonus of respecting that someone in another country isn’t getting screwed out of their land or isn’t being paid an appropriate wage?

      • My local farmer gets every cent of my meat dollar. He lives to farm, he loves it, breathes it, it’s who he is, and because he sells directly to me and to others who love what he does, he takes home four to five times what he would otherwise. Instead of running an operation that keeps him perpetually in debt, doing miserable, brutal work he hates and profiting less than minimum wage, he has the freedom to experiment and enjoy his work. Servitude? Really?

        I’ll say it again: Listen. Then speak.

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  42. Anne-Marie says:

    I feel like this article is very much in contradiction of itself. I think that the main takeaway is that you are frustrated by food inequality–which is in no way relevant to your hatred of “foodies.”

    Yes, locally sourced, “good”, “organic”, food has a greater price margin in America simply because it costs a great deal more for these farms to run and operate. Most of these small farms are not backed by large food conglomerates that highly subsidize huge mono-cropping farms. We “foodies” are actually doing a lot more good than bad by supporting local farmers because we are voting with our dollar. We are supporting food systems that do not deplete nutrition from our food through intensive fertilizer use. We are trying to revitalize our land that we were so quick to deplete post-World War II. This has a very important trickle up effect that I don’t think you truly understand or realize. And I also might add that this also effects international food systems in that our support for local food systems might actually allow small holder farmers in developing countries to gain some clout in a high subsidized food world.

    Your anget against a disregard for a child’s interest in vegetables is a bit unfounded. Good on you for discovering this for yourself, but it is not so uncanny. However it is very difficult to undo the high-fructose corn syrup system that American food companies have already imposed on youth. It takes good natured people like you to go to a school, build a school garden, and allow children to discover the goodness of vegetables. This is a system we all need to continue to support, and again will affect the disjointed American food system in place.

    I think you also might benefit from learning about farmers in the community that are actually trying to support what you’re in favor of–City Slicker Farms in West Oakland is a great example of a farm working towards providing organically grown food to residents priced on a sliding scale.

    These are only broad strokes that I’m commenting on, and certainly there is much more depth to these issues, but it is important that this is of concern to you, because it is of great concern to me, a “foodie”, too.

    I am an international agriculture grad student who has worked on several farms and for a number of international NGOs.

    • Anonymiss says:

      The premium price tag on organic food has more to do with the perceived value of it than the cost of production. People are willing to pay a premium for it, so retailers are happy to oblige. Aside from the cost of organic certification (which is by no means required), there are no additional costs associated with organic farming. In fact, it may even be less capital-intensive than conventional farming because truckloads of proprietary chemical fertilizers and pesticides are not employed.

      • But you can also lose all those government subsidies you were previously receiving, you’re probably already in debt, and food in America is highly devalued to begin with as shown by how cheap we expect food to be and how little we are willing to pay for it.

    • Yes, I completely agree. She is confusing foodie-ism with a lifestyle/health movement of organic/local/artisan when the two aren’t really related. I didn’t understand how she could say that “emphasis on eating organic/local/artisan food was not an act of protest or activism” when in our current climate of Monsanto-owned and government-screwed big AG farming, it actually is a protest, putting your money where your mouth is, money talks. She also wrote: “For people to claim that kids don’t like vegetables or that poor people don’t like good food, is obviously ridiculous” — who claims this? I’ve never heard that logic. I hope that is not what she thinks “most” people think, because who would those people be? Being a “foodie” doesn’t have much to do with eating organic or locally, which is a lifestyle and a way to eat against the US government food system and promote a change back to how food should be grown, which will ultimately help schools and all big groceries have better selection for all shoppers, not just the rich or those heavily into specialty cooking and flavor/exotic experiences/aka being a foodie. Foodies like interesting flavor combinations, they don’t necessarily care if about local or organic. Foodies take eating to the edge, organic/local/artisan takes food back in history to when it tasted good and wasn’t modified. The one sentence where she started getting closer to reality: “Foodieism has a misplaced emphasis on value-added quality over community.” — yes, and this strengthens my point of how the two differ so greatly. Local/organic/artisan growing actually DOES place value on community, making good, fresh, healthy, vitamin rich food accessible to everyone, and how to teach communities to grow themselves, and create alternate accessibility and social awareness for the greater good, to trickle down and adjust our entire food supply back to where it should be.

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  44. Léa Langelier says:

    Yeah … about the foodie thing … I care about what I put in my mouth … I don’t make a fortune but I’ll spend 15.00 on 250 bags of tea because they are concerned about free trade and preserving the forest. You know? I grow my own vegetables and I do it at cost – that means out of my own pocket. Viz, if you want local, learn to grow your own. And yes! AWESOME! I also make my own chocolate – and my own bread – and my own pasta – I spend a lot of time in the kitchen concocting things … so! When I go out, and I don’t own a car, I bother to eat at a restaurant that treats me like a queen. God forbid that I criticize a fellow ‘chef’ for doing what I do at home for a living – whether or not they are ‘ethnic’ is irrelevant. It’s rather whether or not they can convince me they have learned how to cook according to my taste buds.

  45. what’s a “paycheck extra”? i have no concept of this

  46. Thanks for the post and sharing your perspective on the “foodie” spectrum. It’s okay to enjoy a meal without feeling guilty that the bread isn’t artisan.

    I do think the “food network” attitudes have changed many people’s perspectives about food and created more food snobs than justified.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  47. Matthew Marion says:

    How do you know all these people haven’t sacrificed to do this?

    My wife and I could fall into your description except that we moved from a house to a basement and don’t drive. It’s the only way we can feed ourselves, and our two little children, real food given that I don’t make too much and that my wife makes less (we make well under the going, two kid family income). We go out maybe once a year and are absolutely not going to get some GMO filled crap tasting food from a chain restaurant.

    Also, when’s the last time you worked for $0.50 per hour? Local means local labor and that costs a fortune. There’s a reason that things that are local cost more than the mom and pop down the road. If they also used local ingredients they’d also have to charge a higher price. Are you suggesting we all start working for nothing, or at least the farmers, so that they can sell their food much, much cheaper? Farmers don’t exactly make much.

    “Foodieism reinforced and replicated systems of food injustice. Eat expensive grass-fed beef in your LEED-certified ivory tower and you might as well be dining on Chilean sea bass at the CPAC with Rush Limbaugh.”

    So everyone that eats grass fed beef lives in some ivory tower that’s LEED certified and thinks Rush is human? This paragraph destroys credibility. What if someone simply lessened their beef intake to once a week? Once every two weeks? This way they could afford grass fed beef without the ivory tower. How is this worse than mass produced, factory farmed “meat” that’s covered in crap resulting in e-coli, etc, not to mention a huge stain on the environment due to land clearing. These cows also consume huge amounts of anti-biotics which render them useless.

    Also, what injustice? You’re saying that lower consumption of humanely raised beef is worse than McD’s? That growing huge, huge amounts of GMO corn to feed all the seriously inhumanely raised fast food is a good thing?

    Can you prove that all those whom you so easily label foodie and shoot down (like my wife and I) consume the same amount of meat as the poor person you are defending (that has probably a similar income to my wife and I)?

    I don’t get it because I know a lot of other people in the same position as my wife and I who have sacrificed things like driving to spend more on food. I also know many people that call themselves poor and feed their kids crap but have two cars.

    I’m so much of a foodie I make my own chocolate from the bean. That’s seriously foody until you understand that my son is allergic, severely, to peanuts and that there’s no organic, fair trade and peanut free chocolate out there and that, having kids, I’d be a pretty big arsehole if I advocated for child slave labor (look up chocolate and child slave labor, there’s lots our there including a documentary where a guy sets up buying a kid).

    • But Matthew, the only reason you could *possibly* care about the people who produce your food is that you’re an elitist snob. It couldn’t be that you identify with small farm families and farm workers’ families and want to do your part to change a system that mires other human beings in poverty and illness. Caring enough about the people who grow your food to pay more than you can get away with couldn’t possibly be an act of justice and solidarity. And I guarantee that you, as a “foodie,” could not possibly have imagined that children living in the inner city might like fresh raspberries as much as you do, because unlike Ms. McKee, you’ve never noticed that you share the world with anyone not precisely like yourself in every regard. Personally, I needed Ms. McKee to tell me my neighbors exist and matter because I’d been spending my own money on berry bushes to plant together, and until this moment I had no idea why.

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