Top 10 Food Words We Love
Cook Books in Pasadena
1. Strozzapreti: Bulky, twisty, hand-rolled pasta from central Italy whose name translates as "priest strangler.'' Allegedly a useful noodle in the arsenal of abused altar boys.
2. Pet de nonne: A kind of doughnut hole eaten by Alsatians in the week before Lent. Translation: "nun's fart.'' I'm sensing a theme developing here.
3. Egg cream: Which contains neither eggs nor cream, but can be really tasty if you freeze the milk until it starts to slush up and remember to squirt the Fox's U-Bet into the drink after, not before you have poured in the seltzer. If you do it right, the head looks a lot like meringue.
4. Phở: Not only does the more or less proper pronunciation of the Vietnamese noodle soup lend itself to all manner of odd restaurant-name puns - Phở King, Phở Real, Phở Kim II - but you get to sneer at the 90 percent of the population who always get it wrong. Was my first Weekly column on the dish, the one you still see blown up to the size of a billboard on the wall of a Chinatown noodle shop, titled "Friend or Phở?'' Bite me.
bowl of phở
5. Sizzle: I just like that one. Sizzle. Sizzle.
6. Ovine: It means sheeplike. Food writers don't use that one nearly enough.
crème brûlée at Marche
7. Brûlée: Written correctly it has one of those hats over the "u'' and an accent mark that points in the opposite direction from that in the inevitably preceding "crème.'' And as a bonus, the action - which usually involves blasting a thin coating of sugar with a blowtorch - is usually either underdone, resulting in an unpleasantly grainy texture, or overdone, which causes the custard underneath to curdle. What food writer doesn't like a guaranteed target to nitpick. If for some reason the crème brûlée is perfectly cooked, you can always sneer at it as a cliche.
8. Friable: A wonderful adjective describing the property of a solid that collapses into powder at the slightest pressure, like sponge candy or certain kinds of dried tofu under your teeth. Unfortunately, almost everybody who comes across the word assumes that it has something to do with the state of being fried, which it doesn't. And a lot of those who do know what it means turn out to be engineers who associate the state of friability with soils. Still - I can dream.
9. Spezzatino: A perfectly delicious genre of stew from northern Italy, but the name for some reason always makes me think of the Pee-Wee Dance.
10. Fool. Or foul. Or ful. Or fül: Depending on who's saying the word to you, it can be either an Egyptian dish of mashed fava beans or an English dessert of mashed fruit folded into whipped cream. One can imagine the possibilities in a scene from Feydeau, or even Fawlty Towers. Also a gift to headline writers: "I Pity the Fül,'' etc.
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