“Moist.” “Mouthfeel.” “Flavor profile.” Let’s all agree to eliminate these words from our collective vocabulary.
It’s hard to talk about food, and I say that as a professional. The truest human reaction to good food is an inchoate “Mmmmmph.” There are only so many synonyms for “delicious” — maybe an indication that our predecessors were generally smart enough to sincerely give thanks, eat and move on to the next thing.
Now an entire cultural-industrial complex has sprung up around saying more, and, unfortunately, it contains a lot of verbiage you don’t really want touching your food: words and phrases that belittle this profound connection we all share, or that sound unbearably pretentious, or that are just gross.
Let’s stop saying some of them!
“Foodie”: This neologism with its diminishing little “-ie” suffix is everywhere; the mental image it immediately summons is of the moneyed, middle-aged white person taking photos of their pricey, precious restaurant plate for Instagram.
You may care deeply about food politics, you may be appalled by consumerism and income inequality and, you know, hunger — you still get this Mickey Mouse label. It’s too late to stop “foodie,” but we can go on strike against it. No, there’s not really a good replacement. Try using more words? They’re free!
“I’m going to do the [blank]”: This new and unimproved way of ordering food is suddenly ubiquitous — “I’m going to do the rump roast,” “I’m going to do the footlong hot dog,” “I’m going to do the apple pie.”
Are you really going to do it? Because that’d be weird and you might get arrested. (This phrasing also sounds a tiny bit imperious and almost always lacks any accompanying politesse. How about “May I have the wet burrito, please?”)
“Mouthfeel”: It sounds like your mouth has hands!
“Moist”: Many foods can and should be moist, yet it is well-documented that this is one of the most-disliked words ever, in part due to its unpleasant mouthfeel (mmmmm, moisssst). I’ve resorted to “anti-dry” in the past — not great, admittedly, but better than moist.
“Slider”: Was this coined by U.S. Navy chefs who used a lot of grease and spatula’ed the namesake food gracefully around the grill? Did it originate with White Castle, or with White Castle co-opting it from White Castle patrons? Does it matter, with the unavoidable gastrointestinal implication here? No one wants their food to slide. This is nice: “mini-burgers.” Little, cute, not sliding anywhere. (I know, I know, they’re officially maybe not burgers. “Mini-sandwiches” works, too.)
“Loose”: I read a restaurant review approximately a decade ago that used this word to describe a sauce. “A loose sauce.” I wish I could forget.
“Addictive”: Addiction is serious. It is an affliction. It is not your molten chocolate cake served in a Mason jar.
“Like crack”: Like “addictive,” but with the addition of class connotations that make for an even higher level of jackassery. Have you ever smoked crack cocaine? Then you could say this about your molten chocolate cake served in a Mason jar. But you probably wouldn’t.
“Decadent,” “indulgent,” “sinful”: ACK, chocolate!!! Molten and served in a Mason jar!!! Let’s make our sins better than this.
“Guilty pleasure”: See previous entry . Our guilt is between each of us and our god(s), of course, but we can also just eat Nacho Cheese Doritos from time to time and leave the self-flagellation out of it.
“Eatery”: You mean “restaurant.”
“Resto”: You mean “restaurant” and we get that you’ve been to Europe.
“Sammie”: Please allow the sandwich its dignity.
“Apps”: As in, “Let’s do some apps to start!” Squeeeee!
“Toothsome”: Your teeth are more sentient than the rest of ours, sir.
“Quaffable”: This one is all right … at the Renaissance faire. Please pass the chalice!
“Curated”: Yes, show at museum. No, selection of cheeses and charcuterie.
“Elevated”: As in “elevated Mexican cuisine” — could you find a way to convey that it’s not a taco truck without almost getting a little Trumpy?
“Flavor profile”: We meet at last, Flavor Profiler. I’ve long heard tell of your supertaster abilities, and your Instagram is the stuff of legend. Let me cue up your theme music. Then, we duel.
“Are you still working on that?”: This undoubtedly rates as a pet peeve of mine, but food should not be work; the operation of the fork should not be onerous. Dear server, please just say, “May I take that?” (Unless you are exacting retribution for someone having begun by saying, “I’m going to do the chicken.”)
Read Part 2, in which 9 Seattle chefs share their most-hated food terms.