2011 is just around the corner, and that means it must be time for the 4th Annual Eater of the Year Awards. Every December, Endless Simmer asks our readers to decide which food personality has had the greatest influence on our edible lives over the past 12 months. Past nominees have run the gamut from Padma Lakshmi to John Mayer and Meryl Streep, but only one outstanding luminary can win the title Eater of the Year (Anthony Bourdain, Hezbollah Tofu and This is Why You're Fat won the popular vote in past years). Who will take home the crown in 2010? It's up to you.
Read up on our five finalists in the slideshow below, then vote for your favorite at the end of the post.
And the nominees are...
Like everything we love, the original concept behind Ruth Bourdain was equal parts preposterous and ingenuous. Take the earnest, life-affirming tweets of Gourmet (RIP) editor Ruth Reichl and spice them up with the gutter mouth of 2007 Eater of the Year Anthony Bourdain. The result is a 20,000-follower twitter feed that reeled off some of the year's most prescient foodie thoughts, from "I'm all for grass-fed cows, so long as they don't eat my stash," to "If I read another food trend list, I'm going to drink a beer cocktail, hijack a food truck, and drive a cupcake up your bacon-infused ass." The gag grew into a daily project that soon spawned a Ruth Bourdain advice column and even caught the attention of Reichl and Bourdain themselves, who both profess to love it. Tony Bourdain says he has a suspect as to who the mystery writer is, but for now the real identity of this tweeting eater remains deliciously secret. (Any guesses?)
In an era when everyone swears the professional critic is dead and the new arbiters of taste are none other than you and I, the 2006 announcement that France's most venerable restaurant reviewers would expand into the United States was met with a chorus of skepticism. This was, after all, the same year Time magazine declared YOU the person of the year. Who cares what the snooty writers from some 100-year-old French guidebook think when I can just read my own reviews on Yelp? The answer apparently, is everybody. In just four years, The Michelin Guide has defied the conventional wisdom of the Internet age and become the most respected restaurant review in North America (as it already was in Europe and Japan). The guidebooks' results are reported not just on the food pages but in the main section of newspapers as genuine national news stories; the country's most celebrated chefs pace all night before new ratings are released; and the designation of a shiny star from the Michelin Man has made neighborhood cooks from Brooklyn to Oakland into instant cheflebrities. Now everyone just wants to know where he'll go next.
In 2003, Mad Man-era advertising guru Sid Lerner turned his back on consumer culture and took up the mantle of sustainability. He partnered with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to start Meatless Mondays, a novel initiative that encourages eaters to go without flesh one day a week, thus cutting consumption by 15 percent, lowering greenhouse gasses, helping us all live longer...you know the drill by now. It took a few years, but the Meatless Mondays mantra is now a food world commandment that has changed the way many of us eat. A-list restaurants like Dovetail and Babbo offer meatless menus every Monday; public schools systems and colleges including Yale have embraced the concept; and San Francisco is about two steps away from making meat on Mondays against the law. Thank you Sid Lerner, for giving us a way to feel good about ourselves while still eating bacon 18 times a week.
No civilization has ever had a more dysfunctional relationship with weight loss than America. Every year or so, we collectively decide what the new way to lose weight is. Don't eat fat. No, wait - don't eat carbs. Actually, eat carbs, but only before 10 a.m. Strike that - no carbs, but eat as much meat as you want and only while standing up. Of course, there's one old-fashioned weight loss method that we never hear much about - just don't eat so freakin' much. But could that really work? To prove the relevance of this rather novel theory, Kansas State Professor Mark Haub spent two months eating nothing but crap - specifically, Twinkies and other Hostess/Little Debbie snack cakes. The twist is that he was only allowed to eat 1,800 calories of it a day, making the point that you don't need some miracle food or fad diet to lose weight - you just need to eat less. Haub lost 27 pounds during two months on the Twinkie diet, and an attentive American audience vowed that each of us would never eat more than 1,800 calories in a day ever again. Nah, I'm just kidding. We shoveled fifty pounds of Twinkies in our face every day and swore we'd sue Mark Haub when we didn't get skinny.
For a few months following the 2008 election, it seemed possible that Miss Wassila 1984 would fade quietly from the national scene and head back to a simple life of moose chili cook-offs. But that was not to be. Fortunately for freedom-loving foodies everywhere, Sarah Palin repositioned herself as the anti-Michelle Obama, anti-Michael Bloomberg food crusader. Wherever there was a seemingly noncontroversial food issue this year, Sarah Palin was around to spice up the argument. The healthy kids act? Not on her watch. Curbing childhood obesity and addressing the rise of diabetes rates? Sounds like a bunch of cookie-hating commie bs to Sarah. Whenever foodie elites like the Meatless Mondays crowd started to overreach, Sarah was there to refudiate them with red meat quotes like "If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?" Finally, a politician not afraid to endorse cannibalism. Give 'em hell, Sarah. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Also receiving votes: Gail Simmons, USDA Dairy Management, Sandra Lee, The Lawrence/Julie & Julia Project. Vote for the winner - or write in your own candidate - below.
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