The 17 Most Egregious Food-Writing Cliches
As someone whose job is basically to eat Korean chicken wings and then write about how good they are, I’ll readily admit there are times when I’ve crossed the line from waxing poetic about food into just beating metaphors out of a dead horse (metaphorically of course). Anybody who’s written about restaurants for a living has surely fallen prey to dull, empty language from time to time. Even Anthony Bourdain has typed the phrase “cornucopia of flavor” at some point. But then he hurled his laptop out of a train window in disappointment. These are the 17 food-writing cliches currently circulating that hurt our eyes -- and souls -- to have to read.
When describing something that’s meant to be eaten, it’s a good rule of thumb to steer away from language that a dermatologist would use to describe a boil. As barf-inducing as these two words are apart, the frequency in which they’re used together is even more disturbing. If I read “this burger oozes with gooey cheese” ever again, it had better be as part of an incantation to ban that sentence from ever being written in the future.
Intimate dining area
The ambiance of a restaurant can be romantic, sure. I even have a waning tolerance for spots feeling “cozy” -- even though restaurants are not sweatpants -- but in no way is the dimly lit booth where you’re about to take down 2lbs of fettuccine Alfredo an intimate (i.e. carnal) experience. If you mean to imply that the space is private, secluded, or comfortable, then just say so. Save “intimate” for naked old people holding hands in outdoor tubs during boner pill commercials.
Remember during the early 2000s when people thought is was appropriate to say chips or cupcakes were "like crack"? Food writers still do that today, just with the word "addictive" instead. Pies are not addictive. Bob Saget never s’d d’s for pies.
“Yum, this food is soooooo foody! I love to eat my foody food with some drinkalicious drinks!” This is the message you’re sending when you describe things that inherently have flavor and taste as flavorful and/or tasty.
Saddle/sidle up to the bar
Or just, you know, sit down.
Cooked to perfection
Do you mean cooked properly, like it should be? You wouldn’t say a picture was “painted to perfection” or a building was “built to perfection” because you’d sound like a bland idiot. Either give readers some sense of how the dish was prepared or more accurately describe what makes it so damn perfect.
Melt in your mouth
Most everything you eat, through the magic of saliva and mastication, will at some point melt in your mouth. Unless of course you’re eating bricks or mattress pieces, in which case you should consult a doctor or at least a TLC producer to line up your own TV show. Substitute “melt in your mouth” with the term “chewable” and decide if you still want to use it.
Like all beautiful ideas, the artisanal dream -- superior foods made attentively (and, in some instances, pretentiously) by hand -- was alive and well up until it was co-opted by corporate stooges in search of the culinary equivalent of “synergy.” That’s when “artisanal” winds up plastered on Tostitos bags and Domino's boxes and society agrees that the word has lost all meaning. Every time you parrot back the word “artisanal,” an evil CEO makes plans to cut down another swath of the rainforest.
The word once meant the little guy busting his ass to make a small batch of beer that didn’t taste like gutter runoff, but "craft" is well on its way to becoming the next "artisanal." It’s up to writers to see through the smokescreen and know when a craft rye whiskey is actually made from some factory in Indiana.
Can't we take the glass-half-full/sushi-not-rotten approach and assume the fish is fresh? Places that use leftover fish or dangerously dark tuna should still be ripped apart, but for the earnestly good sushi spots, let’s move beyond the fact that rolls are just safe for human consumption.
“Brunch, you know that meal between breakfast and lunch”
Nobody on Earth doesn't know what brunch is. Even body snatchers from other planets who track our behavioral patterns know that we bring our moms out for French toast at least one afternoon a year.
Wash it all down with...
Or just, you know, drink it.
“Slathered” is the new “moist,” and you should consider yourself lucky if you’ve made it more than three sentences into any BBQ writeup without coming across the grossest word imaginable to describe covering meat in sauce.
Exposed brick walls
When describing a new bar or restaurant, there’s a line between capturing the style of the decor and needlessly describing the walls. “Furniture made from reclaimed barnwood? Oh fun! A dining room with exposed brick walls? Oh my God, I need a change of shorts! This restaurant is like no other place in the history of mankind! I LOVE WALLS!!!”
A little [slice/taste/piece] of heaven
Describing foodstuffs as an embodiment of all things holy is not only overdone but also sanctimonious. But you probably saw that from your holier-than-thou ivory tower, didn't you?
It's a cheeseburger... with Gouda... oh, screw it. Maybe it IS transcendent. Just save this for when you really mean it. Don’t ruin transcendent for everyone!