1. Foodie: What does this term mean exactly? That one likes to eat, that one cooks a lot, that one knows a lot of esoteric things about culinary history, that one watches Top Chef? Whereas "gourmet" has, justly or not, a slightly elitist or effete connotation, "foodie" seems to be used mostly to describe the amateur, the home cook, those with passion (another word that should be banned from use unless you're a romance novelist or a Days of our Lives writer) about food. Which would be, what, a large percentage of the world. Get a better word. Preferably one that sounds like it wasn't coined by a kindergarten teacher.
2. Smackdown: Whether you're using smackdown or throwdown to describe your kitchen contests, U R not Bobby Flay. Of course, one could argue that Bobby Flay might have done better than to steal a word from Wrestlemania for his made-for-television BBQ fests, but I guess something more classically minded wouldn't have had quite the same cachet with the folks at the Food Network. Whatever. Save this one for Mickey Rourke blog posts.
3. Bounty: Blame the rise of farmers markets, maybe, or the cadres of writers now trailing chefs and farmers between the market stalls with their cameras and cell phones. Celebrating seasonal fruits and vegetables is good, of course, but maybe write about what produce tastes and looks and smells like, or where it's grown and by whom, or possibly what to do with it, instead of rhapsodizing about the stuff as if you just scored some schwag from a Mel Gibson premier.
4. Iconic: A few years ago an internal memo went out to all Los Angeles Times writers and editors (not too long after the one notifying everyone that Robert Downey, Jr. was in the building. See The Soloist.) asking them please, please to stop using this word in all copy. It went out to everybody, not just those on the Religious Art beat. Is a cheesecake really iconic? A hot dog? A gratin dish filled with mac-n-cheese? Probably not, if you really think about it. Sadly, there was no internal memo concerning overuse of Proust references or exclamation marks.
5. Artisanal: Used to be, artisans were guild members, craftsmen and women who built chairs and baked bread under often Dickensian conditions. These days this adjective is used with the same indescriminate abandon as "natural." What does it mean? Usually not much except higher prices. Literally, the word (from Latin) means having to do with art. Art. Well, that's a pretty nonspecific term too. Is a baguette a work of art? Of course it is. Unless it's a bad baguette, in which case there's probably a more specific word for that too.
6. Alfresco: Italian for 'out in the fresh air,' more or less, this term seems to be used whenever somebody writes about pretty outdoor dining, whether it be a beautifully laid out picnic basket and hors d'œuvres that would make Martha Stewart weep, or a table on a quaint trattoria patio, or under an umbrella on a beachside front deck. And while no one disputes that outdoor dining is particularly wonderful, unless you're writing about a trattoria that is actually in Italy, and better yet, you are writing in Italian, alfresco seems ridiculously pretentious. Open the door. It's called outside.
7. Delicious: Okay, adjectives aren't easy. Especially if you have to describe something that tastes really good, and you have do to it again and again. Tasty is stupid, yummy only works if you're still in elementary school, delectable means your thesaurus is probably stuck together with demi-glace. But really, if you like something then it's probably delicious, at least in your mind, and thus you can think of something better than that. Besides, delicious tells the rest of us exactly nothing about the item in question.
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8. Offering: How this word got into such wide usage in food writing is baffling, although it probably dates to the time when everybody started using PR releases as primary sources instead of talking to the people who actually make the food in question. Offering is a great word, but it's one that should be restricted to Old Testament scholars rather than people describing tasting menus. Okay, if you're writing about a sacrificial lamb, fine, or maybe even a whole goat roasted in a pit the size of a jacuzzi. But otherwise no, absolutely not.
9. Resto: As well as resy and a good many other inane abbreviations. Resto, which is presumably for people who can't be bothered to write out 'restaurant,' sounds like a cross between a rest home and a pasta shape that someone thankfully reconsidered. At least e.v.o.o., though stupid, still makes sense, as it is an abbreviation of a long string of words and it is useful to distinguish between a mis cup of this expensive stuff and a cup of more pedestrian olive oil in a restaurant kitchen, when you're scribbling stuff out with a Sharpie while taking reservations.
10. Mixologist: The term bartender is admittedly old school, but a mixologist sounds like someone who works at the Fermilab. Yes, we realize that the happy alchemy that occurs behind the bar has been elevated in recent years to even more of an art. There are ice cubes that should by rights be on display at MOMA, tinctures built with the kind of precision that Chanel used to create her perfumes, combinations of spirits and spices and fruits and God knows what else that are sublime. Cheers. Calling the man or woman who makes you a drink, even a very good drink, something that showy doesn't bestow upon them any more credit. It just makes you sound like you want yours for free.