I’m not a “foodie,” mainly due to the fact that it is not quite clear what that designation really means. But, considering what self-avowed “foodies” tend to do with their abundant free time – take photographs of their intricate restaurant meals before painstakingly consuming them, all the while attempting to identify each individual ingredient or, say, deliver lectures to people within earshot about the significance of the French Laundry, as those in the audience wonder, internally, how it differs from a Chinese laundry. Are these folks “foodies”? Or, is it the person who “loves, just loves!” to cook, but only cooks at the harvest moon on a leap year. Are they a “foodie”? Maybe it’s the person who can identify every known mushroom and is saving money to take a sois vide course for a week over the summer. Are they a “foodie”?

Most of all, I’m positive I’m not one more because of what I actually do than because of what I refrain from doing. I prepare and cook a few meals a day, each and every day, many of them involving a handful of things I’ve found in my kitchen, which are locally sourced and delivered to my house by bicycle, which I pedal. Talk about being green; it’s like I run my very own CSA, something you could do too. A majority of my meals require around $2 worth of ingredients. I cook all the time, but I’ve never stated that I love cooking. The only time I’ve taken an up-close, porno-esque photograph of “food” was when a friend projectile vomited his dinner after drinking too many cans of cheap beer. I own one knife, one cutting board given to me by a friend, and a toaster oven that I’ve had for over a decade, which I love so much that I purchased a second one at a yard sale just in case it ever dies. The back-up cost me $5. I sometimes get confused about where my cuts of meat came from on the beast and I’ve never purchased a cook book. I started hunting not because I like to kill things, but because I’d rather personally cull the meat I consume than see it trucked down the highway in squalid, moving pens. (Imagine what a goddman chicken thinks while hurtling from Omaha to North Carolina for days on end?)

My cooking is out of necessity – I need to eat, I don’t like to pay (or wait) for others to cook for me, and I also know what I like. Cooking is less of a game, less of an artifice, and more a simple fact of daily life. Each day I need the proper fuel to feel good, stay sharp, and perform at my best. I eat what is in season, I cook what I like to eat, and I’m fastidious about keeping my kitchen stocked with anything I might need for an improvised meal. I don’t count my calories, but I know how many I’ve consumed. Sometimes I truly enjoy sitting down to eat, but other times I hate eating; climbing up a 14% gradient on my bicycle as the lead riders disappear over the crest and attempting to choke down a banana or a fig has nothing to do with the pleasure of eating and everything to do with the nature of competition.

I’ve cooked for a living. I’ve also taught others how to cook for a living. I’ve eaten, through sheer luck and good fortune, an incredible array of food from around the world, both in local restaurants and in a variety of nations. I’ve lived with four professional chefs with degrees from the best culinary institute in the U.S. Yet, they ate mostly cereal and hot dogs off the rollers from 7-11, due to sheer exhaustion from a day spent on the line, so it wasn’t that palate-pleasing. I’ve gotten up at a four in the morning to cook an entire pig and ruined enough risotto to have finally perfected it.

I love food and the first thing on my mind when I rise each morning is what I’ll eat first, then second, then next. In my mind I’m charting what I’ve been eating and what I’ll eat in the future. I can spatially recall the grocery list that is tacked to my refrigerator, which is broken down into sections for the various vendors I must visit that week. I haul my groceries on my back aboard a bicycle, having grown wildly skillful at fitting all that I’ve picked up into a single backpack, with liberal assistance from d-rings that hold bags of greens, fresh loaves of bread, or a carton of eggs to my back, swinging like pendulums as I pedal. I don’t live to eat, but I eat to live. I find myself wondering how and why so many people live to eat, but eat things that are going to kill them sooner rather than later.

I cook. I eat. I grocery shop a few times a week. I cook new things all the time and love learning from friends who can cook something I am unable to cook. I’m already planning what I’ll buy the next time I’m in the grocery store. I’m already looking forward to what I’ll eat tomorrow. But, I won’t take a picture; I’ll just eat it. I won’t fetishize eating, but I will gladly eat a wonderful meal. I don’t really want to talk about food, or about what food means to me. I want to eat, quietly, happily and away from the person taking flash photographs of their braised short ribs on a bed of herb-encrusted, pan seared fennel. Here’s my advice: forego attempting to solve your identity crisis through food and just eat, bon appetit!