Foodie friendships – the ties and fries and pies that bind
July 15th, 2010
10:00 AM ET
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Some of my longest-standing friendships are rooted in food. This isn't a slight to the quality or level of companionship - it’s merely the savory truth.

Food is the ultimate leveler - no matter how different the culture or personality, a natural bond reveals itself if an exchange of food occurs.

I met my first “food friend” when I had the chance of a lifetime to study abroad in college in Dijon, France - the city that legendary food writer, M.F.K. Fisher, wrote about it “Long Ago in France,” and the capital of the Burgundy wine region:

We ate terrines of pâté ten years old under their tight crusts of mildewed fat. We tied napkins under our chins and splashed in great odorous bowls of ecrevisses à la nage. We addled our palates with snipes hung so long that they fell from their hooks, to be roasted then on cushions of toast softened with the paste of their rotted innards and fine brandy. In village kitchens we ate hot leek soup with white wine and snippets of salted pork.

The focus of the study abroad program just happened to be around the dinner table – an honors seminar about our relationships with food, dubbed “Eats 101,” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I had my doubts about Avery. She was loud and loquacious from the get-go; I'm a little bit more reserved - at least at first. I wasn't sure we'd get along, until we sat down to our first group dinner together and collectively kvelled over Coquilles St. Jacques.

After that, Avery and I had a standing lunch date every Wednesday - mostly at restaurant La Ruelle, a small restaurant tucked away near the Eiffel-designed market. We feasted on frogs legs, lavendar crème brulée and the occasional döner kebab.

This was back in 2007 – and appropriately enough, three years later, we both ended up in the food world of New York City. She is currently enrolled in the French Culinary Institute and working the line at a restaurant, while I help edit this blog. I’m front of the house, she’s back of the house - and we relocated our old food antics.

When there is a new restaurant to try in the city or an old favorite in need of a revisit, we immediately think of each other: What night? What time? Opt for the tasting menu? Wine pairing?

We talk food - good food - where to get it and when. The type of food that makes you want to slap your mamma, kiss the ground, then do an Irish jig. We're each others' foie gras booty call. Rarely is there a request to just “hang” - instead, we brunch on boudin, or meet for a glass of Slovenian Tocai Friulano.

In the New York Times, Diane Cardwell recently profiled a dining club for previously unacquainted adventurous eaters. Of the Gastronauts, she writes: “dining clubs have proliferated, spurred by a combination of culinary restlessness and the easy connectivity of the Internet.”

There is particular delight in sampling another's primi of squid ink spaghetti while they extend a fork to your papaya salad. Much like Avery and I, the majority of these eating societies start as strangers - but with every meal, each just as quickly turns into a tribe of loyal friends.

As the wine kicks in, belts are loosened and conversation is flowing passionately and freely, it's evident these friendships are so much more than food. At the start of the amuse-bouche, there are separate entities – a lawyer, a teacher, a writer — at the end of the dessert course, there is but a band of eager diners.

Just as some have bridge groups and bowling leagues, we have eating partners - food friends - but that doesn't mean the company is any less appreciated.

Turns out, food really does bring people together.

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soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. sarah commerford

    Beautiful article. Food is indeed the great leveler, capable of bridging cultural and ethnic divides – It's the reason I've embarked on my own food project – cooking my way around the world's 193 countries:

    I love the MFK Fischer quote! Now, I gotta go cook something!!!

    July 17, 2010 at 7:16 am |
  2. yepyep

    This is exactly why I will never date a vegetarian ever again.

    July 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • nnews

      It always surprises me to see such narrow minded comments to such an inspiring wordly article. I'm not a vegetarian myself, but I have to say you sound like you know nothing about what makes food great.

      July 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  3. V Saxena

    Oh I WISH I could do that but I'm like George Constanza in that I'll gobble up the goodies! Perhaps once a week I could divulge in some excess consumption, but I couldn't handle it on a frequent basis because I'd blow up like a balloon!

    July 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  4. Jessica

    I am part of this group called The Heathers (no, none of our names are actually heather...and yes, it does derive its name from the movies, but there's a long story im not going to share) and once we all left the place of employment that we met at, we still got together all the time – dinners, drinks, halloween haunted houses, football games, tigers world series...but then over time, the get-togethers became less frequent, and only were "dinners" at that point...and then it got to the point where me and another girl in the group were the only ones making the effort, so we just stopped asking them and only got together with each other. It's not the same, it's definitely on a different level now – and I really miss "us". Sometimes, when friendships arent based on a whole lot – they dont last real long, and im learning that as I grow older. If you really value the friendship – make it into something MORE than just dinner, or it might just disappear all together.

    July 15, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  5. Texas Pete

    What was with that bit about eating rotted birds and mildewed pate about? Do foodies actually seek that stuff out? I will have to give them a call next time I want to clean out my fridge then.

    July 15, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  6. Restaurants with Napkins

    We have a monthly lunch or dinner with old high school friends, set after our reunion last year. Food is a great excuse to get together (everyone has to eat! LOL), and we enjoy trying new spots. If you're more reserved/shy, food is a great conversation starter. There are friends that I only see for lunch/dinner, but with our busy lives, and varying interests in life, what's wrong with that? Does one friend fulfill all your emotional needs and vice versa? don't think so... I enjoyed the article...

    July 15, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  7. Gracious

    My fiance's best friend is a local chef with his own restaurant in a nearby community. When I discovered what a fabulous foodie he was and vice versa, our friendship took off. It's a true pleasure to get together with him and prepare a memorable meal. I have learned more about certain methods of cooking and made a great friend along the way. Salut!

    July 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  8. Cellar Rat

    A dear friend of mine loves to eat adventurously, and his fiancee doesn't. The running joke is that I'm his late night "Foodie Call" to go to Chinatown or eat offal, or whatever. My friend just moved to San Francisco with his soon-to-be bride and I miss his texts already. I have many friends that are foodie friends, but that doesn't mean we aren't close in other ways as well. Plenty of personal things are revealed and life histories and emotional moments happen over breaking bread.

    July 15, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  9. Ellen

    I see two groups of girls at least once every two months or so for dinner. Everything is planned around food. We either go out for dinner or cook at home. We always have a lovely time. Food makes people happy and brings people closer. It applies to family as well!

    July 15, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  10. leo

    I asked a person what her top 5 favorite foods were. two of the answers were 'chicken' and 'shrimp'. i didn't say much after that and haven't really talked since.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • Lee

      Seems a little shallow if you ask me. Food is important, connecting over food is cool, but avoiding people because they don't automatically fit your fantasy of a foodie is ... well, you're probably missing out on some really neat people because of it. Though, for them, this may be good.

      July 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  11. Caro

    I had second thoughts about dating my now husband because our relationship started with lousy restaurant luck. Meal after mediocre meal... then, finally, a FABULOUS dinner at a local Thai restaurant... and a slightly terrifying allergic reaction! Brave boy... I've broadened his food horizons, but he's still a little nervous when it comes to Thai.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  12. Tasty

    "Foie gras booty call" = awesome description. Great read.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  13. Jeff

    I'm not sure I understand the point of this article. I'm not being mean. I just mean that I don't see what your general statement or thesis is. Why was this written? Regarding the picture, what's with the shot of the woman's cleavage, and what's the recipe for that fish dish on the bottom?

    July 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • reed326

      Food brings people together. Now was that so hard?

      July 15, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • Moochie

      If you didn't "get" the article, then it probably wasn't meant for you. Leave it to us foodies to fondly reminisce and miss our gastronomical partners in crime.

      July 16, 2010 at 3:42 am |
  14. Friends are more than just occassional

    If all I can do with them is eat, I don't really consider them friends in the full sense of the word. However, I do have some friends with whom I specifically seek out restaurants or eating experiences to share. It's not the only thing we do together, but we each like to find good places and take each other there. Also, if I've found an amazing place to eat or a type of food that a friend of mine has never tried, I'll take my friends out.

    For casual acquaintances, being lunch or dinner buddies is fine, but for me I need more to really consider a person a friend.

    July 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  15. Leah (TXanimal)

    Awwww...I love it! Such a cool way to reconnect...and there's an added element of adventure to even a simple dinner date. Anytime you can share your interest with a friend who has the same passion is a treat! Different than meeting at the local Chili's to gossip. I used to meet a college friend in Santa Fe a few times a year over a long weekend. Our lives had changed, our situations had changed, but we still shared a love of food and usually spent the entire weekend eating our way around the Plaza!

    July 15, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  16. Veev

    What a lovely article! I have a few friends who I pretty much only see over dinner. It's a longstanding date, so husbands, kids and everyone else knows that it takes priority. I love these ladies, but I also really love that they're adventurous orderers so we can all trade and benefit. Not every friend will do that - those people aren't invited.

    July 15, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • TruthHurts

      That's nice. Personally, anyone I would "pretty much see over dinner" isn't a priority over my husband and kids.......

      July 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
      • GoG

        That's sad on your part.

        July 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • Doitagain

      That is really nice and I don't mean that in the sarcastic way TruthHurts, lol. I have 2 or 3 girl friends who the only time we ever get to hang out is over dinner. Our lives are busy, but we can always find some special time to share with one another over dinner, and I really look forward to the conversation and tasty treats.

      July 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
      • Kat Kinsman

        My husband is the dearest person in the world to me, and one of the kindest things we do for each other is to make time so each of us can go off and do our own thing. It's not a case of, I'm going to see my friends tonight, and I'm choosing them over you. Frankly, I'd rather hang out with him than anyone else in the universe.

        I just feel that it makes us better mates to each other if we also have something else to talk about and bring to the marriage.

        Oh - and I adore eating dinner, lunch, any meals with him, but some of my friends love food that I do as well and that he doesn't. I eat it with them so I can still enjoy it and not force him to do something that would make him unhappy. There's sacrifice in marriage, sure, but it's just, frankly, more fun to eat some things with people who are loving it as much as I am.

        If we don't eat together that night, we make a point of, say, having a nightcap together when the other gets home.

        July 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • Gracious

      There with you, Sister! Enjoy your next night out.

      July 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
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