10 truly awful food words

Food politics
Top Ten Most Hated Food Word

Everybody has words and phrases that just put them inexplicably on edge, and the wonderful world of food writing seems to be blessed with more than its fair share of mildly irritating little pieces of language.

You see these words everywhere…on websites, in adverts, on the TV, in cookbooks, on menus. Sometimes, they just come out of nowhere, like those odd management phrases that instantly become popular in the office and disappear even more quickly (my favourite right now is wordsmith…you don’t edit any writing anymore, you wordsmith it. Yes, I do laugh at people who say it).

These are the management speak of food writing, the ten words that should be banished completely from all food writing, for ever:

  1. Crispy – the great Elizabeth Davies used to detest the use of the word crispy in place of crisp.  Elizabeth Davies is not one to argue with, so I won’t.
  2. Moist – often used to describe cakes, moist just seems to have an inappropriately sexual edge to it that’s quite out of place when talking about baking.  The whole food/sex metaphor, for that matter, is completely worn out.
  3. Mouth feel – too scientific and clinical for use in any kind of food writing, mouth feel, is a horror show of a phrase.  What’s wrong with ‘taste’ or ‘texture’?
  4. Delicious – not intrinsically bad, but massively over used and a very weak descriptor.  What does its use add to a sentence?  Usually, nothing at all.
  5. Toothsome – officially described as ‘pleasing to the taste; palatable’, or more inexplicably, ‘voluptuous; sexually alluring’ (I’ve never heard it used in this context, and I really hope I’m not around if it does), toothsome is just a very strange, archaic and slightly odd word.  It doesn’t pinpoint any particular sense or taste or emotion, it’s just an adjective that’s so vague that it’s devoid of meaning. Why any food writer would choose to use it is beyond me.
  6. Gourmet gourmet is an interesting word.  When used correctly, to describe a certain style of high-end, vastly skilled and disciplined precision cooking, it could be fine, but nothing I knock out of my suburban kitchen will ever be gourmet and will never be described as such.  Burgers are never gourmet, no matter what the marketing people tell you.
  7. Yummy – nobody reading this is under ten years old, and nobody older than ten years old should ever commit this word to a screen or sheet of paper. This is now The Law.
  8. Nom nom – I’ve tried to work through the etymology of this terrible, awful phrase, and I’ve got as far back as the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, which just about says it all. Nom nom is apparently the noise he makes when he eats.  That alone should be reason enough to despise it, but I don’t think it does full justice to the disdain I reserve for this particular little phrase.  I can understand why it’s popular – it’s short and packed with naturalistic meaning, an onomatopoeiac word that sounds just like the action that it’s used to describe, if you think it’s OK to make revolting noises when you eat. I’m certain that nom nom is just another one of those passing linguistic fads, and that it’ll disappear as quickly and as suddenly as it arrived.
  9. Treat – this one perplexes me, and I don’t really understand why.  It’s a perfectly good English word that’s largely used in the correct way, but it just infuriates me. Perhaps it’s something to do with the childishness of it, but I’m not sure.  Nobody said this list had to be rational.
  10. Foodie – the mother of them all, the single word I despise above all others.  It’s often used to indicate a community of sorts, to carve off a group of people and pigeon hole them into a nice little, possibly marketable, box. “Over there? Oh, they’re foodies…they like food”. It’s a fake sense of community or comradeship. The angle that really annoys me is the slightly puerile  ‘groupie’ slant to the word and the way it’s used.  Foodie describes people who have a keen interest in food, which is fair enough, but it also has a hugely condescending and dumbed down edge to it.  If you’re a foodie, you’re neither serious nor taken seriously.  The title of this blog sums up my feelings about this word exactly, and I wish I’d have come up with that name before they did.

OK, that’s my Top Ten Most Hated Food Words list.

Do you have any more?  Should they be on this list?

Want to state a case to get one taken off?

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