Monday, June 13, 2005

Menu copy

One of my many annoying traits is my tendency to be a fussy eater. I'm not a person who dives into new culinary experiences out of a spirit of adventure or camaraderie; I have a very defensive attitude toward food, particularly certain vegetables and condiments, which give negligent waitstaff the potential to unsuspectingly ruin my day at any given meal. I am hamstrung by a contradiction: I want to know everything about what I am going to eat before I eat it, but the more I know, the less I'm likely to want to try it. My palette has been expanded only by stealth, or by ethnic restaurants where the dearth of information has forced me to blindly blunder into realms -- often entrail-related -- I would have certainly avoided otherwise. Nothing puts me off more than elaborate descriptive menus, the ones with many effete adjectives and arcane verbs like "julienned," as these always arous suspicion. I hate the sense that I am supposed to be digesting the flowery copy rather than the food. And I don't want to know what sort of mushrooms and other should-be-unmentionables are in the "reduction" or what have you. Language is the enemy of sensual experience, here as in many other arenas in life. Language tries to make gastronomic taste a verbal skill, tries to reduce it to le-mot-juste hunt of hyperliterate connoisseurs. Those who are bullied by such jargon must be thankful for it, as it authorizes their pleasure and appears to elevate their taste, but I in my inferiority complex never fail to resent it, for the same reason I hate ad copy; it is trying to talk you out of trusting your own senses. The more pervasive such copy is, the harder it is to escape its baleful influence.

1 comment:

  1. I can vouch for this: Rob is definitely a very picky eater. But I agree about the flowery menu copy. How the heck is a "reduction" different than something that you (accidentally) left on the flame a bit too long? By that definition I reduce things all the time.