20-Something’s: Foodies Or Not?

by Grace Boyle on February 8, 2011

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Note: Photo is of a homemade fruit tart I made, facetiously drinking my pinot noir. Multitasking 20-something who adores food and will throughout her entire life :) Read on to get what I’m getting at.

The other day I tweeted (out of curiosity):

“Any 20-something food bloggers? My favorite, long-time food bloggers are 30-40 year-old-range. Just curious, seems that age is more common.”

An immediate response came from a local foodie up the way in Denver, stating:

I couldn’t believe it. Not only was I a 20-something foodie, but I’m also a food blogger and all of my friends love food. Also, the Italian in me took personal offense.

It was a blanket statements, merely an opinion (which by the way, he is completely entitled to) but up for a good debate and genuinely curious I asked him to dive a little deeper and to understand the reasoning behind his opinion. He noted that I might be an exception because in Boulder we had more options and organic/local is available to us.

Soon, other foodie 20-somethings chimed in disagreeing with him (from all over the country-here are just a few):

Wisconsin

Virginia

Boulder, CO

Denver, CO

Until he finally, stepped out of the argument, backing down.

I had many friends e-mail me and even tweet after-the-fact if they weren’t online during this conversation to question the topic or add their thoughts.

This Twitter conversation sat with me.

Are 20-somethings not known for their interest, adventurism and/or love in food?

I can agree that price or money might contribute to Gen Y not wanting to venture out or dine as much as the more established, Boomers or Gen X, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cook, dine (less often, but still dine) or appreciate food. Expensive is not exclusively equated to good food.

Throughout your 20’s, you are often the most adventurous. You typically travel frequently. You take risks. You move across the country on a whim. You don’t have as much responsibility. All the above apply to me.

Digging deeper I found some interesting research showing how generations treat and understand food differently (and also oppose Jon’s opinion):

Gen Y is made up of a high proportion of food sophisticates who are willing to put in the effort to create healthier, more flavorful dishes at home and demand better fare from restaurants. According to Mintel, young parents are among the most enthusiastic shoppers at Farmer’s markets and food co-ops. (Mintel, “Local Procurement” Feb 2009).

So if you attend a family reunion or potluck this summer, pay attention to who brings what. Chances are, the Boomer will be the one with the potato salad and chocolate chip cookies, the Gen Y’er will be the one with the organic fruit and Asian curry.

To Dine At Home Or Out?

Talking with many friends and relatives with families, the way they dine is more for convenience, not at an expensive dining establishment (unless it’s a date). They noted looking for kid-friendly and relaxed atmosphere without a stodgy menu. It’s also an extra expense and hard to find food the kids like and a hassle, instead of just staying at home and cooking.

Jenn Sutherland, a 30-something food blogger based out of Chicago replied to me reinforcing a reason for the older food bloggers we see:

All of us 30-somethings are tired of going out, so we stay home in our kitchens!

The Times’ 50 of the world’s best food blogs is peppered with my absolute favorite bloggers, mostly past the age of 30. Is it because we’re busy pursuing our careers and don’t have time for the kitchen? We’re out traveling the world and job-hopping?

I know they’re out there but maybe they don’t put their foodie love to blogging love.

I reached out to 20-something foodies to ask what food meant to them and that at any age, we can have an appreciation for food.

Due to my age, I’ve recently learned to really appreciate food.  Being at this point in my life, a time in which I’ve ventured into the world on their own, I’ve discovered the true benefits and importance of cooking from scratch and have honed the necessary skills to do so.  I cook and bake out of necessity and for fun, finding joy in sharing the resulting dishes with my friends and family and also in furthering my passion for the craft.

-Kaitlin Flannery. Age 19. Michigan. http://whisk-kid.blogspot.com/

I love food for the experience and for the function. I was raised in a health food household– we were more concerned with how the food made us feel and what it contributed to our bodies then how it tasted. As I matured and expanded my culinary repertoire, taste, look, feel, smell all became important, too. Now, the two are equally valued and I try to cook and consume foods that make me feel amazing and are delicious, fun, fabulous.

I think my age allows me to be experimental with food. I love to try new genres, modes of preparation, fusions, flavor profiles. In this way, I am inventing and reinventing what “food” means to me. Ever expanding, exploring, enjoying. Food, as with most topics twenty something, is a journey.
-Jodi Dey. Age 27. Colorado. @JodiDey

I value food for two reasons: nourishment and connection. The food that I eat is real food, as close to the source as I can find it. I do my best to seek out local produce, to cook with whole ingredients, and create meals and snacks that are not only tasty, but satisfying and nourishing. Food (real food) connects people. It connects me to local farmers. It connects me to the people I live with and eat my dinner with.

I think that this is a common sentiment among many 20-somethings. We’re trying to escape the processed-food culture in which we were raised and to move to a more wholesome, sustainable, and earth-friendly lifestyle. We may be limited on budget in this quest, but we’re not limited on creativity and ingenuity. In addition, we seek a deep sense of community. In order to fulfill this desire, we turn to food: we have people over for dinner, we go out to eat, we give food as gifts. Food transcends simple bodily necessity and turns into a vehicle by which we nourish our souls.

-Rachel Center. Age 23. Indiana. http://balanceandblueberries.wordpress.com
Closing Remarks:

Through the Twitter conversation, talking with 20-something foodies around the country and just advising my own foodie-life, I think:
  • Loving food and being adventurous about food isn’t related to one age group. This love can be apparent at any age.
  • Dining out and being adventurous could closely relate to if you’re single or married with a family. With three kids, you don’t dine at the high-end, adventurous, progressive restaurants you used to. Kids are picky. Kids cost more money. Kids are loud(er).
  • In your 20’s, typically, you might have less money or career stability than Gen X or Boomers, so you may not wine and dine as frequently. In your 20’s, we go through an average of 7 jobs. Money can play a factor (although expensive food, isn’t the only adventurous, delicious food). But, I digress…this could play into why Jon doesn’t see 20-somethings at the adventurous restaurants around Denver. Or age could be in the eye of the beholder and unless you go around and ask every person at the restaurant, you aren’t quite sure of the age difference between a 28 year-old and a 32 year-old.
  • In our 20’s we are curious. We are learning and establishing our world-view and opinion. I believe this closely ties into progressive food habits, organic, local, veganism/vegetarianism and travel.
  • Our Twitter conversation tied closely to restaurants/dining out and adventurous cuisine. Some of my favorite cooks like to eat at home and cook elaborate meals instead of dining out. Preparing, pairing and cooking food is a whole other conversation not just related to age.

Thanks to Jon for inspiring the conversation. I respect opinions and to each their own, of course. Although I disagree with him, and said so via Twitter, I also think it’s something to be discussed.

What do you think? Are 20-somethings less adventurous?

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  • http://www.neverniche.com Clare

    Favorite post to date!

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Thanks, Clare. I appreciate it! I am clearly, passionate about the topic. I didn’t hear ONE person agree with Jon, so I’m waiting for all viewpoints to weigh in.

  • http://www.sarahewelch.com Sarah E. Welch

    For me, my 20s the beginning of my food exploration beyond my family’s typical food. Now, I was lucky enough to have amazing cooks in my family, and for a few years when I was young, access to the kitchens of several fine and ethnic restaurants (friends of the family). So, it’s fair to say that I had a head start.

    During my mid-20s, I was mostly exploring food through dining out. In my late 20s, I became more adventurous in my kitchen. I’d say I became completely comfortable trying just about anything in the kitchen around 30. Depending upon life experience and access, this could happen at any age.

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Sarah, thanks for your clarification and story. You’re Gen X – so although our generations are fairly similar I think it’s clear that in our 20’s WE EXPERIMENT. We don’t just eat the same cuisine, we’re probably the most adventurous and that was the basis of my argument.

      I also think that age isn’t the only time that we learn to explore. In general, Gen Y is fairly savvy, aware and pushes boundaries. That’s just generational research…all so interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://whisk-kid.blogspot.com Kaitlin

    I LOVE THIS! Awesome post! You are definitely right :)

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Thanks for weighing in Kaitlin, and for providing me with your quote. I love how you push the boundary with your blog as a young college student. Shows that you are creative in the kitchen and interested in learning more.

  • http://katmaund.blogspot.com/ Katherine

    LOVE IT. Way to take a stand for us young, experienced palates! I think that 20-somethings are even pickier about food than our older peers because we’re used to the accessibility of local produce. We’re also more willing to try new things, experiment, and make mistakes with food. Brava!

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      I think each generation, cannot speak for the other.

      I love how you believe and see food. I stood up for it because just like the comments, the testimonials and research show I still see 20-something people standing up for food. There of course, foodies who are 50, 70, 15 or 25. There are also people who don’t care about food at ANY age.

  • http://mysteriesinternal.blogspot.com/ Erin Block

    Wow. I have noticed this demographic gap as well, and am fascinated with this post…awesome, Grace!

    I think it is just taking us awhile to come into our own, to develop out palates. We were raised with more “junk food” than probably any generation before us, but yet we are also now the most aware of its effects on bodies and societies.

    I feel like we are the generation who appreciates food (or who WILL appreciate it) more than any other to date. There are SO many creative young cooks and bloggers and I think we are on the cutting edge of changing the way people eat.

    Also, because we have been the most removed from where are food comes from, I think the 20-somethings are fascinated with this topic and are turning 180 and looking back at agriculture practice, sustainability, and local food.

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Thanks, Erin! As a 20-something food blogger, I am so glad to have you weighing in.

      I’m hearing a lot of the same message, that 20-somethings care largely about where the food came from and ensuring it’s local, sustainable, etc.

  • http://chelseatalkssmack.blogspot.com/ Chelsea Talks Smack

    I definitely disagree with John- I spend HOURS making note of new restaurants, cuisines and even recipes (though we know I don’t really cook….) but I KNOW my food, I’m always ahead of the curve when it comes to what’s happening in the food world, which restaurants to get a table at, etc. I think there’s a certain amount of people that are that way- some of my friends are perfectly happy dining at Chili’s, when I dine out I want the entire EXPERIENCE that goes along with eating and that means taking the time to plan and research….man, I read menus for FUN.

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Booya, Chelsea. Booya.

      We have people AGAIN, from all over the country weighing in.

      You know your food and are always pushing the boundary about where to eat (and you’re from Denver too!)

  • Margaret

    Warning-sorry for posting such a long comment!!
    I don’t think age has anything to do with how adventurous a person is when it comes to food. However, I do think younger generations have been exposed to a wider variety of foods that have become mainstream, say, sushi, for example. Sushi restaurants are pretty common nowadays but I don’t think this was the case when my parents were in their 20s. I love sushi, but I have a girlfriend my age (20-something) who refuses to try it. On the other hand, my Mom who is in her 60s loves sushi. Another example is my husband who is about 10 years older than I am. When I first met him, he had never really drank wine–maybe tried a sip here and there–but never really tried it or liked it. Same thing with a lot of other foods, like shrimp, salmon, eggplant–tons of stuff of stuff he never tried before but now likes, although sushi is a little too “out there” for him, though he’s tried it. One time my father-in-law, who has lived in St. Louis his whole life and who is in his 60s, said that he would not know what to order at a Chinese food restaurant (and since you don’t know him that’s because he’s really never been to one and never tried the food!). So I think the fact that my husband was not exposed to a lot of different foods as he was growing up and didn’t have friends who were very adventurous with food resulted in his not being adventurous with food (until he met me), and had nothing to do with his age. I think how adventurous you are about food has much more to do with upbringing and your environment. I was raised in New Jersey where there are lots of food options and people of all types of ethnicities, whereas people from small towns are for the most part only exposed to fast food and chain restaurants and of course traditional home cooking, therefore they think other types of food are unusual and they’re not interested in trying them.

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Thanks for such a thoughtful reply! Never apologize for posting a long comment.

      I think that exposure has a great deal to do with your experience with food, trying different cuisine and really branching out. My family is from all over and my household, we always had many different food from around the world. Also, since we’re Italian food was tied to our culture closely.

      I appreciate your feedback and thanks for stopping by Grace(Full)Plate!

      • Margaret

        I was also raised by an Italian mother and grandparents and extended family :)

  • Margaret

    one last thing and i promise i’ll be quiet!! I hope I won’t be black listed from your blog lol! I just wanted to also say that I also think how adventurous you are with your food is different than whether or not you’re following the latest trends in food, like eating at the latest, hippest restaurants or only eating organic food, etc. I would consider myself very adventurous and knowledgeable of food and while I enjoy dining at trendy, hip restaurants now and then, it is not a priority for me. I would much rather prefer eating at a nice neighborhood restaurant with good food and atmosphere and reasonable bills than to eat at restaurants where the food IS the experience and not part of the experience. My sister went to culinary school and works in the food industry in NYC so she loves eating at the latest and greatest hippest restaurants, because she loves great, innovative food. But her and I often clash on picking restaurants. When I’m with her, sure, I love going to the trendy restaurants she likes and eat very trendy, innovative (usually delicious) food and have a great time (as long as I’m not paying!). But when I go to restaurants with my husband, the restaurants I would go to with my sister are not appropriate for us. It’s like, my husband and I might perfectly enjoy a 3 or 4 star restaurant maybe more so than a 5 star restaurant in some cases because that represents how food is a priority in our life. We love great food and great restaurants, but we also love nights at home, watching movies, spending time with friends, etc.. the usual stuff. Great food is PART of our life, not the most important thing in our lives.

  • http://veggietestkitchen.com veggietestkitchen

    I’m a 20-something food blogger. I’m not adventurous, I cook at home but eat meals that most people (even those who dine at restaruants) aren’t eating. I feel more powerful knowing I can whip up anything here at the house with my own hands. But definitely a foodie.

    • http://gracefullplate.com/ Grace Boyle

      I think there’s a lot to be said about someone who can cook a creative, delicious, meal. We didn’t even discuss the notion of being a foodie/cook. Which is why I think his argument lacks strength and really is just his SOLE opinion about the entire 20-something population.

      Thanks for sharing and contributing :)

  • Pingback: » Foodie Statistics Veggie Test Kitchen()

  • http://www.highlandsranchfoodie.wordpress.com Lea Ann

    Very nice to meet you today Grave. Love your blog and have subscribed. Look forward to getting to know you better.

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Thanks Lea Ann! Great to meet you, as well :)

      Looking forward to more recipes and foodie goodness.

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