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Erica Wides Headshot

Is It Food, or Is It Foodiness?

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What's food? Well, I'd say anything edible that walked, swam, flew, or grew from the ground is food (except people, but I'll get to that shortly). Cook, bake, dehydrate, pickle, salt, can or smoke it? It's still food.

But if it walked, swam, flew or grew but was manipulated in some deceptive way, or had a stopover in a factory, then it's Foodiness. In fact, Foodiness is the manipulation of the food, and the consumer.

Foodiness is all the green-washed, health-halo'ed, fake-healthy food products that have taken the place of actual food in grocery stores, and in our diets. Not honest-to-goodness junk food, but a murky area in-between.

Foodiness can be defined as something edible that's presented as if it's food, but isn't completely food -- or at least the food it claims to be.

So, for example, a fresh strawberry is food.

A "strawberry" "whole-grain" organic cereal bar made with a token sprinkling of grains and a strawberry-flavored filling of sugar, red dye and cheap apple pulp is Foodiness because it's conflated with strawberry, but isn't strawberry. It's not totally junk food, but it's not real food either. It's Foodiness.

Why a term like Foodiness? Because Foodiness has highjacked the idea of what food is. Foodiness is presented -- and accepted -- as food. It's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- it looks like food, it talks like food, but it's really food's alien doppleganger.

The point of using the term "Foodiness" is to distinguish the gray area between real food and total junk so we stop perceiving Foodiness as food, and start seeing it for what it really is...a deceptive manipulation of the consumer.

But Foodiness products aren't labeled that way. Foodiness is presented as if it's food... after all, nobody would buy products labeled, "pink-dyed, berry-flavored, technically yogurt-like product in a plastic tube with more sugar than a candy bar made especially for toddlers"; or "technically organic, factory-farmed hyper-processed corn and wheat flour with added bits of oat and fake blueberries and a shit-ton of sugar pretending to be granola cereal." At least I hope not.

Anyone under 50 grew up with Foodiness disguised as food: It was in our baby food, our school lunches, our snacks, our frozen dinners. Only grandma's backyard green beans were sacrosanct. Today, even those beans have been genetically modified. Now, we're all like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green. He didn't know that the pellets he had eaten his whole life weren't actually food because he'd never seen the real thing.

Of course, those pellets turned out to be made of people. Foodiness may not be made of people (yet)... but the Foodiness with very little real food in it that we do consume -- "protein" bars with no meat or fish or beans or eggs (i.e., food) in them, "veggie" booty puffs with no discernible vegetables, artificially sweetened green-tea drinks with "natural flavors" -- shows that we're not that far from a pellet-based diet. The only real difference now between Soylent Green and Foodiness is better marketing and packaging.

Just like Heston's character had to go to a Soylent Green factory to see for himself how the pellets were made to understand what he was really eating, understanding what happens to food on its way to Foodiness reveals what Foodiness really is. In this blog, I'll be exploring that process, and taking you down the Foodiness rabbit hole to show you how far away from food we've really gone. You can huddle with me in the Foodiness Fallout Shelter, where we'll all be safe together, and take an occasional trip on the Foodiness time machine. And hopefully, you'll emerge from the journey as the "right" kind of person. One who can clearly see the food from the Foodiness. Because isn't that who you really want to be?

So ask yourself that question... and remember, Soylent Green wasn't really people, it was Foodiness.

To hear me say this all again but at TedX and with even better jokes, watch this.