language, like food, is ever-changing. likewise, the descriptions, phrases, and words we use to describe food mutate and adapt to match our current cultural perspective. as ideals change, so do our descriptors. just as jonathon swift mutates meaning in his satirical essay "a modern proposal," so, too, do our modern cookbooks, food commentators, and cuisine-centric media create, adapt, and continuously reinvent our culinary lexicon.
to put this in perspective, a (baker's) dozen years ago, the term "food profile" (which i absolutely despise) would have meant complete gibberish to us. thanks to the food network with shows like iron chef america and the steamrollering force of anti-cookery movements like modern molecular gastronomy, we now collectively understand food profiling to be the processes of centering a dish around a certain food or flavor. (nutrition profiling is a healthy food, european, classification system focusing on macro- and micro-nutrients. sounds like a good bit of nonsense to me.)
serious eats hosted a food poll a few days ago entitled "food terms you should stop using in 2010" and featured such vocabulary horrors as "mouthfeel," "foodgasm," "toothsome," "healthful," "flexitarian," and "food porn." while most options you could guess what distasteful definition matched which nauseating term, other expressions, such as "rezzie," were just bizarre. (apprently some ghastly person came up with "rezzie" as an abbreviation for reservation. i would hate to see what foods they put on their plates.)
even better than the terms offered up by serious eats were the expressions mentioned in the reader comments. besides the dangerous fugu, is a dish ever really "to die for?" but then again, it is all a matter of taste. you may hate "sustainable," "sammies," and "nom," but i find "yummo" and the growing practice of referring to foods by their elemental make-up (i.e. "protein," "carb") annoying. "food pairings" are at least what they sound like, although "food pairings" and "food profiles" both seem to give off a ridiculous air of foodie elitism.
what all of this builds up to is a world in which food and restaurant reviews consist almost entirely of jargon and stock essay formatting. television chefs, who once held some semblance of dignity (and may still have a bit... on public broadcasting systems, but who watches those channels anymore?), have been redefined as larger-than-life "personalities." gimmicks and formulaic editing rehash the same ideas over and over again, and still we put up with "meatatarians" and watch idly as "organic" degenerates into a brand. (humans are omnivores, i'm sorry. i don't care if you don't like veggies; meat and potatoes equals omnivore. that's just how it goes.)
there's not much we can do about this. the universal unconsciousness of culture sits idly by as the elite consciousness of marketing teams decide which terminology is in fashion and which is defunct. my own small battle against these overwhelming forces is with the term "food pairing." industry moguls, like starbucks, hit upon the concept of pairing food and beverages to increase sales. our society leans toward the vapid and poor decision-making side of things as it is, baiting us further seems cruel. my modest aim (insert trumpet-call-to-arms here) is to take the banality of "food pairing" and make it at least somewhat sensible. henceforth, "pairings" here will refer not just to a combination of food and beverages, but also media and the interconnectivity of physical food and conceptual ideas. and, like most things i write, there will hopefully be at least a small dose of irony to stave off pretension.
not sure what i mean? we'll try our first pairing soon.