Word of the Week – foodie

The term “foodie” has been with us longer than I thought. According to etymologist Barry Popick it was 1980 when Gael Green, food writer for the New Yorker, first put the word in print. The Oxford English Dictionary distinguishes a foodie from a “gourmet” who wants only the best, as compared to the foodie who has a more informal interest in food and a desire to try everything. (And, in my experience, to talk about it.)

Writing guides suggest that we bring scenes to life with sensory details, not only the look and sound, but also textures, flavors and smells of the surroundings. Nobody does it better than the food writers. Many of their descriptions are suggested by the ingredients themselves: fruity or yeasty, but some aren’t exactly, like “nutty” which is frequently used to describe dishes that contain no nuts, and “meaty” for a vegetarian entrée featuring Portobello mushrooms.

Reaching for even more evocative terms, the food critics follow the wine aficionados down the path to anthropomorphisms: ascribing to a sauce such human qualities as graceful, assertive, intelligent, sophisticated or lively. Until today, I thought “anthropomorphic” (originally from the Greek, by way of Latin) applied only to our habit of identifying human traits in animals. Merriam Webster says it goes for objects as well, like that charming butternut squash.

My personal favorite of these fanciful images comes, not from a food article, but a menu from a Chinese restaurant, offering “Chicken, rude and unreasonable.” If you order it, I’m guessing you’ll get a delicious platter of the Jamaican specialty, “jerk chicken,” but who knows.

Go to www.Engrish.com for many hilarious mistranslations.