Posts tagged “vocabulary”

Art theory jargon (could be designer-y jargon?)

A recent comment by Candy Minx introduces me to another word I don’t know: flaneur. Wikipedia sez it’s “a detached pedestrian observer of a metropolis, a ‘gentleman stroller of city streets’.” Reminds me a lot of reading blogs, with the ironic distance we keep; tracking memes, gossip, interesting stories, across a densely linked architecture of information, a metropolis of a new sort, perhaps.

The history of the term, perhaps, and I’m way out my depth here (hoping that by attempting to explain it naively I might somehow learn a little bit), connects to a time when pop culture was gaining relevance in contrast to “art” – something that was kept hidden away in galleries or museums or opera houses. The culture of the street being recognized as its own thing, and the emergence of a connoisseur for that culture. I’m sure you can draw a wobbly line from the flaneur to the trendspotter, although the motivations seem vastly different.

Would you like a bed of Gilory garlic pomme frites with that?

The Seattle Times defines some of the fancy-shmancy words that we’re encountering more frequently in restaurants, including:

Beluga lentils
Day-boat scallops/Diver’s scallops
Hanger steak
Kurobuta pork
Mache (aka lamb’s lettuce, field salad, corn salad)
Marcona almonds
Paddlefish caviar
Panna cotta
Squid ink
Wagyu beef

The article is well-intentioned, but futile, isn’t it? I look at that list and haven’t encountered too many of ’em, but can think of other terms that eventually prompt each person around the table to glance up and mutter “What the hell is Ponzu sauce?”

Menus are my favorite thing to good-naturedly gripe about (note that most of my other gripes are not good-natured). It’s increasingly difficult to make the leap from the menu text to its basic concept, then to a visualization the visual, and then the taste – in order to decide if this is something one would want to eat.

I always cite the (since redesigned) Denny’s menu as a great example – it showed an overhead view of a plate with the actual item on it. Denny’s obviously doesn’t want to add the descriptors, it’s outside their brand…while other restaurants revel in the preparation verbs such as hand-picked, slow-churned, drizzled (and the occasional confusing-as-hell newfangled term, causing us all to look up and mutter “What the hell is ‘flash-embrizzled?’ “).

Next, stir in the geographical adjectives. Tuscan morels, Curincherria oysters, St. Endouille-upton-Styme pickles.

I am occasionally fortunate to go to some restaurant where even if I can strip away the adjectives (okay, that would be chicken breast with mashed potatoes and veggies) what ends up arriving is something that looks nothing like this:
Instead it’s some …creation…something amazing and invented as well as delicious. That’s a rare occurrence, of course.


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