Foodie Tuesday: Eating Words

These days, it seems like everyone is talking about gastronomy: food blogs (ahem) abound, and the food/cooking/restaurant memoir has become a genre unto itself. As someone who loves food and words in equal measure, I think it’s exciting that conversations–indeed, entire television networks–devoted to eating and cooking have secured a prominent place in our day-to-day lives.  There are, however, some oft-used food-related terms and phrases that have recently begun to annoy the hell out of me:

You eat with your eyes first!
I get it, I really do.  It’s nice to eat food that looks appetizing.  But we’ve all eaten enough out-of-season, vibrantly-red-yet-completely-devoid-of-flavor strawberries to know that appearances only go so far when it comes to food.  Granted, some food is beautiful as well as delicious.  For example, my dinner at the French Laundry lives in my memory as one of the extraordinary sensory experiences of my life, with each dish more artfully presented than the last.  When cooking at home or eating at a favorite local restaurant, though, I am far more concerned with the way my food smells and tastes than the way it looks.  At any rate, I don’t “eat with my eyes,” and I wish this phrase would just go away.

Lisa Lillien is not to be trusted; no one should be this happy about a table full of processed food.

Guilt-free/Sinful/Decadent/Indulgent/etc.
Calling certain foods “sinful,” “decadent,” or “naughty” is as offensive and idiotic as labeling über-processed pseudo-foods “guilt-free.”  I’m talking to you, Lisa Lillien.  Lillien, a.k.a. “Hungry Girl,” has amassed a huge following of people who evidently share her sadly misguided philosophy that food is either guilt-inducing (i.e. pleasurable) or guilt-free (i.e. synthetic and zero-calorie).

One real cupcake (made with flour, cocoa, eggs, and sugar) is undoubtedly better for your body than Lillien’s disgusting “guilt-free” cupcake “recipe,” which includes diet hot chocolate mix (yes, really), egg substitute, marshmallow creme, and Splenda.  Christ, no wonder she’s hungry!  Bottom line: with eating disorders and obesity-related illnesses reaching epidemic proportions in this country, it’s time we quit ascribing negative morality to the food we eat.

Referring to food (especially pork) as “sexy”
I love pork.  I really do.  I am unabashedly, unapologetically on the pig bandwagon.  It’s true, bacon does make (almost) everything better.  Pork belly, pork chops, baby back ribs, prosciutto…I crave and eat all these things with relative frequency.  But oh sweet merciful baby Jesus, quit calling pork “sexy.”  Please.  Alexander Skarsgard = sexy.  Christina Hendricks = sexy.  This little piggy on his way to my dinner plate?  Not so much.  Grab a thesaurus and find a new way to describe pork, please. To recap:

Alexander Skarsgard. Sexy.

Christina Hendricks. Sexy.

Porky Pig. Not sexy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another hot-button word for many food people is the term “foodie.”  As the author of a weekly “Foodie Tuesday” column, the word “foodie” doesn’t really bug me.  To be clear, though, I decided on “Foodie Tuesdays” because I liked the play on words; I wouldn’t necessarily use the term “foodie” to describe myself.  After all, many people like to cook, most people like to eat, and all of us have to eat, so why the cutesy moniker? In any case, “foodie” inspires in me neither love nor hate, but many folks seem to feel so strongly about the word that I felt I had to mention it in this post.

Then again, maybe the words we use to talk and write about food are not as important as the fact that so many people these days are enthusiastic about cooking, eating, and sharing food.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a piece of “sinful” pork belly that is so “sexy” I have to “eat it with my eyes” before I eat it for real.  That’s just how we “foodies” roll.

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6 thoughts on “Foodie Tuesday: Eating Words

  1. Hahaha! Couldn’t agree more. What is it with food writing? It’s like there’s a couple of trendy adjectives and the rest of the english language is left to languish untouched. Really, I think food writers need to read poetry: less adjectives, more similes!

    • Thanks, Alison…I hear you! Sometimes it seems as though a writer is trying so hard to come up with new, “writerly” ways of describing food that he/she winds up writing something just ridiculous. Thankfully, there are also those whose food writing is elegant and accessible. Have you read MFK Fisher? She is my favorite food writer, and one of my favorite writers, period. I think Nigella Lawson also has a vivid, witty way of describing food. Both MFK Fisher & Nigella Lawson have inspired me to get into the kitchen on many occasions.

  2. Hilary, Richard [my husband] first sent me to your blog, and I enjoy reading it immensely! This post particularly struck a chord–especially the notes on the current obsession with labeling foods and eating styles with such good-vs-evil tags and tones that, as you say, it’s a virtual miracle anyone can eat unscathed. A person could get killed just trying to get to the table between an old-school Food Pyramid worshiper and a Paleo acolyte. Much nicer to just rejoice in the merits of what we each want/need to eat and leave the proselytizing to people whose tastebuds have nothing better to do.

    Thanks!
    Kathryn
    http://kiwsparks.wordpress.com/

    • Kathryn, thank you so much for reading–I browsed your blog as well and really enjoyed it. I don’t think I realized that you & Richard moved to Texas. Please give him my best; I really enjoyed singing for him (we met for the first time when I was 14, which seems just impossibly long ago; then again, it was!). Re: eating unscathed, I spent almost a year in Italy when I was 17 and in the throes of American-teen-girl-angsting-over-body-image-and-relationship-to-food. The Italian way of eating (and living, for that matter) proved the perfect antidote. Best to you & Richard–I’ll check back on your blog soon! -H.

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