Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What's Annoying Me Now: Full-of-it Food-Forward

I think the biggest linguistic dingleberry chafing the backside of my tolerance in 2011 was "bespoke." (My apologies to more sensitive readers who may be offended by this metaphor. "Thorn in my side" doesn't quite capture my degree of irritation.) In 2010, it was "foodie." This year, I suspect it will be any term involving the suffix "-forward," as in "fruit-forward," "flavor-forward," and "fashion-forward." (Flash-forward, fast-forward and best foot-forward are all okay.)

It may be the fact that I don't really understand what these terms mean, but I strongly suspect that it is more because they seem precious and unnecessary and don't really seem to mean much of anything in particular, or at least nothing that could not be equally well conveyed in more direct terms. I do not refer to people I don't like as "douche-forward," or an oak tree as "acorn-forward," or my daughter's hair as "curl-forward."

I get the feeling that people who use trendy terms unselfconsciously are also the kind of people who write (or believe) articles decrying brie or chardonnay or spinach artichoke dip as current hostess faux pas, not to mention hopelessly passé. Who threw out the cucumber garnish for the gazpacho shooters and appointed these people the appetizer police? I'm no expert entertainer, and I'm definitely not a very good cook either, but I have eaten a twelve course dinner at the French Laundry, which has to count for something. I've been reading about food trends, and ordering them in restaurants, for over a decade now, and the fact is, I like brie (especially baked with chutney) and chardonnay (buttery, oak-y, and classic) and spinach artichoke dip. You know why? Because they are good.

You don't have to agree with me - there is no accounting for taste - but one woman's Riunite (or Riesling) is another's Gruner Veltliner, and this year's quinoa cakes with fava bean foam will be next year's...wait...is quinoa passé yet? how about fava beans? or foam? I think foam is definitely passé.

My point is: food is good. Eat it. You don't have to stop deconstructing it or reconstructing it or reinventing it, but it would be more polite if certain folks could stop being so ridiculously self-righteous about it. Whether you're more into molecular gastronomy or the McDonald's drive-thru, it's all the same to me. They happily co-exist in my world and I'm not interested in your eye-rolling and expert assements of what is currently passing for awful. Or offal. Heh heh. That's a foodie in-joke!

Of course, I am also the kind of person who drinks instant coffee without complaint and eats caviar with a pink plastic ice cream sample spoon. Clearly, there is no hope for me, trapped as I am in the twenty-seventh circle of culinary hell, suspended indefinitely somewhere between louche and gauche.

But while I'm hanging out there, here are a few more things I am tired of hearing about: "saloumi,""enoteca," "osteria," "house made," and menus with clunky one word declarative titles for dishes like "Salmon" or "Beets" or "Marshmellow" that then go on to list all the additional locally sourced ingredients. I am all for local, I am all for organic, I am all for "ingredient-forward" cooking. But I am done with menus that read like Rachel Zoe stylized shorthand for food. (How maj! That garnish is everything! Need some sunnies!) And don't get me started on house made ketchup. I love funky fresh condiments, but have yet to taste a Heinz alternative that even comes close to the original. If you are going to get all real and retro comfort-style about your restaurant, go all the way and don't skimp on the classics.

Look, I said it before and I will say it again: I'm no expert and I'm no great cook. I'm not proud of that fact. I wish I were better. I wish I cared more. But there's little incentive. My husband is a fabulous cook, my daughter boobytraps whatever random inspiration strikes with inconvenient naps, tantrums, and poops. But I do like to eat - and drink - and I've done a lot of it in places both high and low. You don't have to be a "foodie" to appreciate good food. In fact, you may be able to appreciate it more if you're not so caught up in what you are supposed to be liking right now - or worrying so publicly about where it came from, or whether it's in season, or what other people think about serving it.

It's not like it matters so much at the moment; we haven't been doing much entertaining. I'd like to blame this on the fact that we keep moving around and haven't yet re-made a strong enough circle of friends to throw parties, but it's probably because we are jerks and people don't like us. But maybe - just maybe - it's because we refuse to throw the baked brie out with the bespoke cocktails. Then again, it's my house. I'll serve spinach artichoke dip if I want to. Next thing you know I'll be passing around wine coolers and  spritzers.

How very "fizz-forward" of me.

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