As the New Year beckons, so my mood curdles. Just like that eggnog you’ll uncover at the back of the fridge any day now. A forgotten relic of a Christmas past, merry turned misery. January demands my wine glass isn’t filled quite to the spilling brim, and my plate is more at home to salads than it is charcuterie. Did I say I was grumpy?
Now follows then, the rantings of a middle aged man. Which is to say, feel free to mostly ignore this litany of fist shakers.
You are blessed with a lexicon like no other. A beautiful cornucopia of expression and myriad purpose. Let’s see what you’ve called this here, one moment please while I adjust my spectacles. Ah, yes, I see now. Sando. Quite
Sammies. Noods. Dranky dranks. Stop it. I’m presuming you’re a grown ass adult, please try to form cogent sentences comprising actual words from a dictionary. I’m no stranger to the interfrastic use of made up words for the sake of literally license, but just stop it.
And noms? I see you…
An inexplicably large number of new businesses have ‘shack’ welded to their moniker. Several are now starting to make an imprint here in Utah, expect many more. When it comes to shacks we presently have a Crab, and a Shake, and a Crack. Theres a Green, and a Lam, and a Gyro. There’s many many more. Everyone wants to shack up. I don’t understand the Shackification myself, the best I can conjure is that it alludes to a less than hoity toity affair, you’re all family at the ‘shack, cmon down. Stop it.
Ethnic food and restaurants
I thought we were on the road to seeing the end of this one, but alas no. And before you raise your pitchfork – I’m talking about the lazy use of language. Ethnic food then, at its most benign is thoughtless word spam that means nothing – but at its worse, it’s damaging and denigrating.
Ever notice how ethnic food is never Italian? It’s never French? When people talk about ethnic food they’re talking about Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican and Thai. It comes with the attached inferrration that the food will be cheap. You might get change from a Hamilton.
The late and great Mary Malouf railed against this type of food racism for years. Why, she would rightly ask, would fancy pants pasta be held up as an acceptable way to spend $30; while most Utahns would baulk at the idea of spending half that on lusciously layered lamb bhuna. The former is no more than application of flour, eggs and water – the latter a far more rigorous inventory of flavor and balance and skill. You can put this to test yourself. Spend a bored weekend locked in with a pasta machine and you’ll be a prodigy; try to master the complex array of spice and technique from South Asian cooking? Come back to me in a decade.
Let’s put it another way, ethnic is to suggest that anything that isn’t Westernized, isn’t white shall we say, is somehow different, or even perhaps even less than. Krishnendu Ray (a New York University professor of food studies) wrote this for The Washington Post, “we use the descriptor ‘ethnic’ for “a category of things we don’t know much about, don’t understand much about and yet find it valid to express opinions about.”
Ray, who has written reams about ethnic cuisine, including a forthcoming book, “The Ethnic Restaurateur,” says the term “ethnic food” is used as a way to signify “a certain kind of inferiority.” He even has a $30 theory: Diners, he says, refuse to pay more than $30 for what they perceive as ethnic food.
And before you jump down my throat with accusations of virtue signaling, I am certain I’m as guilty as the next person by defaulting to such lazy language at times. Let’s all just stop it.
We want plates damnit
Not slates, not hooks, nor shovels. I am here to eat, not head down the mine. For defacto proof this exists in the wild more often than not, consult the We Want Plates sub reddit. I’ve watched in horror as many a French fry has escaped my plate at ballistic speed, prodded by a fork and accelerated by a restaurant owner’s wise purchase of slick slate tiles in lieu of plates.
Speaking of which, restaurateurs – please select your dinnerware with more of an eye to function than form. Those shallow rimmed plates might be artful, but they fail at herding my food within my grasp. And not say, the floor.
That picture at the top of page. Donuts on a pegboard. The piece de resistance, the board itself gamely deployed on a chair. Yep, that was here in Utah.
Behave with your damn s’s Utah
This one. This one is the ear-worm of the lingual world. Once heard, it cannot be unheard. I’d never noticed this one for years upon years, but once my wife pointed it out. Oh. God. Utahns love to add to add an s to wherever and whenever and however the moment arrives. Costcos? The same wanton use is applied to pretty much every restaurant out there. Stop it ok.
You are not the Smithsonian. You do not work in the British museum, steward of trinkets centuries plundered. You do not curate.
A table that doesn’t wobble. A glass of something micromanaged by the state legislature. A plate of something gluttonous. That’s all I need to enjoy myself. I don’t need additional entertainment, trust me, I’m good.
If you spy a magician headed your table way, dive under the thing. Duck, cover, pray. The only type of prestidigitation I want to occur table side should be the type of sorcery that occurs with a molcajete and furious pestling action. The same goes for singers, guitar players, dancing, anything that distracts me from my plate. Please leave me alone in my contempt.
Oh god. Why is it laminated. What necessitated the need for this thing to be easily wiped down between diners. What goes on in here after dark?
Laminated menus with pictures
Oh god. Why is it laminated? Obviously the pictures, the precious pictures must be protected from god knows what happens here after dark. Also, why even bother with the words, just hand me a series of brightly bedecked cards with pictures. I shall point to the most colorful.
Laminated menus with pictures with things crossed out in pen
Oh god. Why is it laminated? Why did I laminate this thing? After all the things that went on after dark here, we’re now out of dish B, the only way I can update this thing is with a sharpie. Oh god. It’s all a terrible mistake.
Postscript. This post was brought to you by a trifecta of inspirations including the excessive consumption of coffee, a slowly crescendoing rage, and the burning desire to use prestidigitation in anger. It’s even more satisfying to say than it is to write. Try it.
Keep the conversation going
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Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with multiple local publications from Visit Salt Lake to Salt Lake Magazine, not least helped to consult on national TV shows.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for the better part of fifteen years. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of big words I don’t understand. What they’re saying about me: “Not inaccurate”, “I thought he was older”, “I don’t share his feelings”.
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