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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sigh. More Food Words We're Not Supposed to Use.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Taken from this week's review.
  • Taken from this week's review.

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):

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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