If you’re reading this now and you consider yourself a “foodie,” and you have not yet read B.R. Myers’ article “Fed Up” in the current issue of The Atlantic (March 2011),

you’re in for a surprise.  In this long piece Myers reviews a number of popular new books about food and cooking – including (and especially) Anthony Bourdain’s tenth book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cookand comes to the unhappy conclusion that “gluttony dressed up as foodie-ism is still gluttony.”  In addition to gluttonous, Myers adds more descriptives, such as amoral, greedy, indifferent to suffering, pompous, self-absorbed and small-souled.  As I read it, Myers gives the label “foodie” a bad name.

 

This being Valentine’s Day, I’m awfully glad no one gave me Bourdain’s new book as a gift because I’m sure I would find it more bloody than heartful.  Graphic excerpts from Bourdain’s Medium Raw and the other books Myers draws from (too long and gruesome to recount here) are indeed off-putting.  The one that upset duck-loving me most was a dish made from thirty duck hearts cooked in a curry sauce.  I used to have ducks as pets.  Oh, a knife in the heart.

 

But these are the extremes, it seems to me.  Most foodies – me included – are milder folks who live somewhere in the middle ground and view food as a blessing and good meals as life-giving, life-affirming celebrations.  Even the word “foodie” has always seemed like a term of endearment to me, along the lines of “honeybunch” or “sweetie pie.”  I hate to see the word bloodied because of Bourdain.

 

I was a professional foodie in New York for ten years, and I still write about food, mostly as metaphor.  Food is one of those universals – like pain and loss, only happier – with which all readers (because everyone eats) can relate.  Recipes are like poems to me:  Condensed expressions of memories and longings.

 

Those of us who love to cook (shall we call ourselves “foodies”?) can remember the first real meal we ever made, perhaps when we were very young.  I was eleven.  My mother had gone back to work full-time because my youngest sister had just started school, so it fell to me, the eldest daughter, to prepare dinner for the family every afternoon before my mother came home.  The first dish my mother taught me how to make was Porcupine Meatballs in the pressure cooker.  I remember how nervous I was beforehand, all alone in the kitchen (would the pressure cooker explode?), how good I felt when they came out well, how empowering the whole experience turned out to be:  I can cook dinner for my whole family; I can do anything!

 

This is the recipe that put me on the road to becoming a proud, unapologetic foodie.  I invite you to share your own first-recipe stories.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Porcupine Meatballs

 

1-1/2  pounds ground sirloin beef

½ cup fresh bread crumbs

1 large egg

½  teaspoon salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice

½ cup finely chopped onion

1 large clove garlic, minced

¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1 quart tomato juice (or V8)

 

 

Combine all ingredients (except juice).  Roll into 2-inch diameter meatballs.  Place in heavy pot or pressure cooker.  Cover with tomato juice or V8.  Cover pot and simmer 45 minutes (or cook 10 minutes in pressure cooker).  Correct seasoning and serve.  Makes about 4 servings.