Interview with Shut Up, Foodies
Since its debut a mere three weeks ago, the blog Shut Up, Foodies has received a lot of attention from those in the food world who can laugh at themselves. At once satirical and serious, Shut Up, Foodies seeks to point out the areas in which food snobs are hypocritical, self-righteous, and just plain ridiculous. We interview the three anonymous authors, Julia Childless, Snacktime, and Meatball, below.
Eat Me Daily: Tell us a little bit about yourselves, and your background, if any, in food.
Julia Childless: I'm a journalist, blogger, social media nerd and political junkie. My background in food is mostly serving it to other people—my family owned restaurants when I was a kid, and I worked for many years as a waitress/bartender. I loathe cooking, but I dated a chef once. That ended badly.
Snacktime: I’m a writer and an author. I mostly write about pop culture and politics. I don’t have any background in food. One of the first times I ever went shopping for myself, I came back and said to a friend, “I can’t believe how cheap ramen is!” She said, “Why do you think people buy it?” I seriously thought people bought it because it tasted good. Also, I still eat it all the time. Yay, ramen! I’m an activist, on local issues and national ones. Sometimes food is involved, like when the food pantries in my neighborhood are overwhelmed, i.e. now—but it’s not my thing. Obviously.
Meatball: I'm a native New Mexican, I've been in New York for 6 years now. I think we all have a background in food, unless those future food-pills are out already. And yes, I firmly believe New York is lacking really good green chile.
Eat Me Daily: What was your motivation for starting the blog?
Julia Childless: I tend to be the Serious Food Politics one, I think, though we all are to some degree. I'm interested in the class politics of food and so I like to skewer people a bit who act like the solution to crappy fast food is having a garden in your backyard and spending a ton of money at the farmer's market.
Snacktime: I would disagree with any of us being the Serious One, or the Whatever One. I think you can tell from the name that a big motivation was that I was so tired of people talking about food all the freaking time and acting like the decision about what was going in their mouth next was of Huge Import. That post about standing in line at the Bedford Cheese shop pretty much encapsulates it. People will stand around at parties and talk about which cupcake shop sells the best $4 cupcake. Madness! I wanted to have a space to say, wow, this is kind of ridiculous—the overwrought prose, the postures of virtuousness, the lack of acknowledgment of privilege, the crazy flavors, all of it.
Meatball: I think I had been ranting about something - sadly it probably was bacon - and Snacktime approached with the idea. I whole-heartedly agree with Snacktime's "lack of acknowledgment of privilege."
Eat Me Daily: It's clear from your posts that you know a great deal about food and thus there is some sort of line you're drawing between yourselves and the "foodies."
Julia Childless: I love food; I love my neighborhood farmer's market and restaurants that use organic local produce. What I don't like is the price tag and the idea that spending a ton of money on food makes you somehow virtuous—or more virtuous than either people who eat junk, don't cook, or spend lots of money on other things, like shoes.
Snacktime: Social scientists talk about “ambient awareness” and I think food culture has reached that status for a lot of sectors of society. It’s like how I know the names of all the characters on Sex and the City, even though I never watched it. It’s all around us. If I, ramen-eater, have heard the drumbeat of ramps approaching, then it’s pretty loud. I would also say I’m not that interested in drawing lines. Why would we want to? There are people we disagree with—sometimes we disagree with each other. We aren’t toeing some party line and we don’t expect anyone else to.
Meatball: I really have no problem with "foodies," I have a problem with snobbery. I would consider myself a foodie, honestly, and I love the experimentation that goes on in earnest. But it's absurd to be pretentious about it - there are so many people starving, I think being exclusive about a basic human right is appalling.
Eat Me Daily: You guys seem to have the bacon beat covered; what other topics do you look out for when finding stories?
Julia Childless: I like to pick apart trend pieces (the “Femivore's Dilemma” in the New York Times and pre-Shut Up, Foodies, Michael Pollan's last big Times Magazine piece), and lately I've been poring over books on food politics, so that's where I'm drawing inspiration from at the moment.
Snacktime: The bacon thing was, like many things, a joke that took on a life of its own. We were like, ugh, people won’t shut up about bacon and posted a few things and we just keep finding them. In general I don’t really look for ideas, they just come along. Now that more people are reading the blog, we get the occasional tip. We followed some foodies on Twitter and sometimes that leads to something. We don’t have any quota or deadlines or anything, it is just when the spirit moves us.
Meatball: I look for the ridiculous or the offensive. The rabbit killing workshop in Brooklyn? Gimme a break. People take modern technology for granted in favor of being "cool." Those rabbits probably suffered, and even further - it's just not necessary to kill your own rabbit for the sake of a conversation at a party where you impress your peers. There are people who truly have to kill their own food to survive. An affluent marketing exec from Manhattan does not need to do so.
Eat Me Daily: Occasionally, posts take a slightly serious bent. How do you balance the snarky tone of the site with serious issues that you may want to discuss?
Julia Childless: Once again, I suppose I'm the Serious One. But in all my work I balance snark with serious, and I think it's important to do so.
Snacktime: Once again I disagree about Serious Oneness! Perhaps I am the Contrarian One. I also don’t think we are snarky. We had a discussion before we started about how we didn’t want to be a site about hating anyone or shouting “Die, Foodies, Die,” or something. I think we can be quite pointed and funny at the same time but I don’t think we are really ever mean. That said, I’m glad we touch on serious issues sometimes. A few people emailed me after my food stamp post and said I had really made them rethink their position and that was cool. But we don’t ever want to be preaching—that’s part of the stuff we’d like to see less of!
Meatball: I think the funny/snarky posts keeps us from sounding self-righteous or soap-boxy. At this point, we're just rolling with the posts organically.
Eat Me Daily: Have you gotten a lot of negative reactions from foodies, or are people mostly good-natured about the whole thing?
Julia Childless: It seems that most people are pretty good-natured.
Snacktime: Yeah, I think people have totally taken it in the spirit in which it was offered, which is super cool.
Meatball: Tremendous amount of positivity, with the occasional butt-hurt "it's boring." I doubt those that we criticize would even read the blog.
Eat Me Daily: Have you been surprised by the amount of attention your blog has received since you started?
Julia Childless: Yes! Pleasantly.
Snacktime: Hm, I don’t know. It’s not like we are huuuuuge or something. Are we? It’s nice, though.
Meatball: Yes! I'm shocked that there are readers - ones who aren't my friends!
Eat Me Daily: Just for fun, who do you like in the food world? Who can't you stand?
Julia Childless: I am over the deification of Michael Pollan, and I can totally get behind the deification (literal, in this case) of Raj Patel instead.
Snacktime: I don’t know who anyone is. The person who probably got us the most traffic and said the nicest things is Andrew Zimmern. I had no idea who he was, but someone who had emailed us said something funny about him in a blog, so I quoted it. Then Zimmern saw it and started telling people how much he loved us, and sent us a nice message, so I googled him. So now I know who he is and I guess he is my favorite. Hi Andrew! I also love the guys at the pizza shop on my street who will put spinach on my slice if I look pale.
Meatball: My favorite author of all time is M.F.K. Fisher. She was humble and wrote beautifully, incorporating food into memoir effortlessly. And of course, I love Anthony Bourdain for being well - for being a bit of a grumpy rebel with just the right things to say.
I can stand everyone, but damn I wish Giada didn't exploit her baby on her show. And my boyfriend has a thing for Rachel Ray so obviously I have to be a *little* jealous. As far as Michael Pollan goes, I have to plead the Tori Amos on this one - his fans suck, he does not.