10 Phrases Food Writers Should Stop Using Immediately

By Sarah Miller June 20th, 2016

Hey, food writers. I understand that it’s hard to think of 100 different ways to say that high-quality grilled meat and $13 ice cream sandwiches taste good. I feel for you. But please leave the following in the rack when seasoning your prose.

1. What’s not to like?

As in “Spicy, silky, richly decadent—what’s not to like about Chef So-and-So’s brie-harissa calzones?” or “Sweet, tangy, ocean-fresh—what’s not to like about Bobby Joe’s By-the-Sea’s oyster ceviche?”

Indeed, it sounds as if these dishes are blessed with an array of complimentary flavors, but you can communicate this without rhetorically asking which of them I don’t like.

2. No-brainer

“Taco night? No-brainer!” “Fondue for a winter party! No-brainer!” “Rosé with roast chicken?” This is also a no-brainer.

Poor you that you are so often called upon to say what a good idea it would be for someone to eat something at a specific time or pared with another dish. Sadly, saying “no-brainer” over and over does not solve that problem.

3. Veggies

I can—sort of—empathize with the desire to shorten the word vegetables. When, however, it became clear that the result was a word merging both adult dirtiness and childish whimsy, a word that sounds like a name for skin-colored rubber flaps that you’d attach to your fingers and wave at people, this project should have been abandoned.

Understand: the word “veggies” lives at 100 Deal Breaker Road, in Deal Breaker City. If you call vegetables “veggies,” you need to reevaluate everything about who you are. Everything. By the time you’re done, you should realize the fact that you used to use the word “veggies” was the least of your problems.

4. Al fresco

“Al fresco” is not preferable—in any way—to the perfectly good word “outside.” Also, if you’ve mentioned a patio or porch you don’t have to add the word al fresco: “We dined on the patio, al fresco.” No. You might as well tell me you went hiking outside.

5. Scarf

You may use the word “scarf” if you’re talking about fabric tied around the neck for decoration and/or warmth. If, however, you are trying to say “eat quickly” then say, “eat quickly.”

6. Sip

This is more for editors than writers: “Sip” is a tough word. You don’t want to use it a lot. I like wine, I like good wine, and still, thinking about a place where I might go to “sip” makes me envision of a bunch of jerks hanging out together. In the ’90s.

Above all, remember that wine bars are never “sipping sites.”

7. Indulge

“Indulge” is just a gross word. It brings to mind a pig wearing a lot of makeup eating another pig wearing a lot of makeup, which then orders dessert.

8. Perfection

The other day, in a well-respected publication, I read the phrase “pancake perfection.” Granted this is doubly bad because of the alliteration, but “roast chicken perfection” and “chocolate chip cookie perfection” are also monstrous.

“Perfection” is such an unforgiving word, and cooking and eating are just not that big a deal, unless of course you’re starving to death, which never applies to people reading cooking articles. Perhaps more importantly, no one should ever admit to eating pancakes.

9. Snag

Anytime I read the words “snagged a table” or “snagged a spot,” I immediately picture someone self-important and cruel whose enjoyment is dependably heightened by the sense that others have been displaced. I imagine “snaggers” perched in their coveted corner or bay window, ostentatiously oohing and ahhing over their food and drink as the people who were planning on sitting there before stare miserably, mouths watering.

Also, why use snag when there’s this fantastic word: “got.” Listen: “We got a table up front so we could watch the tuna fleets come in.” Another neat idea: “seated.” As in: “Of course it’s preferable to be seated away from the door, but the burgers here are worth the occasional burst of cold air.” Don’t worry—you already sound like you think god has smiled on you, but at least you can manage to sound this way using plain English!

10. Vino

Wine is not vino. It is wine. This is because we are in the United States and not in Italy. This should be obvious to you, but if you require proof, please observe the relative dearth of mopeds and the fact that you think the word vino is cute and not just how everyone says wine.

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