Although the term foodie, for someone who is keenly interested in all things food, was first used by Gael Greene of New York magazine in 1980, it is often attributed to Paul Levy and Ann Barr who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook. It seems the term was coined independently on either side of the Atlantic.
The American food critic Gael Green first used the word in a story on June 2 1980, and used it several times in 1982 and 1983. In the UK, Paul Levy, journalist and food and wine editor for The Observer, first used foodie in an article that appeared in the August 1982 issue of Harpers & Queen magazine, titled Cuisine Poseur. In that article, Levy defined a foodies as “the new sect which elevates all food to a sacrament”.
Levy collaborated with Harpers & Queen editor Ann Barr on a satirical book called The Official Foodie Handbook, published in 1984 in the UK. In the handbook, a foodie is described less flatteringly as “all palate with a vestigial person attached”. According to a review in the New York Daily News in 1985, the handbook also explains other mysteries:
- Why no two knives are the same in a foodie kitchen: “It is very, very non-F to have a set of matching stainless steel knives with rosewood handles dangling from a rack.”
- Why businessmen are scorned by foodies: They are “the dreaded people who like everything flambé”.
- Why second-generation foodies are as rare as white truffles: “Most foodies are first generation because 1) it is an upwardly mobile activity, 2) it is an activity of the 1980s.”
- Why foodies are so fanatical: “They are converts – with all a convert’s zeal”.
According to the handbook, foodies and “grapies” (wine enthusiasts) are mutually exclusive, because grapies don’t mind what they eat as long as it doesn’t interfere with the wine. Most would not accept this assertion today.
The book was divided into four main parts: The Foodie at Home, The Foodie Eats Out, The Global Foodie, and a Foodie Who’s Who. The authors saw foodies as an extension of the “Me generation”, with the palate providing ” a living, thrilling, sensitive new place to be Me”.
By September 1984 Australia had its first proclaimed convert, with David Dale telling Tharunka, the Sydney University paper: “I am a ‘foodie’. I am adapting an English book called the ‘foodie’ handbook. It’s about people obsessed about food.” Dale’s adaptation was published in early 1985.