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Foodies Online: More than snapping photos in restaurants

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Yeah, I’ll admit it – I’m a foodie. Although I confess to a love/hate relationship with the term. But then, I’ve yet to meet a fellow foodie who doesn’t feel the need to at least put up a symbolic struggle with the word. It’s way too cutesy-sounding, for one thing; and for another, it’s become associated in the public mind with a level of fuss that verges on self-parody. Witness this classic sketch from the TV series Portlandia.

But at its heart, being a foodie is nothing new or strange. Your grandmother whose holiday dinners are the stuff of legend, that uncle who takes as much pride in his tailgate-party chili as in his team’s touchdowns, those relatives who regard their file-boxes of heirloom recipes as a precious part of your family’s heritage: they are all possessed of the same dedication to the art and craft of cookery as a Julia Child – and to me, that’s what being a foodie is all about. And like the blogger who famously cooked her way through Child’s massive Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a lot of us foodies have graduated from the recipe file-cards of our forebears to today’s prime medium of communication: the Internet. We may not get a book-and-movie deal out of our online foodishness the way Julie Powell did, but we do get the virtual high-fives of others who know exactly how much work went into that cassoulet whose photo we just posted.

While my earliest foodie experiences date from childhood lessons in my mother’s kitchen and wide-eyed family forays to New York ethnic eateries, my first experiences as an online foodie started somewhere in the mid-2000s. After a few false starts, I stumbled into one of the landmarks of online foodie-dom: eGullet. On that huge sprawling site I could rub virtual elbows with everyone from prolific home cooks in Japan and Malaysia to the likes of Tony Bourdain – and I learned huge amounts from them along the way. I also got a lot of kudos for my own recounting of my foodie adventures, which eventually got me into blogging and from there into professional social media management. I had a helluva lot of fun – and I even picked up a little paid gig as an online restaurant reviewer! You can still find my eGullet one-week foodblogs in that site’s archives, here, here, here, and here (that last one is a tag-team blog I shared with two other eGullet members).

unnamed-1These days, I do the majority of my online foodie activity on Facebook, via my personal profile and various Facebook groups. It turns out that little hippy-dippy Eugene, Oregon, where I currently make my home, is a hotbed of foodie activity – no surprise when you realize it’s at the southern tip of the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s prime winery and farming region – and the Eugene Foodies Facebook group is always hopping with activity. Best of all, I’ve met a number of group members in Real Life, and gotten together with them for some truly outrageous group cooking and dining experiences.

Oh yeah, and just to show this foodie thing does run in families … my brother Robert, who still lives in New York, has turned into quite the inspired foodie himself. He even has hosted YouTube video reviews of a couple of his favorite restaurants, which feature both fabulous food and his uniquely sardonic sense of humor. Check his stuff out here and here. Bon appétit!

Ellen Brenner
Project Manager

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