Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Language of Food

Entree comes from the French word "to enter". However, in America, we use it to specify the main course. In France, it seems to be the more accurate "first course". So the French is correct, right? Well, yes and no. It turns out that the "entree" was once a meat dish served in the middle of the meal. The American usage adopted this, and expanded to include any main dish. Meanwhile, the French moved it more towards the start. Neither is exactly what it originally was, but both showed the gradual evolution of the language of eating.
The Language of Food has many other interesting insights from the words we use to describe our meals. Low cost restaurants are likely to use general terms like "tasty". Expensive restaurants are more likely to focus on the origin of their food. You can fairly accurately identify the price range of the restaurant by analyzing the language. You could also see the "trends" of restaurants as the top restaurants attempt to invoke the popular feelings, while the lower-end restaurants gradually play catch-up.
Our descriptions of food give hints to their origins. We eat beef (French), but raise cows (Anglo Saxon) This is because the upper class spoke French, while the peasants spoke Anglo-Saxon. And a turkey? This bird was found in the New World. However, the Portuguese wanted to keep things secret. Since it looked similar to a Guinea Fowl, they let it be called after the eastern country of Turkey.
The book has many more historical nuggets of food terminology as well as modern analysis of how we talk about food.

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