I recently attended a culinary conference in New York which was titled The Fashion of Food. There were some extremely interesting feature sessions, many about food and fashion being subjects of trends, fads or cycles. It is sometimes hard to discern what is the real deal and what is a flash in the pan trend that will not stand the duration of time. It occurred to me, as I listened to a wide variety of speakers discuss a diverse selection of food topics, that words fall into the same category. They go through trends, sometimes going mainstream, as when a word once newly created had enough use to get added to the Webster Dictionary. Sometimes they are overused and abused to the point that they become outed, or even banned by editors. The website , Serious Eats recently put out its secret list of banned words.
Naturally, there is a level of subjectivity to such a list, some of these might be like nails on a chalkboard to you as well, while others you might not have even thought of as mildly annoying. Zing, Zip and Oomph were all on their list, I agree on these as they all mimic the cartoon bubbles on the old Batman show fights. “To die for” is a silly expression, I always want to ask the user if he means that literally. Speaking of which, if that is a pet peeve of yours, you also know how many people misuse the word literally, when they should say figuratively. Kick it up, take it to the next level, sinful, decadent, luscious, luxurious, yummy, all made the list. They also mention the word Artisanal, and note that while a few people can actually own this one, a guy making pickles in his garage probably should not. This one is tough for me, as it does actually describe what we do when we hand grind our spices and then combine them into seasonings, which we mix in small batches, fresh weekly. At another convention recently, for Les Dames d’Escoffier, the keynote speaker, Kim Severson, made us all vow to STOP using the word artisanal, which we did. Thus I have begrudgingly removed it from my elevator speech about what we do. I also wondered at what point have we have removed or banned the majority of wonderful food adjectives, and whether there are an adequate number of words left to use! I wish Serious Eats would also publish an equivalent list of words that are not overused and still have a little money in the meter before they run out of time.
The word I noticed running through many of the conference speakers' lectures was CURATION. Used in a way that went a little askew of my notion of what curators do, but still not out of the range of the word. For example one of the keynote speakers said “chefs take seven ingredients and curate them into something wonderful.” Marcus Samuelssen said, if I recall correctly, “There is a lot of noise out there so a chef needs to cultivate and curate his own space.” Another speaker said “Pinterest is a curation that takes only 15 minutes a day.” So I got to thinking, if I can not offer you my “artisanal products”, perhaps, instead, I can curate a collection of spice ingredients into a seasoning blend. And further, curate many blends into a collection of flavors to reflect different ethnic types of cooking. You, as the curator of your own kitchen can then select the flavors of seasonings you would most like to use to curate your dining experiences to be a successful collection for your family dinner table. Quick, we only have a short time before this trendy word ends up on the overused banned list! Curate away.