Long-time New York Times food critic Frank Bruni has been vocal about the occupational hazards of his line of work–chiefly, struggles with his weight, which he has battled all his life. But now, the prominent foodie, who has spend years eating rich, buttery, meat-heavy haute cuisine, has something more serious than a few extra pounds–he has gout, a disease historically linked with a bountiful, yet unhealthy and meat-heavy diet, and it’s putting a serious crimp in his dining style. And while it’s unfortunate and doubtlessly uncomfortable for him, there’s a lesson in there for everyone else: that being a foodie doesn’t make you bullet-proof.
Since the term “foodie” was first coined in the 1980s, it’s allowed admirers of food to proudly proclaim their love of preparation and, more importantly, consumption. Whereas eating purely for pleasure was previously seen as gluttonous, the evolution of the “foodie” has allowed more individuals to revel in an unabashed enjoyment for food. Which is great….except for the fact that being a foodie and eating a healthy diet have become essentially mutually exclusive.
Sure, there are some “health foodies” who are blogging and writing books, but for the most part, it’s not kale and edamame that food lovers, restauranteurs, and tastemakers in the food world are excited about–it is, as Bruni described in his most recent Times article, unhealthy items, like multi-serving-sized steaks and foie gras (fatted goose liver), and liquor. And while those foods are fine in moderation, being a foodie either by trade or by hobby necessitates excess.
Which is why Bruni’s gout diagnosis is actually kind of a positive thing for the foodie community–it points to the potential risks of regular meals that are high in fat, and low on leafy greens, root vegetables, and fibrous, complex, whole-grain carbs.
Bruni isn’t the only food expert who’s bringing awareness to the potential ramifications of glorifying an unhealthy diet. The James Beard Foundation, whose annual awards are some of the most lauded honors for chefs, writers, and critics, doesn’t just praise those who make the food–they also highlight fine works of food policy journalism and health-specific writing. For example, this article in the Seattle Times, which details the struggle to find a solid solution to childhood obesity, is nominated this year. So is The Salt, NPR’s food (and health) blog.
While Bruni’s gout, which he admits has forced him to reassess his eating and drinking habits, is definitely unfortunate for him, his decision to be vocal and public about it is, I think, doing everyone else in his community a huge service. Use him as an example. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying or savoring food–but, in the interest of your health, consider ordering a side salad instead of pommes frites.