Monday, January 11, 2016

Bad names: by mistake, by comparison, or for deceit

Lately I've been noticing a lot of bad use of food words.  A few examples:

Any cocktail in a conical stem-glass is a "martini."

Any sort of starchy dish, made with grain of any sort, is a "risotto."

Then there are the users of words like "panini" (and they always use it in the Italian plural, never in the Italian singular "panino") to refer to sandwiches which have been grilled.  That's fine, but to Italians, "panino" is just a sandwich, of any sort.  This distinction of a panini (Lord, I hate even writing it that way) as a grilled sandwich is purely an American usage insofar as I can tell.

One of my recent favorites is the "turkey porchetta."  Oy!   Again, just because it's a piece of meat that is seasoned with herbs, rolled up, and roasted does NOT make it a porchetta, a term which is reserved for pork, naturally.  The turkey porchetta was posted on Facebook (on The Food Lab page).  I posted a response, saying that a different word or phrase should be used, as the dish was not pork, and got a snarky response from Food Lab guru Kenji Lopez-Alt, basically telling me to mind my own f*cking business.  Nice stuff.  I deleted my post and unfollowed the page.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  

In the same way, "turkey bacon" is an utterly ordinary term these days, and no one bats an eye.

The granddaddy of all misused food words has got to be "bruschetta."  (Forget about pronunciation at this time.)  "Bruschetta" has morphed from the toast or crouton on which some sort of savory or sweet nibble is placed, to the name for the common chopped tomato-and-basil salad that is but one of the thousand varieties of toppings for bruschetta seen in antipasto platters across Italy. 

Moving from bad usage to deceptive usage, there is the habit among vegetarians and their nastier cousins, the vegans, to name everything they eat after something that is NOT vegetarian or vegan:  tempeh "bacon," eggless "mayo," cashew "yogurt," vegan "ice cream," vegetarian "cheesesteak," and so on.  If everything you eat has to remind you of something the food lacks, then perhaps you're eating wrong.

The Just Mayo eggless "mayo" folks go full deception: their package label has the outline of an egg on it.  Yeah, "we're not trying to deceive anyone here."  Uh huh.