Thursday, July 19, 2018
Cooking

What the 10 terms Merriam-Webster just added to the dictionary say about our foodie culture

Joining "troll" (as in, a rude person on the Internet, not a bridge-dwelling creature), "alt-right" and "dog whistle," 10 food-related words were added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this week. That's out of 250 new terms, a pretty good ratio that signals the ongoing shift toward a more food-obsessed culture, one that uses terms describing specific beers and sushi rolls enough that they deserve a place in the dictionary.

Plus, as a grammar nerd, I appreciate that these definitions make some strong statements on punctuation and capitalization. Here are thoughts on the 11 additions.

This wasn't already in the dictionary?

Farmers market: Credit the recent emphasis on "local" foods, farm-to-table eating, and the millennial generation's tendency to favor that kind of fare. This definition is interesting, in that it specifically calls out "farmers," as opposed to, say, vendors, and emphasizes a direct relationship between seller and buyer: "a market at which local farmers sell their agricultural products directly to consumers." A reaction to the misrepresentation often seen at many of these markets, where produce that was not actually grown down the street is passed off as such? ( Now is a good time to mention Times food critic Laura Reiley's Farm to Fable investigation, tampabay.com/farmtofable .)

Cordon bleu: Ah, oui, the popular French method of cooking chicken by stuffing it with ham and Swiss cheese? Actually, the term means "stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese," so it can refer to anything prepared that way.

California roll: "A type of sushi roll containing avocado, cucumber and cooked crabmeat or imitation crabmeat with a wrapping of seaweed and rice," but you probably already knew that if you're one of the many who orders this very popular roll.

Cross contamination: I don't think it's a great sign for our general health that this was added to the dictionary just now, in 2017. Hopefully it will ensure more of us take measures to prevent the "inadvertent transfer of bacteria or other contaminants from one surface, substance, etc., to another especially because of unsanitary handling procedures."

Sounds about right

Sriracha: It's about time this condiment got an official definition, as it's practically everywhere these days right alongside ketchup. The definition — "a pungent sauce that is made from hot peppers pureed with usually garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar and that is typically used as a condiment" — makes clear that the word is not a proper noun but a lowercased term, just like its popular red condiment cousin.

IPA: Interesting that the dictionary went with the acronym for this type of craft beer that has exploded in recent years, and not it's longer name, India Pale Ale. The definition gets at what matters, though: "a pale ale made with extra hops."

Froyo: This smooshed-together hybrid word probably reached peak saturation a couple years ago, but at this point, with the proliferation of frozen yogurt shops on every corner, allowing the cutesy term into the dictionary seems appropriate — if also appropriately annoying. The definition? Logical: "frozen yogurt."

Random, but sure

Bibimbap: The word doesn't feel as familiar as the ones in the category above, but once you know its meaning you will realize it's probably meant to nod to a larger food trend that has been mostly defined by a more lackluster word: "bowl." This specific bowl is "a Korean dish of rice with cooked vegetables, usually meat, and often a raw or fried egg."

Choux pastry: Defined as "a very light, egg-based dough used to make pastries," this kind of dough is most often used to make cream puffs and eclairs. It's been around for a while, but we're not arguing with its inclusion. The dough is indeed its own kind of pillowy wonder.

Saigon cinnamon: Also known as Vietnamese cinnamon, this is the "dried, aromatic bark of a Vietnamese tree (Cinnamomum loureirii) that yields a sweet and spicy cassia sold as cinnamon." The slight sweetness is what sets it apart from the regular cinnamon hiding in your pantry.


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