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What the Hell is a Foodie? 3 local eaters on what food means to them

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Jody Hall (third from left) at the SIAL global food marketplace in Paris - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Jody Hall (third from left) at the SIAL global food marketplace in Paris

Name: Jody Hall
Job Title: Director of Global Sourcing at H-E-B

When/how did you get into food? What was the process like?

For me, it started when I lived in Europe and South America coming out of my undergrad and going into grad school. It became a love affair—trying to cook the foods I grew up with at home. You know, they say distance makes the heart grow fonder. I grew up in South Texas with a tortilla in hand and when I found myself far away from fajitas, without ingredients I’m used to, I had to scrounge around or have family and friends bring [ingredients] with them when they visited, such as pinto beans, spices and even things like canned jalapeños were hard to find abroad. The world’s come a long way. As a Texan ranch boy, my love affair with food began when I found myself far away from home and I became adventurous and adventuresome with my eating. My host family would prepare haggis once a week.

What appeals to you most about it?

It goes back to bread being a staple of life. It’s about understanding the differences and the history [between cultures] … the heritage. Why a tortilla is what it is to Mexicans or naan to an Indian or focaccia to an Italian.

What are your thoughts on the word “foodie?” Love it, hate it, do you prefer another?

Hate is a strong word, but I don’t really love it either. I guess I do prefer another. Someone I met at a conference had a business card that read ‘Chief Food Adventurer’ and I thought, “That’s MY job title!” I am adventuresome and adventurous as part of my role at H-E-B. Whether we’re in Italy as olives are being harvested for olive oil or brining to create a perfect olive, I’m adventuresome in following that journey on how it’s processed to understanding the supplier and their passion behind it. Today’s consumer and public is becoming more adventuresome and adventurous—they’re reading more, whether it’s online or in magazines, they’re traveling more either down the street or across town to a farmers market. I think ‘foodie’ can be polarizing … it can be snobbish for some. But when you take adventurous individuals in history, Marco Polo for instance, and what he did in discovering exotic dishes from the East and bringing them back to Italy … it’s how Italians got their pasta. Christopher Columbus took potatoes to the New World and changed how we eat. The work of those predecessors is apropos and fitting to what me and the team are doing.

What’s your favorite place to eat in SA?

It could be Turquoise Grill for Mediterranean or Turkish food; we love Dough for pizza and other fine Italian cuisine; Moroccan Bites is one of our favorites. Jerusalem Grill on Wurzbach and 410. My wife is Indian by birth and British by nationality; she loves her fish and chips [she finds those at Lion & Rose] and India Oven.

Where do you do the bulk of your grocery shopping?

H-E-B, H-E-B, H-E-B … and I don’t go to just one. I go to multiple ones because we tailor our assortment. If I want Mediterranean I’ll go to the Alon Market … their international and British assortment is some of the biggest in town. If I want to find Lebkuchen [a German cookie] or other German projects I go to H-E-B near Randolph or Lackland. I go to the H-E-B on Culebra if I want some authentic Mexican products and we go to Central Market, which has 875 different cheeses and 13 of those come from my wife’s hometown in England.

What’s your go-to home-cooked meal?

We don’t have one, but we do a Moroccan chicken casserole as one of our staples … a lot of Tex-Mex, carne guisada. We grill fajita, salmon, which goes great with Balsamic vinegar, which you can put on everything and anything. My favorite home-cooked meal is barbecue. I’m a seventh-generation Texas so barbecue brisket is one of my staples of life.

What does the city need more of to expand as a culinary destination?

We’ve come a long way [from] when I first moved here 25 years ago. The assortment of foods has really changed around town. There’s still room to grow and part of that is through education, whether it’s through cooking schools or cooking awareness. There are things that we’re doing well, like Taste of the Northside or the Paella Challenge. I had friends in town from Barcelona and they were amazed they could fly in and have paellas as good, but with a South Texas twist. It’s about exposing the populous, local or tourists, in helping to make San Antonio a culinary destination. So much is coming toward the public in different formats, whether it’s social media, Instagram where people are taking photos of their food and others are oohing and ahhing.

Name: Rebel Mariposa
Job Title: Artist/Chef

When/how did you get into food? What was the process like?

Not till I was much older in my late 20s. For many years I didn’t want to be “stuck” in a kitchen. It wasn’t until I went raw vegan for three months and realized how crafting foods was very much a science [that] I began to love to prepare food for myself, friends and family. It was no longer about being “stuck.” I wanted to cook to heal myself and those around me. What appeals to you most about it? Like I said above, the healing aspect of food. It really can be a person’s poison or medicine. I also love the stories told about and around foods. It has brought me closer to my aunts and other women. Lots of secrets/stories are shared in a kitchen; it’s a magical place to be. It’s super-empowering.

What are your thoughts on the word “foodie?” Love it, hate it, do you prefer another?

Mixed. I don’t like it because it seems so bougie and at times used in a very arrogant manner. When it’s used to describe someone who has and likes to try different types of food then I am OK with it. Everyone deserves to eat good healthy delicious food, not just snobs.

What’s your favorite place to eat in SA?

In people’s homes. I love to cook and I love when other people cook, to be in different kitchens sharing and learning. I prefer it over [going to] restaurants. When I go out I like to go to Vegeria and Señor Veggie.

Where do you do the bulk of your grocery shopping?

Depends [on] what I am making. I go to the farmers markets, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Ali Baba and other small Asian markets in town.

What’s your go-to home-cooked meal?

I am super-simple when it comes to how I eat so my go-to meal normally is brown rice pasta topped with sautéed greens, fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, sea salt and olive oil.

What does the city need more of to expand as a culinary destination?

I think it needs the people of SA to be more curious and demand more options and higher quality [goods] without being super-expensive. San Antonio can be so laid-back and I love that, but when you go to the West or East coast people are hustling to [own] a restaurant and [they] have to [serve] really good food because there is so much competition. You can’t offer a mediocre product or you will go out of business.

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