How The Simpsons Makes Foodies Look Like Smug, Elitist Schmucks

Categories: TV

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There must be a kitchen sink that we can get to do a cameo too, guys...
I didn't want to watch the latest episode of The Simpsons, the one in which Marge inexplicably becomes a food blogger. Yes, the foodie backlash has officially begun.

I haven't wanted to watch an episode of The Simpsons in a long time, however, specifically for the very nature of this past Sunday's food blog episode: The show has lost all ability to create situational humor within the confines of Springfield's residents and the Simpson family itself, despite a long history of idiosyncrasies and deeply developed personalities upon which to draw. As a result, it has increasingly relied on the type of stunt casting that typified Sunday's episode. Let's trot out Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay, and any other food folks who want an easy paycheck, in lieu of writing a deeper, more interesting episode.

The result of this was an episode that felt flat to me, and not just because of the flimsy way in which Homer and Marge and "the gang" were used as puppets for the show's attempt at skewering foodies. It felt flat and soulless because it seemed that -- although the foodie world is extremely ripe for skewering (see South Park's infamous "Crème Fraiche" episode for how it should be done) -- the show ultimately found no good or redeeming qualities in people who genuinely and passionately love food.

We are, in essence, people who invest too much thought and energy in -- as Homer so delicately put it --food that "is poop by now." At least according to The Simpsons.

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The good: The sheer absurdity of the Swedish Chef and Mario Batali on bouncy balls.
What good I did find in the episode was far exceeded by the bad. For example, Bart and Lisa are shown enjoying their food adventure to Little Ethiopia (side note: I did find it hilarious that Springfield now has a Little Ethiopia to add to the town's many other, rarely seen ethnic ghettos) and discovering that Ethiopian food is, in fact, amazing and tasty stuff. Yes, parents -- you can take your kids on food adventures and broaden their young horizons, and they will enjoy it and learn from it and become even more multifaceted little things.

However, this discovery was quickly tarnished by Marge's haughty reply to some foodies who'd come to the Ethiopian restaurant "on purpose" that the large platter of food off the "non-translated side of the menu" was all she ever ordered there. The conversation quickly devolved into her new foodie friends discussing how they "discovered Korean barbecue" and that the Koreans may cook it, but they "don't get it."

Is this how you, as a foodie or food lover or food nerd, want to be perceived? As tacky, snotty, slightly racist, hoarders of food experiences that you gather like rare gems and patronizingly hold over other people's heads? Because that's how The Simpsons wants to paint us.

Gone is the idea that people can enjoy ethnic food because of the cultural connection it creates, the bridges it builds and the prejudices it destroys with a single, savory bite of doro wot or bibimbap. In its place, The Simpsons wants its audience to believe that foodies are arrogant schmucks and that food is best enjoyed when processed and hoovered out of a refrigerator, or pronounced as "sherbert." Being educated and passionate about food is a scarlet symbol of elitism in this universe.

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In addition to a Little Ethiopia and horrifying meth labs, Springfield also has its own version of El Bulli.
It's upsetting, in as much as an animated show about food blogging can be upsetting. But only because in the end, the moral of the 30-minute episode was exactly that: Educated, passionate people are elitists. It reduces all the hard work that people put into creating good, honest food into a joke, and not a terribly funny one. There was no balance in the episode between smug, arrogant, obnoxious foodies and those who have a genuine, guileless interest in food and all its important permutations in our lives.

Yes, the molecular gastronomy-obsessed El Chemistri -- a witty little combination of places like El Bulli and Moto -- was worth a few good jabs. But when the episode ends, all of the foodies except the Three Mouthketeers have decided to remain behind at the table for another bowl of Regret rather than help a friend in need.

And that doesn't sound like a single foodie that I know.



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36 comments
cthulula
cthulula

I think you're kind of  being a big girl about this...

Amfan31
Amfan31

The fact remains that you are LOCAL food blogger and this is a NATIONAL - if not GLOBAL show. While we all can pretend your little online opinions matter in the small circumference that is the greater Houston area - it really doesn't matter. You can hate all you want saying the show has gone downhill, bla bla bla - but bottomline you got upset that the show made fun of your 'profession' and decided to post an online rant about it.  Enjoy the satire - if you don't - change the channel. 

PS - no one will really care what you think of the episode - the Simpsons always get the last laugh.

Urumomo
Urumomo

agreed...ever kill what you eat ?    well?

Jodie E
Jodie E

I enjoyed the article, Katharine - though I haven't watched the Simpsons in a long time because it became not so good awhile back. I did see the Creme Fraiche episode on Southpark and I thought it was hysterical. I cringe a little since I have used "foodie Houston" for the past five years but I like to think of myself as as anything but the kind of person Albert describes below ...

"They're the sort people who can't enjoy a meal because it's delicious; they only enjoy it because it's novel, or better yet, undiscovered and totally obscure. It's not about the pleasure of enjoying a superb product, it's about one-upsmanship."

Well said, Albert. I'm really just passionate about food - where it comes from, how it makes its way to the table ... and try to find something to enjoy in everything I eat and really be grateful for the experience. If something sucks, I'll say it but it's not like I live to diss things. I like being a resource for my friends who call me when they want to go try something new and enjoy turning people onto new things. I am not mindless about what I eat but I'm certainly not fancy about it.

I can handle being made fun of because I'm such a geek about it. I can't help it and I've been this way since I was little, watching my grandmother cook and serve things that made people so happy and realized food could be really special and more than poo in the making.

Hoodoo2222
Hoodoo2222

Is that how I want to be perceived? Hell yeh!

Proud Eater / Not Foodie
Proud Eater / Not Foodie

Are you kidding? Being a "foodie" is a self chosen lifestyle. It is completely fair to portray them in any way a writer feels motivated to do so. It is not as though they are mischaracterizing a racial or ethnic group of people. To be bothered by a weekly animated show is absurd, and makes foodies look even more snobbish. Get over it. Consider developing an identity for yourself instead of so closely associating yourself with a group of people who proclaim to be superior eaters.

Tangyjoe
Tangyjoe

You let yourself be baited by a cartoon...

Hugo Valdivia
Hugo Valdivia

Really?! That what it comes to?!

"My feelings got hurt and need a hug or a new outlandish entree to try" By Katharine Shilcutt

This is very sad site when "professional" bloggers cant even take satire.

Grow a pair or thick skin .. hell even have someone serve it up to you

fknrat
fknrat

sounds like someone is butthurt over being exposed as a smug, elitist schmuck. I'm all about finding awesome food but if someone rightfully makes fun of a typical foodie's masturbatory treatment of food (which South Park did do a great job of lampooning), best to roll with the punches. served with truffle oil.

SCRW FLANDRS
SCRW FLANDRS

Um...remember the episode where Homer became a food critic for the Springfield Shopper?

Yep, Simpsons already did it

SCRW FLANDRS

Meh
Meh

I don't know Katherine, and I don't know if she is too sensitive or not.  I do know that the Simpsons is numbingly unfunny.  I think the bigger argument the author is trying to make is that the show simply wasn't funny.  The fact that it's being discussed in a food column is a simple testament to the pervasive sentiment shared by a growing number of people.

mal
mal

The fact that you took the time to write this article proves that you are smug and elitist.

Ray
Ray

This should have been titled, "How This Blog Post Is About To Make Me Look Like A Smug, Elitist Schmuck." Good grief, defending foodies is like defending the uber-wealthy. Don't do it. They are doing fine all by themselves. I particularly loved this line: "...those who have a genuine, guileless interest in food and all its important permutations in our lives." Geeeeezzzzz..........

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

I was really looking forward to it and was actually bored.  Unfunny.  Bourdain and Ramsay should be ashamed to be in the voice credits assuming they saw the script.  AB it ten freakin' times funnier than this episode on a daily basis.  He was slummin'.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I'll start by saying that I enjoyed the episode.  There were brilliant moments; perhaps the best was the drug chemist's flashback into childhood triggered by a morsel from El Chemistri, just as Grant Achatz opines about.

I think the sort of smug, annoying, hipster foodie that is parodied in the episode is exactly who we, as foodies, SHOULD be making fun of.  They're the ones who take something fun and interesting to the point of absurdity, and give all of us a bad name.

They're the sort people who can't enjoy a meal because it's delicious; they only enjoy it because it's novel, or better yet, undiscovered and totally obscure.  It's not about the pleasure of enjoying a superb product, it's about one-upsmanship.

And that's annoying, whether the topic is music, art, or food.

Gorgonzola
Gorgonzola

Dang, dude.  Eat some Mc&Cheese.  You'll feel better.

Jay Lee
Jay Lee

Funniest.Episode.Ever /comic book guy

Jillpill
Jillpill

I thought this was the funniest Simpsons in years.

cook
cook

its easy to be a critic! get a twitter account and a facebook page and ur good to go! try cooking for once and you will find its not that easy! the show was funny cause its true!!!!

Carl
Carl

Cooking is easy... you just have to do it.

Anse
Anse

As a product of the self-conscious Generation X, for whom the Simpsons did a great send-up in the "Homerpalooza" episode (favorite line: teenager 1: "are you serious?" teenager 2: "I don't know any more"), I confess a certain ambivelance toward the foodie thing. On the one hand, I like to eat, and I like to eat well. On the other hand, I give you yesterday's blog in which whey was used to brine a pork loin. It's good to love to eat well, until it becomes outright wankery. I mean, seriously. Whey?! Who does that shit? And yet I read this section of the Press just about every dang day. Am I a foodie? I just don't know any more.

PattyT
PattyT

Strain yogurt to make it thicker and you've got whey.  Active whey can be used as a bacterial starter when fermenting pickles or sauerkraut.  It can be used to acidify the water in which beans are soaked prior to cooking.  A teaspoonful of whey will settle an upset stomach.I, for one, appreciated that article because now I've got another use for leftover whey.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

"It's good to love to eat well, until it becomes outright wankery." I agree with this 100%, and that's really the crux of any hobby, occupation, pursuit, passion, et cetera: that you don't want to take things so seriously that all of the joy, the rationality, the sanity and the perspective gets sucked out of them.

Maybe, like Steveotx said above, I'm guilty of taking the entire episode far too seriously myself.  :)

Megan
Megan

"On the other hand, I give you yesterday's blog in which whey was used to brine a pork loin. It's good to love to eat well, until it becomes outright wankery. I mean, seriously. Whey?! Who does that shit?"

The Italians, for one. 

Stevotx
Stevotx

This article just confirmed you are in fact exactly what the episode portrayed. Was this a joke?

 Please tell me this was you own form of satire.

Scott218
Scott218

"Is this how you, as a foodie or food lover or food nerd, want to be perceived? As tacky, snotty, slightly racist, hoarders of food experiences that you gather like rare gems and patronizingly hold over other people's heads? Because that's how The Simpsons wants to paint us."

I would venture to say that far too many "foodies" have been holding that paint brush. If the good ones have gotten covered in some of the paint splatter, well, tha'ts life.

Stillettoheal
Stillettoheal

Some folks in Houston still toss around the fact that they are 'foodies', or claim that they write for foodies, and wear their foodie-ness as a badge of honor. But increasingly, the term has moved into the parlance of the old and infirm.

Fulmer
Fulmer

Should satire be corrective in intent or didactic in execution? The Simpsons long & honored history has poked fun at so many institutions that is was only a matter of time before the pretentions of the 'foodie' world were skewered. Homer's low brow glutinous traits are of course a perfect foil for much of the self importance and hyperbole of the said realm. Pine needle sorbet. Pork 100 ways. Homer accidentally going to a meth house thinking it was a microgastronomy event. I found this to be absolutely hilarious. And as it has been written, "You never cut funny" (King Kaiser- My Favorite Year). I agree, there was little balance to the portrayls in the episode, which is too bad. The apple pie montage at the end was well done (granted it was the meth lab gatekeeper). There are indeed many hard working creative chefs out there who toil hard hours, take risks & sometimes receive little recognition for their efforts. I also engage in many of the activities that were ridiculed, but it's a tough world out there & my skin is thick enough to take it. As a former erudite and learned professor of narrative once told my class, "God bless The Simpsons."

Chuck
Chuck

Katherine, you know I love ya, but I'm somewhat bemused that you seem to be arguing the other side of the "Foodie" Backlash article you wrote more than a year ago.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

The entire point of the foodie backlash article was that I don't/didn't want to see a great group of people spoiled by a few bad, smug apples. And that, unfortunately, those smug foodies get held up as examples of the larger bunch far too often. For me, The Simpsons' portrayal of foodies really illustrated all of those negative stereotypes.

Jim Bob
Jim Bob

Butthurt much? 

J/K... based on the crappiness of The Simpsons over the last few years I'm almost certain you're right.  Maybe you'll enjoy the South Park episode Creme Fraiche more?  You won't find a satisfying more resolution there either, but at least it's funny. 

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I do love "Creme Fraiche" because -- as you said -- the resolution may not be much different, but it's fucking funny. And because no one escapes unscatched from South Park's clutches; it's the grand tradition. The Simpsons has traditionally been one to gently and slyly rib. The mostly unfunny mockery was just lost on me in this last episode.

Jim Bob
Jim Bob

satisfying moral resolution

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