Anti-Foodie: The Case Of The Cupcake Queen And The Camera

Spring-2010-part-2-118via Scout Flickr Pool | Contribute

by | Sick to death of foodies? I know I am. Where did they all of a sudden come from, anyway? The rise of the internet and the quick democratisation of journalism (aka “blogs”) may have had something to do with it, but I’m going to go with a different answer. Foodies are from hell.

And as deranged as you’d expect the most defiling demons to be. We’re talking shit-for-breath gargoyles of both sexes photographing every dish they consume and spending countless hours bantering on echo chamber food blogs and magazines, Scout included. They are the weirdest sub-species since the Mods, the North American answer to Japan’s harajuku freaks.

It’s all the rage right now in Vancouver. We have more foodies digging organic that and locally-sourced this than we do restaurants offering either, and for the most part they all appear to be armed to the tits and hipster moustaches with laptops, smartphones, and accounts on every social media platform known to man.

On my end, if I hear another “scrumptious” or “yummy” in the restaurant or have to deal with another foodie blogger because says “it’s good business”, I will totally lose it. In that vein, if I ever arrive at a dinner party and see a clique of online foodie friends trying to mount the fridge, I shall scream. Similarly, if I have to listen to one more baconista burst perverted about a tasting menu they don’t understand or a chef they’ve never met, I will totally puke.

So I’m grateful to finally have a platform from which I can do exactly that: lose it, scream and puke. I hope you don’t mind.

For this first installment, I’ll conclude with a little on camera etiquette…

If you take a photograph of what you eat in a restaurant and share it on the internet, then you are probably a social leper who was picked on mercilessly in high school. You are most definitely a nerd, at least until you put the camera away. If you don’t, but rather use it repeatedly and brandish it as a means of access, you are a nerd in addition to being a (possibly) gangrenous demon.

There are many other types (further classifications will be forthcoming in future editions of Anti-Foodie), but these can be some of the sneakiest. The ones I’ve had to deal with are tricky fuckers with really big cameras, the kind that show up at my work and blow my night without warning.

Like a few nights ago…

entered with a few of her online foodie friends and started by taking a few indiscreet interior shots of the dining room to attract the attention of and . The lens on her camera was as big as her arm. Everyone looked at her as if she’d brought in a fucking RPG.

At this point a business card was handed over, a cheap one done on a home printer declaring the yelping twitterer to be none other than Ms. Iworkat Thegap, CEO of some online piece of Hello Kitty evilness with a name that was particularly shiver-inducing. Let’s call it CupcakeQueen.com.

Her jig had just begun.

They ordered no drinks. No surprise there. Just water, iceless but with lemon. @cupcakequeen then proceeds to take obligatory photos of the room from her vantage point, a curved banquette that faces out to the whole dining room. In my opinion, it’s the best table in the house.

Amuse bouche are rushed out with a wine pairing, which annoys me because my other tables are like, um…WTF?…why don’t we see that action, too? I have no answer except to avoid looking at them.

is pissed because now he has to perform for these morons. He, like most cooks, loathes “foodies” as much as I do, particularly those with the big cameras. When he looks up from his open kitchen after I whisper the table number to him and he sees @cupcakequeen photographing his menu, he turns to me, shakes his head as if to say I don’t want to cook for these idiots. Kill me now.

He hates too, mostly because we all agree that he’s a bit of an affected pussy. The guy practically lays an egg every time he sees a big camera come out of a Whole Foods recycling bag crowded with $90 blocks of cheese, jars of dumbness from Meinhardt’s, moose chorizo dildos from Oyama, and more crappy business cards. “This person is really influential within the whole social media foodie scene, so really…” pauses for emphasis, horn-rimmed glasses quaking and accent warbling, “…really take care of her and her friends.”

Yeah, like I’d do anything less, right? Goof. I have a student loan and a mortgage to worry about. I fucking treat everyone nice.

“I’ll pour the wine.” says . “You tell to make them that and I’ll get the to go with it. You’ll run the food and…you know, hover…entertain.”

When the complimentary appetizers are delivered, the camera is waiting. A candle is lifted to the edge of the plate for dramatic lighting. Click. Settings are hurriedly changed on the honkin’ Nikon, from high ISO default to a low flash. Click. “Ooh…” her friends ejaculate. “That looks so good.”

The obligatory iPhones are whipped out for secondary shots, which are spasmed upon and promptly uploaded to Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.

@VanFoodIdiots Our dinner @ is scrumdiddly-deelish. is a genius.

Other than the amuse bouche, they’ve yet to take a single bite.

My three other tables are in a good spot – two enjoying their mains and the third paying their check – so I lean in and listen, pretending to be polishing glasses at the empty table next door. Predictably, they’re talking about what they’re reading on their phones, which they hold up to their faces like portals to a parallel dimension.

“ is at the opening in .”

“Really?”

“I read his tweet. Sounded yummy. Goodie bags and everything.”

“I would go later but I’m at the tasting with and .”

“I’m going after yoga tomorrow.”

“Ugh. wants to be Facebook Friends with me when I’m already a Fan. What do you say to that?”

“OMG, I’m seriously like so close to being Mayor of Yaletown on Foursquare.”

“Guys, refresh and retweet this…like right now.

I assume her ‘tweet’ went something like this:

@ Dinner totally #delicious #foodwins  at @restaurant. Joined by @foodouche @yamlover

Gosh, I thought. That a dining experience that hasn’t yet happened can be rendered into 140 character inkblots that code the #bizarre nightly rituals of #sociallepers, then wow, #holyfuck, my staff beer in two hours can’t come soon enough.

“I’m starving. Where do you want to go next?” asked @cupcakequeen of her friends, snapping photos of my other customers, who pay no attention.

Pardon me? You’re thinking about leaving? OK!

I really hate having to spend time serving people I’d sooner jump and dummy in the alley around the corner. This was an otherwise good evening under threat of being shriveled, so I put down the wine glass I was polishing and pounced to see how they were doing with their salads. A couple bites here and there, that was it.

“Ladies, are you enjoying the salads?” I asked, rubbing my hands together. I knew what was coming next.

“Yes, but we actually have to go. Like, now.” said @cupcakequeen while taking my picture. Click. “Can we get separate bills?”

Sure. My face must have had the widest smile ever recorded on film.

“I would, madam, but you and your companions haven’t actually ordered anything, so there are no bills for me to separate.” I told her. “You may go on your merry way, and before finds out you’re leaving if you please. He was so happy to see you that you’d finally come. I hope I’m not the one who has to tell him you’ve left!”

I dutifully pull out the chairs of @foodouche and @yamlover while @cupcakequeen wiggles her way out of the banquette, her enormous camera held high with her other hand texting @randomdouchebag.

When she stands I gesture toward the kitchen and she looks over at , who waves his knife at her, smiling like he’s just been given a cold beer. “I do hope you enjoy yourselves wherever you arrive next,” I say. I’m angling for a tip now, as I’ve noticed they’ve left me nothing at all on the table.

This demon may be evil, but she’s no fool. “I’d tip you but I’ve only got plastic. No bill, no tip.” she shrugs. “I’ll get you next time.”

Yeah? See you next time.

There are 17 comments

  1. What a f’n awesome post. Where’s the anti-foodie facebook fanpage? I want to become a fan.

  2. Exactly why I bought a smaller camera. Hilarious! Already looking forward to the next one.

  3. Wow… This is the happiest I’ve been in weeks. The best is posting it to my Foodie Blogger friends’ facebook walls ( you know you all have about ten at the very least in your friends list ) exclaiming, “IS THIS YOU!” I can not wait for the verbal backlash that ensues.

  4. I think it’s safe to say, remembering how I played that game brought a tingle of vomit to the back of my throat. True joy is in telling that lot how it really is.

    Thank you, for being the voice for chicken shits like me who never had the stones to tell it like it is.

  5. This should be printed out and handed out by staff to the next foodie/blogger that pulls out the camera.
    Excellent writing!!!

  6. I remember when there was an understanding that pictures were not to be taken without the permission of the restaurant.

  7. my two cents on this whole deal:

    If we take as generally accepted principles of modern urban morality that it is desirable and acceptable to pursue pleasure for its own sake, precluding harm to others, and that each should be left to his own devices in life, then I propose that the cultural phenomenon of the ‘Foodie’ exposes a want for a hierarchy of pleasures in urban reasoning.

    The ‘Foodie’ can reasonably be taken to be one who really likes food and pursues fine vittles at some expense. However, there is a little more to it than that. Barring drunken expeditions for tacos and pizza, as intoxicated states of mind are outside the realm of this consideration (however, desiring and achieving intoxication are well within our purview), ‘Foodieism’ seems to fetishize the consumable. More specifically, if we accept ideas from Marxism, Foodieism is a perfectly understandable evolution of advanced capitalism in a context of opulent food. It is supremely American in its focus on convenience, instant gratification and repetition. Looked at from this perspective, the pursuit of fashionable foods is something done purely for-itself, without any purpose other than personal satisfaction.

    “No shit,” you’re saying. Well, every discussion needs a starting point. When I say that Foodies fetishize consumables, that does not mean they idolize every cupcake, meatball, and slider. Perhaps in the beginning that is what it is; hungry pursuit of tasty food. But when it becomes something of a lifestyle choice or an exhaustive hobby, then the (dare I say) obsession shifts to the idea around the food: Consumption itself. The hunt for a good morsel, the thrill of exploration, and perhaps most importantly the self-satisfaction of being able to say “I had the best X yesterday, and you wouldn’t believe where I found it…” become more important that whatever you actually ate.

    Then, maybe, the drive behind Foodieism is not unlike sex addicts, who crave the feeling before actual copulation, the pursuit and anticipation of it, rather than the act itself. The shift from the object to the feelings around its consumption occurs either through fact of personality, or more reasonably in the case of Foodieism, the superabundance and ease of acquisition of good cuisine. The very fact one can be a Foodie in this environment rather than a gourmet undermines the value of a fine meal on its own and accelerates one along the Foodie cycle: Pursuit, Consumption, Boast.

    “So who cares? Let people do what they want. You totally over analyzed this.” Granted. I am not saying there is anything wrong with Foodies or Foodieism, I am just curious about it as a social phenomenon. Whatever anyone wants to think about revering the types of food Foodies pursue and fetishizing consumption is up to them. What is of interest here is how it exposes the relevance of ordering pleasures.

    Consumption for pleasure rarely brings about any bad, except when performed in excess. This is true of all pleasures, which according to the Epicureans are good in themselves but depend on how they are produced to bring either happiness or disturbance. Eating to bring nourishment to the body and repose to the mind is one of the great pleasures of life; why not enjoy it to the fullest with fine food? What is key here is that eating is a necessary, natural desire, with the fundamental purpose to maintain one’s organism. It has an objective outside of itself, and all enjoyment in partaking in it is secondary to its main function. This is where there is a corruption in the American attitude towards eating, made fashionable in Foodieism. These treat eating as a pleasure in-itself (as mentioned above), which as a confusion on the nature of the desire is a slippery slope towards treating pleasures and desires with the wrong attitudes. A good example is the confusion on the nature of money: Money is purely a means, and to pursue it as an end in-itself usually leads to a corruption of the soul. This is not something many would disagree with. Think of Wall Street fatcats.

    While this sounds very patronizing and archaic, it has a timeless element common to human experience. There are countless pleasures available to us, but not all created equal; just as it would be foolish to think shooting heroin is a pleasure equal to philanthropy if they provide equal amounts of happiness, is it unwise to think the American attitude towards eating is healthy or sustainable. While it may not lead to a ‘corruption of the soul’ as Aristotle would put it, it certainly facilitates a distortion of the proper place of eating in human life.

    Would it be so bad to propose an ordering, or ranking, of pleasures and desires? Surely this is something nearly everyone is familiar with and partakes in, as the commonsense heroin vs. philanthropy example shows. The Epicureans divided desires and pleasures into the natural and unnatural, the necessary and unnecessary, and static or in motion. Without going into detail about these, it is enough to say that the natural, necessary and static pleasures can be considered the best and need not be moderated. Natural, necessary and in motion pleasures, such as eating and drinking, are also very good but need to be moderated. A lack of moderation leads to insatiable, unlimited desire for pleasure.

    Take something along these lines as a guideline, then, to order your own pleasures. There is no absolute framework of desire and happiness, obviously, and we are fortunate to live in an age where people are free to decide things on their own (the second premise in the first paragraph). “To each his own” does not negate the need for ordering; it rather means that each must think hard about what their ordering principle would be and how pleasures would fall under that, to devise a personal hierarchy that is best. This is different than just doing what one wants to, since that implies impulsive non-reflexive behavior; it rather means that one should have reasoned out and reflected upon why they do whatever they want to, i.e. the ordering of the pleasures of choice.

    After such a mental exercise, I would not be surprised if many people did not change anything. The Foodies will probably continue along their cycle, and that’s fine. The pull of das man is strong. All I want is that people rationally and disinterestedly examine themselves and what they find important, pleasurable, and necessary. That and a burger.