There Are Only so Many Ways to Talk About Food Without Sounding Like a Nitwit

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We seem to have reached a point in the Age of Foodism where, having exhausted our obsession with food, we've moved on to obsessing over the adjectives used to describe it.

Or, more specifically, the adjectives associated with the kind of food made by earnest folks who can't stop impressing upon us their efforts to make everything from scratch, like somebody's grandparents once made before the onset of electricity and running water. Grub Street has taken note of this, and observes that words like "artisanal," "curated," "composed," and "sourced" have been so overused and exploited that they've been rendered almost meaningless, reduced to empty buzzwords employed by people who think that "artisanal" refers to anything involving a tattoo and a glass jar.

The A-word also figures into Chow's list of the 78 most annoying words to read in a restaurant review. It mirrors our own list of the most overused food words, though as we compiled ours in 2009, we hadn't yet been bombarded with the likes of "artisanal," "locavore," and "house-made." Chow's readers cast a wide net, refusing to spare even "think" and "healthy"; reading their list, you could be forgiven for thinking restaurant reviews should now be written in haiku.

Perhaps these lists are the unintended, if inevitable, consequence of living at a time when seemingly everyone has discovered that not only do they like eating food, they also like writing, photographing, and talking about it ad nauseam. There are only so many ways to succinctly describe something that is good (as we found when we attempted to come up with a replacement for "delicious"), and only so many ways to proclaim one's gastronomical correctness. Curiously, though, there is no shortage of ways to describe bad food, as A.A. Gill continuously reminds us.

We imagine that "artisanal," "sourced," and their icky cousins "mouthfeel" and "toothsome" will be retired right around the time that people move on to another national obsession, like spelunking or human chess. Our own obsession with food most likely won't go anywhere, in part because our livelihood depends on it, though for the record, we'd be happy if we never saw another "hand-crafted" again.


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1 comments
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Guest

Agreed. So then what do we do? How do we talk about food without adjectives? Food is worthy of discussion and is such a great way to examine our larger human culture...

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