Chow/Chowhound have just posted their list of the 78 most annoying words and phrases used in a restaurant review, which includes "tucking into," "organic," and "unctuous." Add the list to a growing genre that includes LA Weekly's funny two lists of "Foodie Words We Hate," as well as similar posts on Serious Eats, Foodista, and Grub Street, among many others.
As someone who writes quite a few restaurant reviews every month, I've scanned these lists to put myself on cliché alert. But you know what? I'm done reading them. Sure, the word "eatery" has me clawing the air, and when I read "swoon" I want to slap the writer back awake.
But those are my own prejudices.
Words like "unctuous" have a proper definition -- Merriam-Webster's says I can keep using it to describe the quality of a rich sauce or a seared slice of foie gras. Same with the much-derided "house-made,"
which is useful when describing something readers would otherwise
assume is made in a factory, such as ketchup or hot dogs. Sure, a word
like "sustainable" is largely meaningless, but when you use it in the
right context -- say, "sustainability-minded" -- you can convey both how
much thought chefs put into finding ingredients and how much they like to talk up the effort.
How a food word is used matters more than how often it's used. So leave
me "piquant" and "cloyingly sweet," you listicle-crafting foodies. You keep banning words and
soon all I'll be left with is "sweet," "sour," "salty," and "bitter."
Worse yet, I might end up writing like this guy (pardon the video quality):