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Tim Hayward

UK food writing rant

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If 'Flavour Profile' is intended to indicate something more complex than simple flavours then we have the perfectly acceptable English 'taste'.

But unfortunately there is more. 'Flavour Profile' implies a sort of graph or visual tool which, in some way tames the unruly sensations of the mouth into a measurable and exchangeable absolute. It implies that the complexities of mixed flavours can be quantified and passed around like so much filthy currency.

</RANT>

I'm not sure that "flavour" and "flavour profile" are the same thing at all. The former should isn't specific the latter is, it implies an outline, which should mean less information, not more.

The "flavours" of Pumpkin pie spices could be "nutmeg, clove, cinnamon etc" or it could be a number of other things, whereas the "flavour profile" of Pumpkin pie spices would just mean sweet spice mix associated with pumpkin pies, without identifing the specifics?


Edited by Adam Balic (log)

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If there's one man I idolise more than the fantastic Alan Coren it would have to be that polymath scourge of the crystal bucket, Clive James. Now Alan's gone, do you think we should get a small party of us together to go round to Clive's and check he's OK? If he weren't so proudly antipodean he'd be our finest remaining national asset.

You know the rote about how every buyer of The Velvet Underground & Nico started a band? I'd suggest something similar happened with journalism and readers of Visions Before Midnight. His review of The Incredible Hulk alone was fundamental to my career path (I use this term in the same sense that a bluebottle has a flight path).

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Some leeway should be given for menus and recipes written by cooks, as catering colleges don't teach semantics. But those who write for a living should remember that only the best and worst of their kind will routinely coin their own phrases. Be sure to know which camp you're in before appropriating jargon from CSI Miami.

</POMPOUS>

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I prefer eatery as it appears in the names of a few U.S. restaurants.

The term is not new, it goes back to the 1920s so has a long history in common use.  I believe it also is used in a few little songs............

'Eatery' is new to me so I've looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary. It's there with this definition:

eatery > noun (pl. -ies) informal a restaurant or other place where people can be served food.

The BBC is also using it. E.g. in this news item http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6658871.stm entitled 'Manure dumped at Ramsay's eatery' .

With such a pedigree 'eatery' has been added to my vocabulary.

With the distinction between restaurants, gastropubs and other sources of food becoming increasingly blurred it could come into more common usage.

Does the food have to be cooked for the word to apply?

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While I think your mission to stomp out pomposity in food writing is admirable, I'm not convinced that the term flavour profile (or its close relative taste profile) is always necessarily an egregious affectation. A flavour or taste profile to me can signify a complex whole that goes beyond mere flavour or taste to encompass a tone or style of a dish, its balance, mouthfeel, weight or structure, all elements that may go beyond mere flavour or taste.

Any chance of adding mouthfeel to the cringe list?

And why are menus perused?


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

CorinaHardgrave Twitter

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[it is but a short, miserable and inevitable slide from pot roasted to pan-fried.

In defence of pot roasted and pan fried:

My local Tesco sells a frozen bag of something called roast potatoes. My local Wetherspoons will serve you a plate of reshaped grissle and pulp and call it a Sunday roast. These are among the biggest companies in the land, and what they do has a significant influence on public perception. You can't blame the menu writers for trying to create a distinction, even if the English language will often be caught in the crossfire.

I'd be happy to order "fish" from a menu I trusted. But if I had any doubts, I wouldn't be reassured by "fried fish" -- all those connotations of unhealthiness and the industrial deep fat fryer. "Pan fried fish", however, suggests a cook at a stove. It says "your meal will be given personal attention". Similarly potatoes: "roast" could well have come from a catering pack, whereas "roasted" suggests your spud has seen the inside of an oven. Mash can come from a packet, wheras "crushed potatoes" cannot. Chips could be frozen, oven or micro, whereas "triple-cooked chips" indicates that I'll be paying the kitchen to do something I could never be bothered with at home.

It's sad that the purveyors of crap have made this rearguard action necessary.

Any chance of adding mouthfeel to the cringe list?

Happily. But is there a synonym?

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Happily. But is there a synonym?

Texture?

What about for drinks? "Mouthfeel" is extremely useful in describing an unflitered whiskey, for instance. Not sure "texture" would cut it.

It's all about the context, isn't it?


PS

Edinburgh

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Texture?

Talc and sherbet have a similar texture but a very different ... er ... you know.

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flavour in sequences!!  its a new dish i am working on it involves both profiles and symphonies, just call me Mozart.

Well said Peter.

Slightly off point but Fay Maschler once came in and ordered the only two assiettes on the menu and then moaned that they were assiettes and that a single preperation would have been better!  Maybe she didn't know what an assiette is in menu speak or maybe she just thought she was ordering a plate of veal and a plate of raspberries!

Assiette means plate. What do you think it means?

But the worst of all is 'fine dining'. What a disgusting idea!

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Texture?

Talc and sherbet have a similar texture but a very different ... er ... you know.

The sherbet was incredibly fizzy

The sherbet had a fizzy mouthfeel

Perhaps the offending mouthfeel is redundent if we assume that food generally goes in the mouth?


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

CorinaHardgrave Twitter

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The sherbet was incredibly fizzy

The sherbet had a fizzy mouthfeel

Thought the word was a bit more specific than that.

The pork chop was so rancid it felt like sherbet in my mouth.

The pork chop was so rancid it had a sherbet mouthfeel.

(Enjoy your dinner, folks.)

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Can we chuck in 'sourcing' for an honourable mention? It's unbearable enough when it's used by a consultant getting tenders for supply of eighteen thousand anti-static mousemats. For a magazine reader going out to buy a bit of fish it's absurd.


Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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Oh please... some synonyms for locally sourced produce... actually I'm looking for about 300 options. Obviously procured is out :biggrin:, locally bought just sounds like an individual's weekly shopping, carefully selected local produce is wordy....

As for fresh, local and seasonal...


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

CorinaHardgrave Twitter

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... But the worst of all is 'fine dining'...

God, yes! The screaming, tooth-itching, acme of utter bollocks.

'Fine Wines' always sounds like it should be pronounced by an egg-stained 50 yr old regional sales manager from Chelmsford, with terminal haliotosis, who's trying to wheedle his way into the knickers of his PA with a 'snifter' of petroleum brandy the size of his balding, flaking head and a 'slim panatella'.

Are there yet greater depths to be plumbed?


Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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Its the bloody customers, they are hungry for new descriptions, i am toying with putting "cooked" in place of every adjective on the menu tonight! You have to use "caramelised" when you have "glazed" on the line above.   I (well my boss is!) am even guilty of using the term "pot roast" to describe so called caramelised items.

my personal annoyance is the good food guide (mainly) saying "well timed" in reference to fish cookery.

Aaaargh! Don't get me started on roasting.

We used to have roast potatoes, roast lamb, roast bloody monkfish and roast beef. For chrissake, according to the French 'Rosbif' is our defining national characteristic. But it wasn't enough. Some pewling tit with temporary power over menu typing and with literary ambitions exceeding his skills started referring to 'roasted potatoes' and it was suddenly all over the place like a fungal rash at an orgy.

Recently I was offered 'pot-roasted chicken' at some mercifully forgotten shitehole. It is but a short, miserable and inevitable slide from pot roasted to pan-fried.

And that way madness lies.

Was the chicken pot roasted though?

"Among all other lessons this should first be learned, that wee never affect any straunge ynkehorne termes, but to speake as is commonly received … Some seeke so far for outlandish English, that they forget altogether their mothers language"

The beauty of english is in it's flexibility, words are added, words are discarded, new meanings develop. People got upset about inkhorn words (for example "revoluting, ingenious, capacity, relinquish, frivolous, verbosity"), now they are dead and forgotten.

Ultimately writing is about communication and food writing in the UK is about communication, entertainment and selling papers. Received pronunciation is now a turn off for many people and is used less and less, so is highly refined and technical correct writing. There was a prior discussion on eG about macho writing, what I thought was interesting is that some of the examples of popular new wave, macho food writing were actually not that well written. Writing that I would consider to be good, was considered effete, due to style and due to subject. Another eG discussion was on words that people disliked in food writing, interestingly many of the words were technically correct and had a genuine role in the right context. In fact it seems that many terms that people dislike are words that they feel are being in the wrong context (and used far to often).

I think that "mouthfeel" is one of these words. I think that it is a very good word when discussing beverages as "texture" isn't quite right. In discussing food, in most cases "texture" could replace "mouthfeel", but not all cases. "Texture" describes sensations caused by the external surface of objects, but not the chilli heat, liquids, tannins, acid, sugar etc and not the overall impression of a combination of these.

Almost nobody in the UK actually roasts anything anymore. If it is cooked in an oven it is "baked", not roasted. Roasting was a seperate technique. However, I will not be the one to inform 99% of the population that historically and technically their Sunday Roast is actually a Sunday Bake.

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Since this is all getting a bit heated, does anyone want to lighten the mood with a game of bullshit poker? Whoever finds the highest number of redundant phrases within one sentence wins. Published foodie works only. (No drink, as that makes the game too easy.)

I'll open with this, an article on pizza, from that BP mainstay Restaurants & Institutions.

"The only hard-and-fast rule for success is to provide an easy point of entry for diners, whether through the use of fresh, seasonal products or by incorporating on-trend flavor profiles as an anchor in familiar elements."

Anyone want to raise?

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flavour in sequences!!  its a new dish i am working on it involves both profiles and symphonies, just call me Mozart.

Well said Peter.

Slightly off point but Fay Maschler once came in and ordered the only two assiettes on the menu and then moaned that they were assiettes and that a single preperation would have been better!  Maybe she didn't know what an assiette is in menu speak or maybe she just thought she was ordering a plate of veal and a plate of raspberries!

Assiette means plate. What do you think it means?

i think it's generally accepted that assiette is a selection of whatever, so yes a plate if you're being pedantic but a plate of chocolate, veal or whatever but implying several different preperations.

if i ordered an assiette and got one preparation i'd be suprised.

and i'd also be suprised if it didn't come on some form of plate.


you don't win friends with salad

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"Assiette gourmande" is the term for a selection of small portions (usually dessert) on one plate.

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I am SO cross! Mouthfeel - fine. Texture - fine. Caramelised - fine. Flavour Profile - fine. I use them all. And why not? How else our we to market and describe sensations? Panfried sounds appetising. It implies crispy buttery edges.

I dislike inaccurate descriptions, yes. Cooked onions that are browned and sticky are caramelised. So are black ones. But I would say 'burnt onions' if they were black, to differentiate between the two.

I gave some chocolate pecan tart to my neighbour this morning, having sat it in the microwave for a moment. 'Can I tempt you with some warm chocolate tart?' Why use 'microwave-fiddled' when 'warm' is so much better? Sell, sell, sell! (She has lovely.....eyes.)

And to use the sex analogy, Tim, is wrong, unless your sex really IS one-dimensional.

Actch am not cross. Have calmed. Nice to be wound up, I suppose.

x


slacker,

Padstow, Cornwall

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I can't stand Market Kitchen (actually, I could end the sentance right there) when Matt Tebutt says he's going to roast something "through the oven". What, is it going in one end and coming out the other then Matt? What is he on about?

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Hi Tim,

While I think your mission to stomp out pomposity in food writing is admirable, I'm not convinced that the term flavour profile (or its close relative taste profile) is always necessarily an egregious affectation .

But the use of the term egregious affectation is.

Sorry, couldn't resist.


Edited by Suzi Edwards (log)

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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How about superfluous use of 'a' - as in "plaice with a red wine and caramelised shallot sauce"

Not sure about this, but is the "a" actually superfluous? If it read "with red wine and caramelised shallot sauce", that would be different; it would be with a) red wine and b) caramelised shallot sauce.

Personally I prefer them to use "&"; "plaice with red wine & caramelised shallot sauce" is unambiguous and more elegant.

I need to get out more....

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An occasional restaurant reviewer for our local paper always refers to her partner/husband as "Himself".

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Decadent Is your dessert really symptomatic of cultural and moral decline, or do you actually mean "chocolatey"?

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