A few weeks ago, Editor Pat Fox gave his take on overused phrases and cliches such as “bottom line,” “24/7” and “outside the box.” While these cliches are certainly overused in the world of politics and business, there are plenty more that can be found in the world of food.
About 10 years ago, there was a dramatic shift in how we see food. Most people moved away (at least in their words) from fast food, meals in a box and prepackaged gruel. Food shifted from something the common man saw as fuel, and more toward being an experience.
At around the same time, I entered the restaurant industry. Working in a restaurant was viewed as a job for burnouts, drug addicts, failures, alcoholics, criminals or people who didn’t know what they wanted to do with their life. Now, so many people view working in a restaurant as being an artistic craft. Like a painter, the cook bares his soul, his creativity and his life’s work onto a piece of porcelain in place of canvas.
With these changes in perception came the belief that all food had to be artistic expression and naturally, that is now how it’s advertised.
But like my editor’s feelings on cliches that mostly relate to politics and business, I take issue with advertisers using words incorrectly or, where they are not needed, when describing foods.
Some of the worst offenders:
Artisanal: When it comes to food, artisanal means made by hand and usually in small batches. There is no way that you will ever get an “artisanal” burger from a fast food joint that sells hundreds of thousands a day.
Hand-Crafted: Well, I didn’t expect that my burrito was elbow-crafted. You can’t tell me the stoned 17-year-old fast food worker that only has a job because his parent’s forced him into one is “crafting” your food. Yes, it’s put together by hand. That’s not special.
Infused: This is just a fanciful way of saying a food was marinated with another flavoring. But “marinated” cocktails doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Gourmet: In food terms, gourmet involves elaborate preparation of the finest and/or rarest of ingredients. French fries are not gourmet simply because they have truffle oil on them. (Fun fact: truffles don’t contain oil. You are paying an exorbitant amount for rapeseed oil).
Authentic: Imagine you travel to Luxembourg (I don’t know why you would, but stay with me), and someone asks you how to make an authentic, American cheeseburger. I’m sure everyone reading this adds different ingredients to the meat, places different items on the burger or uses different bread or cheese. You cannot define authentic where food is concerned.
Finally, I just need to get this off my chest since it seems to be popping up everywhere on fast food advertisements. Aioli may provoke an Italian gourmet, hand-crafted, artisanal, infused and authentic sauce, but its mayonnaise. Seriously, it’s mayonnaise with garlic in it. Stop advertising it like it’s the nectar of the gods.