Food vs Foodies

You can call The Leopard’s Andrea Burgener and Nick Gordon many things – but just don’t call them ‘foodies’, okay? 

Food vs Foodies | House and Leisure
Andrea Burgener and Nick Gordon in the kitchen at The Leopard.


Our daughter was three when her goldfish, an unassuming fellow named Plain Tonic Water, died. He’d been a good fish who survived swimming in a milky fog after being fed yoghurt indirectly, as well as an accidental dosage of a year’s worth of food in a day. But, after a few months more, he was ready to leave for the big fishbowl in the sky.

Holly’s first question as she peered at his floating body was, ‘Can we eat him now?’ We’d expected some crying rather than pragmatics and appetite. ‘It must be because she sees us cook whole fish,’ we said to each other. ‘She understands that meat on a plate was once a living thing… a healthy attitude.’ Not that either of us actively encourage the eating of pets, but we felt pretty satisfied with ourselves that we’d made the story of the food on our tables quite clear. Three years later, we realised that this wasn’t so.

Our younger son Tom, now the same age his sister had been at the time Plain Tonic Water shook off his mortal coil, was watching Nick working with big blocks of meat on the kitchen table one evening. Nick had started on a charcuterie project because the story behind virtually all cured pork products we could find was such a hideous one. Tom looked thoughtfully at his dad, and asked, ‘Where does this meat come from?’ ‘From a pig,’ came the answer. Tom looked a bit baffled, and then we saw his confusion clear, and a lightbulb expression replace it. ‘Oohh I see…’ he said, ‘so a pig came and gave it to you?’

Sigh. How is one to reply to such a question? It made us sad, because we suddenly very badly wished that the truth involved a waistcoated Pigling Bland knocking on the door with manna pork in a little basket. It was the closest we had come to giving up meat.

What we love about children’s questions around what we eat is that they are ‘food’ ones as opposed to ‘foodie’ ones. We have always been bonded by a love/hate relationship with our industry. We love food. We hate the space in which the pseudo-sophisticated notion of ‘foodie’ thrives (the word ‘foodie’ – along with ‘hubby’, ‘veggie’ and ‘choccie’ – is banned in our workplace, The Leopard). We do not identify as foodies. We love making things, but we don’t love the fetishising or fashionability around the process.

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This, again, is where children are great: they don’t decide to like a dish because it’s the flavour of the moment (unless their parents are weirdos who’ve been training them up for MasterChef Junior) and they tell you straight when the food with the dribble sauce at the most lauded restaurant in town is plain kak.

A game that we sometimes play is Food vs Foodies. In it, we both have to think of new and better examples to define the difference.

Tonight’s Game of Food vs Foodies is Happening While We’re Cooking Dinner:

ANDREA: Okay, eating Scottish salmon, foodie. Not eating salmon at all because it’s destroying the ocean, food.

NICK: Calling the way you eat ‘nose-to-tail’, foodie. Just buying oxtail and eating it, food.

ANDREA: Ja, good one. How about… I know, buying a sous-vide machine for your home kitchen, definitely foodie. Knowing how to make the dish just as well without it, food.

NICK: Chef’s Table, foodie. Worth It (our favourite food show), food. Hmm, no wait, maybe all food shows are foodie? Okay, what about… actually, I’m tired and I don’t have more to say about it. [Pours another whiskey for inspiration.] Right, here’s one. Hunting down exotic imported ingredients with high carbon emissions: foodie [we’re both guilty as charged here]. Using basic local stuff and making something delicious from it: food.

ANDREA: I’m not sure about that one. But how’s this? Foodie trend: artisanal doughnuts. Food trend: obesity outranks starvation as the number-one global diet-related killer.

NICK: Ja. But actually, isn’t this game a bit foodie? Next time, let’s play Scrabble.

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Andrea and Nick's Weeknight Dinner Tips

Butter Chicken 

Our family’s favourite dinner is butter chicken (known in our house as Butt of the Chick). It’s so much loved that any leftovers are eaten for breakfast the next day. We buy all of our curry ingredients from the wonderful Eastern Temptations in Emmarentia, Joburg. 

Cheese Eggs

Basically, this is seven-minute boiled eggs in a creamy cheese sauce with cayenne pepper. Glamorously, served on toast. And if we’re really organised, there’s a vegetable served alongside it. 

Just Add Tunes

A very essential ingredient in our suppers is the music we listen to while cooking. Our work means we don’t get many chances to party, so often evenings become a mini-party in the kitchen. Queen, Soul Coughing, Talking Heads and Donna Summer are the sort of artists that make up our musical cooking fuel.

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