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Food & Dining

Houck: Foodie terms make my mouth feel funny

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Words drive me crazy.

Not all words. Just the food words that either have become annoying through overuse or devoid of meaning because of incorrect application.

OK, the words aren't the problem. The humans who use them are the true offenders.

I've written before about how the word "artisan" went from meaningful to bland in one swift Domino's Pizza application.

But there are plenty where that came from.

Like "deconstructed." As in a "deconstructed BLT" that has bacon, lettuce and tomato on a plate. To me, it's just another way of saying, "We're too lazy to assemble this."

I don't want my food in pieces. You're the professional. I want you to show me how it all should blend. If I buy a car, I want all the pieces already on the car. Be a chef. Do the work.

Or "fusion." One restaurant in Tampa recently described its cuisine as "rustic American fusion." I have no idea what that means other than, "Our menu has a lot of stuff on it and we needed a fancy word to charge more."

I know, fusion describes when a merging of two seemingly opposite styles of cooking takes place. I get it. It's the culinary version of irony.

But unless you're eating raw ingredients, all recipes are fused from a technical standpoint. Peanut butter and jelly qualifies as fusion. Unless it's deconstructed. Then it's not.

Calling someone a "foodie" should be considered an insult of such magnitude that the only way to settle it would be pistols at sunrise. Each time someone uses it to describe me, I wince the way I do when a fork scrapes too hard against a plate.

Others?

"Sammies" gives me cuteness-induced agita. "Mouthfeel" makes me feel dirty. "Unctious" sounds as if the dentist has just removed a glob from a back tooth.

I bring this up because Grub Street, New York magazine's food and restaurant blog, recently teed off on food-writing clichés that should be tossed out forever.

It's a serious topic. How people write and talk about food says a lot about who we are as a culture. And food writing is tough stuff. Not firefighter-in-a-burning-building tough, but plenty difficult. I've always said I have ultimate respect for restaurant critics because once you get past the word "delicious," you're pretty much out of bullets.

If Grub Street's dictionary of literary offenders is any indication, we're all confused, wordy and more than a little bit pretentious:

Addictive: Let's please stop calling things "addictive" and/or "habit-forming" when what we really mean is, "very good tasting."

Approachable: As in, "the most approachable dish on the menu." When did food become so standoffish?

Decadent: It's the word fat people use to rationalize eating oversize desserts.

Eatery: It makes restaurants sound like some sort of mechanized chow line.

Luscious: Sounds like the name of an R&B singer from 1997.

Nibbles as a noun: Ditto "bites," "victuals," or even "tipples," if you're talking about drinks.

Nom (or Nom Nom Nom, etc.): Under no circumstances.

Pillowy: Often used to describe gnocchi or ravioli. Or plump body parts.

Savor: It sounds like something only old people do.

Have one of your own you can't stand? Email it to me at jhouck@tampatrib.com. I'll include the most pillowy decadent and lusciously approachable ones on my blog so we can all savor them in the most addictive way possible.

Nom, nom, nom.


jhouck@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7324

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