The Takeout doesn’t have an official ban on any food words, but I hope you won’t catch us using “yummy” any time soon. There are exhausted tropes in food writing, as there are in any type of writing, and of course the internet only serves to amplify those clichés. But it’s not just food writers guilty of using “flavorful” when we could use… almost any other word. It’s menus too. Slathered, cooked-to-perfection, artisan, melt-in-your-mouth—they all make us sigh a tiny, resigned sigh.
And then there are words and phrases that gross us out a little. (Before you type it in the comments, “moist” is one we try to use sparingly.) There’s no shame in using these words or phrases with utmost diligence, but we wouldn’t be too bummed to see some of these 86’d. Oh, and let’s stop playing edgy chefs and using 86’d all the time, while we’re at it.
Food looks good, I get it. Now that we’re all amateur food photographers on Instagram, melted cheese and dripping chocolate sauce and piled-high barbecue scroll past our faces every day. Those photos are appealing, totally! Now I hope not to be labeled a prude, but “food porn” just feels like the laziest analogy out there, the lowest-hanging of overripe fruit.
Calling that brisket “sexy” weirds me out a bit, because it equates sex with consumption, and usually unhealthy or guilty consumption. What are we even trying to say with “food porn”? That the food looks inviting? Then let’s say that, and while we’re at it, use the multi-tonal, resplendent prism of culinary vocabulary available to us. Let’s do a little better. [Kate Bernot]
I fear that the “resplendent prism of culinary vocabulary” is escaping me, Kate; sometimes I only find limited ways to describe certain things. Trust me, I ran out of words about two years ago. But no matter how sick I get of the work “texture,” I will never substitute the word “mouthfeel.” I think I used it once, in a description of supermarket pizza, of all things, “The cracker-like crust was flaky, with a nice crunch and a crispy mouthfeel.” I am filled with shame. When I Googled my name with “mouthfeel” (like I do every day, what up), that was the only thing that came up, but there may even be another one lurking out there, ready to leave me more shame-filled.
What is it about mouthfeel? It just brings to mind something you should be rolling around in your mouth for a long time, like a lump of coal that will never turn into a diamond. Or a mound of crème fraîche that will quickly get all warm and gross in your mouth. Nothing is as bad as the Brooklyn Nine-Nine scene that describes it “like the inside of your thighs, but with your tongue,” but as with food porn, there’s a disturbing sexual tinge. Even a throw-away line on Bob’s Burgers of “exquisite mouthfeel” inspires the reaction “that one’s creepy, but he loved it.” So let’s ban “mouthfeel” from our writing—no matter how many times I’m stuck using “texture.” Other synonyms welcome. [Gwen Ihnat]
I was going to write about how the word “basic,” often applied to rosé/frozen yogurt/PSLs/other things young women like, is sexist garbage that encourages women to snicker at other women based on the girly things they consume. Oh, lots of women like a thing? It must be bad. But then I got super mad at 10 a.m. and decided to use my ejector seat. So instead, let’s talk about texture (sorry, Gwen). The way other people feel about the word “moist” is how I feel about “mealy.” See also: “slimy,” “gritty,” “gooey,” and other textural adjectives that aren’t “crunchy,” which is fine to me for some reason.
I’m an adventurous eater. I’m rarely turned off by smells (unless I’m in my 20s and the smell is rum), don’t get weirded out by appearances, and am generally pretty hard to gross out. But texture gets me. It’s not experiencing a texture. It’s hearing (or reading) it described. Tell me the texture of the ingredients, if you like—coarse-ground is fine—but I do not want to know what you think my tactile experience of a food will be. It squicks me out. My mouth is a personal space. You say “mealy,” and what you mean is that it has a texture like that of a meal, so presumably something with non-dissolved granules of some kind. That’s what you mean. This is what my brain does:
Like sand, it’s like eating sand, it’s all the little pieces together in a wet pile and then they’re just in your mouth moving around and bumping against each other like teeny tiny rocks, like a very damp beach, or maybe like thousands of itty bitty insects, why is it mealy, did they grind the meal down or did something digest the meal and now it’s mealy, there were maggots oh my god there were maggots, is this cooked properly, shouldn’t this be less gritty, why am I eating this, can people tell I hate this, they can, I am offending everyone, why am I not a better liar, is this hell, did I die, am I actually a ghost, wow I’m really not hungry anymore.
Just say “textural” or something. I’m begging you.