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The Dumbing of the Kitchen

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HistoricFoodie View Drop Down
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    Posted: 23 April 2014 at 06:48




Well, it happened again. Another celebrity chef using a food term randomly, and, thereby, changing its meaning.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been a professional writer and editor for 50 years, and am fully aware that language is a living thing that evolves and changes. But when those changes are established arbitrarily, they become meaningless. And we no longer communicate.

This is an especial problem with groups that have their own jargon. And trade group faces this problem, and cooks are no exception.

For instance, my pet peeve, in this regard, has always been the misuse of the word “sauté.” Sauté means to fry, over high heat, in very little oil. It literally means “to jump,” which is what the food does when it’s sautéed correctly.

Come the healthy food proponents, who start to write cooking instructions like; “sauté in a little water…..”

Bzzzt! Wrong! Thanks for playing! When you cook in water, you are variously steaming, poaching, simmering, or boiling. You most assuredly are not sautéing. Taking out the oil may or may not be healthy (the jury is actually still out on that). But it certainly means that you cannot sauté.

Another one high on my list is the way celebrity chefs---particularly current and former Food Network stars---use the term “heirloom.” As in, “…..those good heirloom tomatoes.” They make it sound (and I really believe they think this is the case) as if “heirloom” is a specific variety, rather than a class of things. And many of them who do recognize “heirloom” as a class description are amazed to find out it applies to more than tomatoes.

What got my panties in a bunch this time was this clown doing the cooking segment on one of the morning shows. He’s going to teach us his method for making sliders. My problem wasn’t with his flavoring components, nor with how he arranged it on the bun, nor even with his choice of bun. It was with the very concept. What he did was start with a quarter pound of ground beef.

Excuse me? A quarter pound is the standard weight of any hamburger.

Sliders, originally, were what White Castle called their mini-burgers. There is, as I recall, about 1 ½ ounces of meat in them, or maybe a bit more. There are other things marking those sliders, such as the holes in them (so they could be cooked without flipping, donchasee), and their square shape.

White Castle never took the proper steps to protect the name, however. So, when mini-burgers became all the rage a few years back, restaurants started calling them sliders. And the name stuck.

There, by the way, is an example of word evolution. “Slider” went from describing a very specific product, to describing all mini-burgers.

But now, if we’re to believe the joker I saw the other day, “slider” applies to any hamburger. And if that’s the case, then, as a culinary term, it’s lost all meaning.

I could go on. But I’d rather hear what y’all think. Do you have examples of culinary terms that have gone bad, because some recipe writer wanted to change the meaning? Or didn’t know what the term meant in the first place? Or was just being arbitrary?

Have there been times when you were confused by a recipe because the terms used didn’t seem to apply (like sauté in water)?

Or am I the only one bothered by this apparently growing trend?
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pitrow View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 April 2014 at 09:43
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:


But now, if we’re to believe the joker I saw the other day, “slider” applies to any hamburger. And if that’s the case, then, as a culinary term, it’s lost all meaning.


I agree with your post on the whole, but just to further complicate things, when I had first heard of sliders, it did apply to any burger. I have no idea where I had heard it, but it was described to me as a Navy term for burgers. Burgers were sliders and hot dogs were rollers, based on their movements as the ship rocked in the swells. But I've only heard it once many years ago, so it could be pure BS.
Mike
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 April 2014 at 18:07
i can't think of any right now, but I know exactly what you mean, and agree. 

This might be a good thread on which to keep a running tally of these malapropisms as we encounter them, and to discuss them.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 April 2014 at 18:48
I dunno, Mike. I served on two different ships---a tin can and a command cruiser---back in the 60s, and never heard either term used that way.

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2014 at 09:24
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

I dunno, Mike. I served on two different ships---a tin can and a command cruiser---back in the 60s, and never heard either term used that way.



Yeah, I'm fairly certain it was some made up BS, as I've never heard it again since.
Mike
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2014 at 15:26
The thing is, though, that it's one of those things that sounds right, if it isn't. It's not just the explanation, but all that supporting data as well.

What was that line in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence? "This is the West, sir. When the legend is different from the truth, print the legend."

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 July 2015 at 17:47
Ummm, here,at least, a slider is a red eared turtle or a little patty of hamburger in a dinner roll, with nothing on the meat.
:<)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 July 2015 at 18:46
If both the bun and the patty were square, Drinks, you'd be pretty close to the original White Castle Slider. In addition to the shape, its hallmark was the five (?) little holes. They served too functions: you could cook the slider without turning it, and, if the customer wanted onions, you just dropped them on top, and heat coming through the holes cooked them.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Tom Kurth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 July 2015 at 17:25
I can't contribute any food related malapropisms, but as an English major, I waver back and forth between amusement and angst when I hear some perfectly good word being mangled. One of the most amusing is when the phrase 'take for granted' is morphed into 'take for granite' because the modified term actually makes sense, or since, or cents depending on how adept you are with the English language. What is often at the root of this kind of problem is the very nature of the English language. English is like the Borg of Star Trek--it conquers by assimilation. The result is a unique stew of Latin, Greek, Teutonic, Celtic, and thanks to the British Empire, just about every other language on the face of the earth.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 July 2015 at 09:23
Do not forget the famous vacant brain phrases, " I mean, You know and Duhhh!"
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AK1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 July 2015 at 23:35
I hate the fact that people use the word  "supposably" instead of "supposedly"

Anyhow, why should we be surprised that we have a dumbing down of the kitchen, when it seems like there is a dumbing down of life itself?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 July 2015 at 08:01
    myself, I don't have as much of a problem with people not using proper grammar as I do with the absence of common decency and independent thought.  We've ended up with a bunch of sheep following around egotistical self centered losers that we (society) calls leaders.  

  We have the majority of businesses serving quarterly reports rather than serving their customers and employees.  I don't want it and I don't need it.  It's part of the reason I moved out into the country.  Well, at least the best I can do still being near enough to work and family. 

   I recently got back from a trip, with my brother and ten year old son...we went to Northern Mississippi Hill Country for a music picnic.  You had scores of people of all different backgrounds, colors and economic classes there.  Many of us were camping for a couple of nights...people were genuine and treated everyone else like...well, like people should treat other people.  

   I suppose I'm a bit off topic, I apologize.   I turned off Food Network many years ago because they started to serve the ratings rather than the education/entertainment of food and cooking.  

  gotta go>>>
Enjoy The Food!
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