A New Book Reignites The Conversation About “Dude Foods”

The Lempert Report
January 13, 2021

Food scholar Emily Contois has written a new book about men and food, Diners, Dudes and Diets where she explores what the dude means instead of focusing on the particulars of dudeness – sorry Jeff Bridges.

She writes that the modern dude is ubiquitous and frustrating. He is the charming slacker, the underachiever, the sweet schlub who could try harder but doesn’t, thank you Jeff. The dude represents a more flexible version of American manhood, he does not stoop to striving his culinary palate.

For food marketers in particular, who had struggled to figure out how to sell products that had been coded “feminine” to men without threatening their masculinity, he was catnip.

“By and large, dude food’s flavors and ingredients align with conventional notions of masculine foods and food attributes, but with a dude twist,” writes Contois. “Dude food,” heavy on meat, spice, and grease, is not simply a cuisine, but a lifestyle. “Devoured within moments of leisure, relaxation, and informality, dude food transcends ingredients and flavors,” she explains, “as it indexes the dude’s anti-professionalism and slacker-friendly ease.” With the right attitude, any food can be dude food; dude food, like a dude, has room to move.

Rachel Sugar of Vox.com interviewed Contois about dudes: What do they eat? What does that say about us? How do dudes fit in with other subcategories of men who eat food? Do dudes intermittently fast?

Contois said that comfort foods — a cheeseburger or grilled cheese or nachos — are foods that some of us do eat. When we’ve had a bad day at work or things aren’t going our way, they’re foods we turn to. Dude food is just sort of turning the dial right up to 11.

The argument that she is making is that because the dude doesn’t care — because he’s ironic and winking and nonchalant and everything kind of at a distance — the dude can engage with food, he can engage with cooking, he can watch food TV, and it doesn’t impinge on his masculinity. The risk is lower because he’s not fully invested.

Contois told Sugar that there is an anti-intellectualism to the persona of the dude. That plays out in dude food being much more straightforward. That pushback against foodie culture is definitely something she saw, thinking about someone like Guy Fieri, who is this more populist figure in terms of the kind of food he promotes, the persona he puts out there. His fans appreciate that lack of what they perceive as elitism from other corners of food media. ? The dude is privileged to be able to slack off, the dude is privileged to be able to say, nah, I don’t want to do that, and to be able to break the rules. Dude food embodies that ethos. Check out Diners, Dudes and Diets for an engaging blueprint on how to attract this demographic to your supermarket or your brand; if in fact, you want them to be your customer.