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Snob terminology [Moved from Ontario Board]

Unfortunately, I forget who it was that said that using a French word when an English one will do is one of the truest forms of snobisme.

So, why is it that any form of gravy is often referred to as “jus”?

Any form of chopped vegetable accompaniment to a meat or fish dish is “salsa” (true, this is Spanish)?

Goats’ milk cheese is usually “chevre” (forgive the absence of the accent over the first “e”)? After all, do we call cows’ milk cheese “vache”?

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  1. "au jus" is something pretty specific, and it's not what we would traditionally think of as gravy. Gravy is generally thickened with a roux or some starch. Serving meat "au jus" literally means serving it with the unthickened juices of the meat.

    And chevre is French (or French-style) goat's milk cheese. Just like feta is Greek goat's milk cheese. There are other goat's milk cheeses that have specific names. I don't think calling them by their proper names is snobbery.

    As for salsa, well, it sure is lot shorter to say "mango salsa" than to say "chopped mangos, onions, shallots, garlic and other stuff" on a menu. :)

    4 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      Agreed. I've never seen Au Jus refered to as anything other than Au Jus. It's, as you said, a very specific type of "Gravy."

      That said, Frites?? Why not french fries?? Which is what they are. At least, in the lower end restos.


      1. re: Davwud

        Frites is french for "fries" so they are try to be fancy with that one, sounds more expensive

      2. re: TorontoJo

        In that case, why not call it juice? You can't get more appetizing than "with Cow Juice"

        1. re: TorontoJo

          chèvre as it is used by anglophones (at least North Americans) refers to a specific type of SOFT, fresh goat cheese. In French le (fromage de) chèvre refers to any kind of goat cheese, and indeed cow cheese is vache. There is also ewe's cheese (brebis). Note that the female goat is LA chèvre.

          Salsa (from the Spanish, it also means sauce in Italian) is a very useful word in English, no?

        2. Well I can't think of a better word for salsa.
          It does bug me when people say "bleu" cheese especially when the cheese in question is stilton or gorgonzola or any blue cheese that is not French!

          7 Replies
          1. re: julesrules

            What about chutney or relish??


            1. re: Davwud

              To me a chutney is cooked. I know some salsas are cooked but in general if a restaurant offers me chutney - it is always cooked; if they offer me salsa, it is usually a raw mixture. And I think of a relish as pickle/preserve.

                  1. re: julesrules

                    Just one correction.... Ontarios interpretations of Mexican cuisine aside... the vast majority of salsas served in Mexico's tables would involve a mixture of roasted & raw ingredients... rather than 100% raw (as is the case with Pico de Gallo type salsas that seem to be alot more popular up north than in Mex).

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      I was talking about dishes that don't even pretend to be Mexican - such as, salmon with mango salsa. Maybe we've misappropriated the word, but such is language. When in a Mexican restaurant I fully realize a salsa may be cooked, but outside of one I fully expect a raw mixture (and if I ever get mango chutney or relish instead, I'll be pissed!).

                1. re: julesrules

                  well the french have Roquefort, and if they have gorgonzola and just say Bleu cheese, they are only hurting themselves anyways

                2. Well, I think your examples are basically off base.

                  "jus" connotes a very different kind of sauce or product than "gravy."

                  i'm not sure what you mean about any form of chopped vegetable accompaniment...they're often called relish or chutney or ratatoullie or what have you because that's what they are.

                  When people refer to "chevre" that's because they usually mean "chevre" the actual product and sometimes because they're not aware that there are goat's milk cheese that are not "chevre" (by which most people mean the soft, white, slightly tangy cheese).

                  1. I don't belive that using precise culinary language is snobbish. If I describe something as a jus, I mean the thin pan sauce left after roasting something, and I've never ordered something described as a jus and gotten something else.

                    Ditto the rest of your examples -- salsas are a specific style of fresh vegetable sauce, and I ask for chevre because I want chevre, not some other goats milk cheese. When I want a cows milk cheese I ask for it by name also - swiss or cheddar, for example.

                    I actually think that you trend towards snobbishness when you ignore the common name for something, and use elaborate descriptiveness instead. "A melange of summer vegetables lightly braised with olive oil, basil and red wine vinegar" is a snobby thing to serve. Ratatouille is not.

                    23 Replies
                    1. re: AnnaEA

                      I disagree. That's not snobby, that's practical. Otherwise half the menu readers are going to be asking their companion "what's that?"

                      On the other hand, I enjoy calling the corner of my basement where I keep wine "le cave". Now THAT's snobby ;-)

                      1. re: danna

                        Actually, I love it when a menu includes a term that is new to me...a chance to learn (or maybe even try) something new.

                        1. re: danna

                          I don't get the snob appeal of extremely long descriptions of the food you find at fancy restaurants, partly because I'm also the kind of person who doesn't like to sit through movie previews. Just gimme the grub. I'll tell you if I like it (or my belch will say it for me).

                        2. re: AnnaEA

                          >when you ignore the common name for something,
                          >and use elaborate descriptiveness instead.
                          this may transgress snobbishness but i remember this exchange many
                          years ago:
                          "what is the difference between the 'heirloom tomato' and a regular tomato"

                          "so it's just a tomato"

                          note: the server was obvious uncomfortable with my question because she
                          didnt want to come out and say "it's just a tomato" probably to avoid problems
                          with management, but she also didnt want to bullshit me. so it was a positive
                          experience that became a funny story rather than triggering the "do i look like
                          a bitch" reflex.

                          i think snobbishness is often more about condescention than pretentiousness.
                          i.e. sniffing if you get a cheep wine or mispronounce Gratte Paille or some such.
                          overly ornate, pretentious descriptions are, to me, well, pretentious [assuming not
                          commiting the worse sin of being deceptive].

                          if you really want to split hairs, snobbery can be about "virtual condescention"
                          which is a weaker requirement that actual realized condescention.
                          i'm not a food snob because in addition to good food, i eat lots of 99cent burgers
                          and $2.50 slices of pizza. however i am a newspaper snob, because i think most
                          newspapers and news magazines are crap ... so i dont just have a standard, but i
                          look down on something. a food snob who would never personally eat at mcdonalds
                          may not actually berate other for eating fast fod, simply because it never comes up,
                          but the latent disapproval is there, should it ever arise.

                          1. re: psb

                            to be clear, a heirloom tomato is a "just" a tomato, but not all tomatoes are heirlooms. the term refers to the use of open pollinated seed (the kind you save from generation to generation, hence the word heirloom) rather than hybridized seed on the part of the grower.

                            the restaurant should have explained the difference to the server, who, in turn could have explained it to you.

                            1. re: andytee

                              And, "heirloom" isn't a term of snobbery, its the actual name of the type of tomato in question.

                              1. re: ccbweb

                                ...and to further clarify, there are many, many varieties of heirloom tomatoes. It's my understanding that heirloom tomatoes are quite perishable and therefore don't travel well. So if you're served heirloom tomatoes in a restaurant, chances are they were grown nearby.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  I'm sorry but when you're being sold heirloom tomatoes, these days I think it's complete snobbery. No, "heirloom" is NOT part of the name of the tomato in question, with just a few exceptions.

                                  There was a time when the term had an actual definition. I used to go by the 50 year mark since that was the definition a couple of decades back, iirc. I forget what it was before that. Nowadays since people are cashing in on the heirloom tomato craze, sellers have taken to calling any tomato they sell "heirloom" and so the word has completely lost any meaning. Therefore, these days it is correct to say that an heirloom tomato is "just" a tomato.

                                  1. re: choctastic

                                    Unless it, as you not, the few exceptions and is, in fact, an "heirloom"tomato. I'm not talking about people who are lying and calling a product something its not. Which isn't snobbish anyhow, its just deceitful. It hasn't lost any meaning, its just that unscrupulous purveryors are duping customers.

                                    Nothing to do with being snobbish. Its either the correct description of the product or its not, but the term "heirloom" has meaning and when used correctly, isn't at all snobbish.

                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                      no that's not what i meant. Some varities actually have "heirloom" in the name. like "Orange Heirloom" for instance. That said, I've never seen Orange Heirloom at the farmer's market.

                                      I"m sorry I'm going to have to continue to disagree that the word has meaning anymore. Sellers aren't necessarily the problem. Buyers want to see the word "heirloom" or they won't be as likely to buy and so that is why everyone is starting to call all their tomatoes "heirlooms" even if they're growing relatively recent varieties like cherokee chocolate for instance, or early girl. I'm not saying it's wrong since I want people to buy tomatoes at the farmer's market but the word no longer has any meaning except maybe as a synonym for "farmer's market tomatoes".

                                      1. re: choctastic

                                        Again, the term has a definition. It means something concrete. Just because people don't use it correctly doesn't mean it doesn't have an actual meaning. And, on this topic, it doesn't make it something that is snobbish (is that even a word?) to use.
                                        From wikipedia:
                                        "most authorities agree that heirlooms, by definition, must be open-pollinated. They may also be open pollinated varieties that were bred and stabilized using classic breeding practices. It is currently generally agreed that no genetically modified organisms can be considered heirloom cultivars."

                                        So, if the tomatoes do not meet that minimum definition, then the seller is lying. Buyers may be more likely to buy one label over another, but sellers are the problem if they're using the term in a deceitful way. Its like saying that buyers want cars that get better gas mileage or that are hybrids, so car dealers label Hummers as "hybrids." The seller is falsely labelling their product. The problem isn't that the buyer wants a particular thing, its that the seller is lying.

                                        I'd agree that "heirloom" doesn't literally tell you that you're going to get a better quality or tastier tomato. But that's different than the term not having any actual meaning. So, I'm saying its wrong to call a tomato that doesn't meet the definition of heirloom an heirloom tomato.

                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                          Look, I agree that it would be nice if people actually used the word "heirloom" the same way but they don't. Because of this, the word has lost its meaning. No offense but the only reason why people use it now is to give their goods cachet...aka snob appeal.

                                          1. re: choctastic

                                            If I understand your argument, a few dumbasses misuse the term "heirloom", therefore its meaning is null and void? People misuse and distort words in English all the time: that doesn't negate their definitions. I believe "heirloom" in the agricultural / botanical context has a clearly-defined, well-understood meaning to a reasonably educated audience. Some menu writers lie to make their stuff sound better. This kind of unethical marketing is as old as the hills, but I don't think it has the big impact on word meaning that you seem to think it has.

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              I've not chimed in at all on this thread, but I agree with you. If I see heirloom tomatoes on a menu I assume that they are true "heirloom" tomatoes. If someone's lying to me about it, I probably won't know any better unless I see some sorry tasteless specimens of tomatoes on my plate. That doesn't mean that there is not the place for the phrase "heirloom tomato" on a menu, or that there is anything snobby about putting it there.

                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                Heirloom means open-pollinated, simple as that. Misuse negates nothing.

                                                I would prefer to see restaurants list specific tomatoes (Black from Tulas, Mortage Lifters, Hawaiian Pineapples, Garden Peaches, etc) but Heirloom means something too.

                                                When a server or restaurant uses heirloom for tomatoes that are not this (and heirloom does not necessarily equate "funky colored" so it can be hard to tell) I would say that tells you something about the place in question.

                                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                I don't think they're lying about heirloom tomatoes in most case. It's confusing and I really don't think most chefs, menu writers or the average farmer really know the difference.
                                                Sure, there is a clearly-defined botanical meaning and then there is a tiny grey area. But even on this board - people who know about food - there's all kinds of questions and misinformation. Most of these folks aren't serious gardeners much less botanists. How would they know?

                                                Consumers have come to believe there's some sort of magic in "heirlooms," but not all of them are as tasty as local, vine-ripened tomatoes from varieties that have been grown for decades.
                                                I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that many farmers and restaurants are considering these old garden favorites among the "heirlooms" even though they technically aren't. They aren't intending to deceive any more than the consumers are wanting to eat bad tomatoes. It's just that neither understands a confusing topic.

                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                  The effect is deceitful, though. Especially when it comes to food, you shouldn't call something a particular thing unless you know it. For example, don't say the fries aren't cooked in peanut oil unless you're certain of the information. If you're unsure whether a tomato is an heirloom, don't call it such. Same with organic beef, or free range eggs. These are also things that consumers want and that restaurants want to sell, but you don't name the things on your menu those unless they are.

                                                  Accuracy is important with food. There are allergies, preferences, religious requirements and safety to be considered. So, unless you're certain about what something is or isn't, just avoid the term. You can still call a tomato "local, fresh, never refrigerated, hand-picked..." etc etc.

                                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                                    With "heirloom" veggies, the question becomes what you actually know. There's a lot of argument over varieties.
                                                    People generally agree that Cherokee Purple is a true heirloom but what do you do with Chocolate Cherokee which isn't stabilized? People might honestly get confused by Cherokee which is VF.
                                                    Everybody's been experimenting with these old varieties for generations and while there's general agreement on hundreds of varieties, there's still a lot of cultivars that can get serious gardeners in a tizzy.

                                                    I'd prefer that everyone sell "unbelievably good, locally grown, vine-ripened tomatoes," providing true heirlooms when they know what they're doing, but that ain't gonna happen when many consumers have come to believe that heirlooms are automatically superior, every vendor is chasing them and a lot of people don't know the difference..

                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                      i think where this "heirloom subthread" went is hilarious.
                                                      anyway, i dont remember at what restaurant this episode
                                                      unfolded, but i assure you it was a pedestrian enough place
                                                      where heirloom had no meaning and it was just a regular tomato.

                                                      re: dumbasses and misuse ...
                                                      i dont think it is so much a matter of ignorance, but the possible
                                                      lack of a labeling standard. for example it's clear what darjeeling
                                                      tea is supposed to mean. but in reality, who knows what you can
                                                      infer about the orgin of any random tea labelled "darjeeling".

                                                      so i think part of the dispute above is between the prescriptivists
                                                      and the descripitivists who are claiming "heirloom now means
                                                      what ever people want it to mean".

                                                      if i decide to call iceberg lettuce with thousand island dressing
                                                      the House Bespoke Salad made with Special Lettuce and Special
                                                      Dressing... whether you call that snobbish, deceptive, pretentious,
                                                      stupid or just annoying... i dont think anybody can argue it is "wrong"
                                                      or "innacurate" as you could if OJ labelled freshly squeezed was
                                                      actually Minute Maid concentrate.

                                                      1. re: psb

                                                        I'll avoid the heirloom issue and only eat Jersey tomatoes.

                                                      2. re: choctastic

                                                        Thanks, choctastic. Your posting just proves the point.
                                                        Some serious gardening sites call Chocolate Cherokee an heirloom, while others don't. The old Cherokee Purple is over 100 years old. The Chocolate mutation is relatively new and was only recently stabilized by LeHoullier, a reliable collector. Most seed catalogues didn't have it until 2004.
                                                        How many times have we heard heirlooms defined - with great certainty - as "old varieties" of tomatoes "that have been around for a long time"?
                                                        Does the term have any meaning any longer in common usage?

                                                        A vine-ripened tomato from a local farmers' market or your own garden is Summers' greatest pleasure. I agree with you that we should stop worrying about the terminology.

                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                          Heirloom is code to me for: they might look lopsided, be really weird colors, kind of expensive and we may just serve you a plate of tomatoes with some little dollop of something on the side, but don't be alarmed, these are really really really good tomatoes and they don't all taste the same. But if I'm at someplace that sells a "tomato plate" and doesn't at least distinguish that it's a variety of different types of tomatoes, I'm going to just order the water. Bottled.

                                                          1. re: Cinnamon

                                                            If all you want to eat are heirlooms, you'll likely miss a few delicious non-heirloom tomatoes and get stuck eating some inferior-tasting heirlooms that are grown only for their unusual color or other factors. You might not even like many of them.
                                                            The conversation above pointed out that there are many non-heirloom, aka hybrid, varieties that have unusual shapes and colors, delicious flavors and a variety of taste sensations while some heirlooms are grown only as curiosities or for other reasons.

                            2. Why is using multiple languages snobbish? Seems a very xenophobic North American attitude. Being able to use words from other languages to name foods is useful and interesting, especially when the food in question is inspired by a different culture.

                              As many have pointed out, your examples don't really make a lot of sense. Chevre is not just any goat cheese, but a specific type of fresh cheese. There is also goat feta, goat brie, and many other goat cheeses. Chevre is one type, just like Manchego (Spanish) or Stilton (English). Salsa is used many ways in Spain. In North America, it tends to refer to a chopped or pureed melange of fruits and veggies, and usually implies some punch, either from chilis, or from onions or the like. Jus ("Au Jus" means served with Jus is a very specific thing as well, and calling it "Juice" would just be confusing - who wants OJ with a Roast Beef? Even Frites, which someone else mentioned, carries a different implication than "French Fries" or "Freedom Fries" or whatever. Typically, I would expect frites to be thin cut, served in a paper cone, with something other than (ot at least in addition to) ketchup as a dipping sauce. Some places misuse the term, sure, but doesn't mean we should abolish it's use.

                              20 Replies
                              1. re: andytee

                                Well, personally I like the way certain words just roll off the tongue. My family just laughs at me when I say things like, "I'm going to the kitchen to begin my misenplase. While I'm in there, I need to depouiller my fond brun. Then I must prepare a white mirepoix for my fumet, and finally, I must thicken the stew with a beurre manie!" Yes, just me and my own little language in my own little kitchen! (Yes, I know. It doesn't take much to entertain me.)

                                1. re: cookingschool

                                  So I was having dinner with a few other women at a friend's home a couple of weeks ago. The hostess had prepared a small platter of crab-stuffed mushrooms -- one mushroom per guest. I remarked, "Oh, what a lovely amuse buche..." Everyone at the table turned and looked at me like I had just landed from the moon of another planet. I think I need some new friends.

                                  1. re: cookingschool

                                    >"I'm going to the kitchen to begin my misenplase"
                                    if somebody said that non-ironically, i feel confident
                                    it would make a bad first impression on me.

                                    >I must thicken the stew with a beurre manie!
                                    maybe you should use "shall" over "must" and work in
                                    some expressions like "comme il faut".

                                    you can strive to speak thusly ...
                                    "i shall arise and go now, and go to the cuisine
                                    and a white mirepoix build there, of celery and oignons made
                                    neuf haricots verts, i will have there, as i prepare my beurre manie"

                                    [apologies to WB Yeats]

                                    1. re: psb

                                      <maybe you should use "shall" over "must" and work in some expressions like"comme il faut".>


                                      1. re: cookingschool

                                        expressions like "okey dokey artichokey" are much more down to earth :-)

                                        1. re: psb

                                          Would it be okay to just say "I'm mise-ing"? I mean, doncha have to mise, even if yur jest cookin' up grub?

                                          1. re: cookingschool

                                            people say mise all the time-- it's just a term, and anyone who cooks professionally (or is a serious home cook) knows what it is. . .

                                            saying that english-speaking people shouldn't use french phrases like "mise en place" when cooking is a bit like saying that american botanists should never use latin words when speaking to each other. makes no freaking sense. that said, hotoynoodle's anecdote below is pretty funny-- reminds me of a new restauranteur who tried to get my dh to do the whole "chef, yes, chef" thing, when they'd cooked together in a bar years earlier. . .

                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              obviously there is no brightline between precision and and snobbery
                                              but it's closer to a "i know it when i see it" type of thing. if at the close of
                                              dinner of take out chinese or pizza i said "shall we debouch to the parlor
                                              for cigars and brandy" when i dont have a parlor, and am not offering up
                                              any Romeo y Julietas nor any Remy Martin XO but just mean "oh leave the
                                              mess on the table and let go watch tv in the living room", i'm obviously
                                              being humorous. but if some bowtie wearing WF Buckley wannabe fop
                                              said it in earnest, well it would be a snobbish manner of expression ...
                                              it doesnt really matter whether debouch is a perfectly good word in english.

                                              i suppose you can draw a distinction between "natural" snobbery from
                                              the mouth of the manner born ["whom" "shall", all in a posh accent] and
                                              an affected snobbery ...

                                            2. re: cookingschool

                                              The only way to solve this is a hunger strike.

                                      2. re: cookingschool

                                        not to be picky, but it's mise en place. maybe that's why you're family giggles.

                                        i worked for an american chef who briefly went through a phase of trying to call the orders in french. he does not speak french. it was hilarious. he did not see the humor in it like we did.

                                        then again, i think most of us are used to our families having a little fun at our expense!

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          But "misenplace" is pronounced the same as "mise en place" -- so unless he was writing his family a note. they'd have no cause to giggle.
                                          I, personally, like to say, "I'm busy misenplacing."

                                      3. re: andytee

                                        Sorry for being annoyingly nit-picky, but Manchego is sheep, not goat cheese.

                                        1. re: Zabalburu

                                          I don't think andytee was saying that Manchego is a goat's milk cheese, rather that its the name of a cheese like Stilton is the name of a cheese or chevre is the name of a cheese.

                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                            du jour - of the day
                                            en croute - in pastry
                                            coq au vin - chicken in wine.

                                            depends on the restaurant - in some they look snobby and in others the words work right.

                                            1. re: smartie

                                              Well, come of these terms although may seem to be pretentious does have a use when being used to refer to a version of the dish that harkens back to an "authentic" version of a dish by that name.

                                              When you see "coq au vin" on a menu, if you know of the dish in question then it is easier to determine what the restaurant may serve as opposed to "chicken in wine".

                                              1. re: Blueicus

                                                Exactly. Coq au Vin is not "drunken chicken". Ratatouille is a pretty specific combination of vegetables and herbs. Gazpacho is neither "cold vegetable soup" nor "salsa soup".

                                                Provencal, saltimbocca, Veracruzana... all of these imply certain ingredients will be in the dish, if not a specific style of preparation.

                                                In other words, it's not snobbishness, it's shorthand.

                                                If you don't know that term or others seen commonly here, why not try to learn them and use them appropriately instead of suggesting snobbishness on the part of those who do understand them and use them correctly?

                                                I'd imagine that one of the goals of the folks who founded CH was to expand both the range AND vocabulary of cooks interested in the foods world around them. Don't want to put words in their mouth, but gotta think they had a higher purpose in creating this than just enabling a bunch of strangers to discuss the merits of Kraft vs. generic mac and cheese.

                                                1. re: Panini Guy

                                                  I agree, Panini Guy, except I'd say it isn't even shorthand....its just the name of the dish or the food. Nothing snobbish about it

                                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                                    I agree. It's like knowing that a bleeding heart is a "dicentra", a foxglove a "digitalis". If you aren't familiar with such names you're lost at many nurseries/greenhouses and reading most gardening books/articles.

                                                    The "common" names for plants often vary with time and region, the Latin botanical names don't. And the same thing is true of many culinary terms.

                                                    I like to teach my grandchildren terms like buerre manie/frissonne/mise en place. They might seldom or never use them, but they'll know what they mean when they hear or read them.

                                                    I agree that you can generally spot a showoff who uses such words just to impress. On the other hand, there are people so insecure and touchy they resent anyone who uses words they don't know. (Remember the man who was fired for correctly using the time-honored Norse word "niggardly" re: his inadequate departmental budget? Even when it was explained to them, some of the dingbats still considered it offensive.)

                                            2. re: ccbweb

                                              yes, thanks for clarifying, ccbweb.

                                        2. I tend to think of menu prose as serving a few functions (my list isn't exhaustive):

                                          * It's describing food and food ingredients using precise, accurate terms, or metaphorical ones (e.g., "salsa" for a raw chopped salad of fruits and herbs used as a condiment) to get the concept across evocatively and/or economically

                                          * It's trying to underscore the restaurant's mood or style. Think of this as marketing, trying to position the place in your mind as haute, casual, fun, innovative, authentic, etc. I guess this is where a lot of places fall down: they come across as faintly ridiculous (as in the wine list that uses Robert Parker-esque prose to describe a table wine that retails for $6 a bottle), pretentious (enumerating every ingredient, its pedigree, and source, down to every little sprinkling of garnish), cutesy ("Play Pen" for "Appetizers"), or ham-handed (using inaccurate terms, misspellings, etc).

                                          * It's trying to entice you into ordering as much as possible. It wants you to be intrigued, tantalized, appetized. It's selling you.

                                          * It's earnestly trying to educate you. I recall a nice little one-page essay on fine Greek wines at a high-end Greek restaurant in Boston (the late, lamented Meze Estiatorio). I quite appreciated this, as I know little about Greek wines, and they were clearly passionate about getting their patrons to learn about and try and enjoy Greek wines with their food. It was actually very helpful.

                                          * It's conveying official information, e.g., "undercooked meats, seafood, eggs can cause food-borne illness", "18% gratuity automatically added for parties of 6 or more". You know: the fine print.

                                          I guess menu prose might be snobbish if it came across as condescending, which I have to admit I can't recall seeing much. ("Coq au vin, or chicken in red wine for you uncultured numbnuts.") I can't imagine many places thinking this is the way to win customers over.

                                          Of course, it's the duty of management to train its waitstaff well enough that they can accurately explain and guide you through the menu, whatever the style of restaurant. A server should know that there is indeed a difference between heirloom tomatoes and other types, and be able to explain what that is. I have to admit, I was faintly bemused to learn from a menu that there such things as heirloom legumes, but presumably the chef had a reason to use them and brag about them.

                                          A few places do manage to go over the top: there's a suburban Boston restaurant called Apocrypha that seems to be deliberately obscure, or at least trying way too hard. You can get an idea of what I'm talking about here: http://www.boston.com/dining/globe_re... My guess is that they're just aiming to make the experience seem special, extraordinary, and have just gone a little nuts with the idea.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            Agreed, MC Slim, with one note - if I'm eating at a place and it's telling me meats are from Niman Ranch, that's telling me something about the food and the proprietor (a positive). And if the menu is noting the names of local farms for produce and meats, etc. I take that as positive info as well - not as snobbery.

                                            OTOH, if the menu says something like "greens washed with acidulated mineral water", then I know I'm likely in for a long night.

                                            Unless of course it's the French Laundry.

                                            1. re: Panini Guy

                                              I personally like those explicit, name-everything menus, but that style can seem like a bit much at mid-level places.

                                              The ones that really crack me up are the gee-whiz!!!! descriptions at horrendous boil-in-bag Chotchkie's-like casual-dining chain outlets. "Some pizza shooters, shrimp poppers, or extreme fajitas?"

                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                Sounds like a case of the Mondays.

                                                Those long-winded explanations make me tired. I must have FADD, because after reading five words in the explanation, I get distracted and have to read it over and over again. "Pan-seared Alsatian duck breast with a balsamic-bing cherry ragout reduction and mascarpone foam over wilted arugula and braised....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....."

                                              2. re: Panini Guy

                                                There Jfood stands in front of the chickens in the grocer. Choices include Perdue, B&E, D'Artagnan, White Gem, Holly Farms, etc. Prices range from $149 to $7.99 per pound. Would jfood buythe Perdue at $7.99, nope, how 'bout the D'Artagnan at $1.49, yup.

                                                Likewise when jfood is eating in a resto and the resto serves a particular brand that indicates a type of feed method or the like, and Jfood would like to try that type of product, very much appreciate knowing if it's D'Artagnan quality or Perdue quality.

                                                Jfood has ordered a Niman Ranch just to check out what all the fuss was about. Is it snobby, can't get there, but then again jfood is a sponge for information.

                                              3. re: MC Slim JB

                                                a good summary

                                                per apocypha: food humor is even more annoying than classical music humor, and in a similar manner, it's gonna just be dorky and confusing to your average person just wanting dinner, and jarring to their dining experience rather than making it memorable. it's a really bad move on their part.

                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  MC Slim's characterizations are spot-on, I think. I suspect what the original poster partly intended was to point out that some restaurants are not using their words out of service to the diners but in an attempt to sound more special than they actually are. I wouldn't expect a French restaurant to avoid French terms or even necessarily translate them, but at some other types of restaurants - depending partly on how specific and gourmet their preparations were - I would consider it a service to the dining public to disambiguate the items on the menu. It's partly about effective marketing and courtesy - not as a restauranteur turning your nose up at diners but making great food accessible. If a restaurant chooses to load up on foodie terms on the menu, at least instruct the wait staff to ask if diners have any question about menu items, or explain a little at least when citing specials.

                                                  This thread calls to mind a place in an L.A. suburb that's a cute little town near the beach - El Segundo - that is somewhat blue collar. It's a refinery town. Interesting restaurants are arriving here and one of these is called Farm Stand. I'd thought of it as possibly a stab at 'Midwestern' food from what I'd heard, but tried it and learned that at least one owner is Persian and one is French or Italian. I'd learned to love lamb fesenjan at a Persian restaurant elsewhere in L.A. When we tried Farm Stand, I realized that some dishes indeed had not just maybe a Midwestern but a Middle Eastern influence. They didn't mention fesenjan at all but had on the menu:
                                                  Walnut & Pomegranate baked chicken with walnut & pomegranate puree & basmati rice.
                                                  That, to me, was careful and appropriate marketing.

                                                2. In French, we call the cheese you call "chèvre" "chèvre frais". At first I found it odd hearing people speaking English and talking about "chèvre", but they weren't snobby people at all, and they were just being precise.

                                                  1. I think it's about the setting in which the words are used.... boef en croute et coq au vin in a french style restaurant is great... and if I were to see something on said french menu I ddin't know, I would have no compunction against asking, to further expand my food vocab.

                                                    Same with seeing skordalia in a greek/greek style resto.. or in a fusion resto.. as long as it's with a greek style dish.

                                                    What I heartily object to (and this has happened to me) is seeing "morrocan tangine lamb on a bed of garlic skordalia and red wine jus" on the menu at a country Australian pub.

                                                    a lamb chop covered in Masterfood's "morrocan Spice" mix, some mashed tatties with garlic butter and some gravox with cheap cask red by ANY name is still just that.

                                                    1. The English translations for many Chinese dishes at places in the US are often inaccurate and variable (different places translate the same dish differently) that I much prefer knowing what the precise name is in Chinese so that I know what I'm getting. It's not always easy to figure the dish from the just the translation alone.

                                                      1. Here's one that did have me rolling my eyes recently... a restaurant billing itself as French, but including pastas and cesar salads on the menu.. the French language menu! In an English-speaking city. It was a pretty clear indication to me that it wasn't a restaurant I wanted to eat at. If a menu is going to be in French in English Canada, it had better be a very, very French or very, very Quebecois menu. Not primarily pastas and cesar salad.

                                                        1. I dont particularly care when restaurants use fancy or foreign words to describe their dishes. I get the impression they are hiding something or exaggerating a simply prepared dish. Perhaps, they believe food tastes better if given a French name.

                                                          And worse than snobbery is deception on the menu. I've learned "root vegetable" can mean anything not of animal origin.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: tom porc

                                                            I'm not sure what you are referring to here, but "root vegetable" refers to a plant you eat the root of - carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabegas, celeriac, and could also be used for plants you eat the tubers of - potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.

                                                            1. re: andytee

                                                              The last restaurant I visited evidently considers celery to be a "root vegetable."

                                                              1. re: tom porc

                                                                As in, something described as being served with "root vegetables" was served with celery instead, or as in, celery was part of a melange of veggies described as, say, "roasted root vegetables" and some of the veggies were roots, just not celery?

                                                                1. re: andytee

                                                                  "root vegetables" and I got dish of celery with a few diced carrots. It was a bit deceptive and snobbish. Why not just say mixed or vegetable of the day? I was hoping for some good root veggies like parsnips, rutabegas, carrots, onions, etc. They are inexpensive and easy to prepare.

                                                                  1. re: tom porc

                                                                    Maybe they ran out of celery root!

                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                      Maybe. Next time I'll ask for specifics when a menu has a general description.

                                                            2. re: tom porc

                                                              It depends on the place in question. French places aren't the only ones with foreign words on the menu. At a most Chinese places, I often prefer having the Chinese words on the menu so that I know exactly what I'm getting as the English translations can often be inaccurate.

                                                            3. Case in point- snob terminology- poster on home cooking board who asks if s/he needs to parboil the veggies cooking including green beans and mange tout.Seriously, mange tout?? Another poster indicates that they are sugar snap peas. Who the heck buys mange tout in their local gorcery store.

                                                              84 Replies
                                                              1. re: emilief

                                                                Umm... anyone in the UK buys mange tout, this is a well used and common term over there. Just because it is not commonly employed in the US does not make it snob terminology.
                                                                A quick check shows that the poster you refer to is based in London.

                                                                1. re: claireh

                                                                  If they are in UK I understand. But, do not think mange tout is even uncommonly employed in the US (unlike haricot vert-the label used by Whole Foods on french green beans). Well, I guess I will go cook some mange tout.

                                                                  1. re: emilief

                                                                    They were in the UK. The poster is based in London. In the UK, they call snow peas "mange tout". If you said "snow pea" to them, they'd look at you like you were crazy.
                                                                    It's like us saying "stroller" and them saying "pram". Not snobby, just differences in our languages.

                                                                    1. re: emilief

                                                                      aren't haricots vert different from green beans- aren't they thinner?

                                                                        1. re: nummanumma

                                                                          Yes, they are definitely thinner than green beans. I think they call them French Beans?

                                                                          1. re: nummanumma

                                                                            Yes - they are - but I do think that emilief was referring to "french green beans" being called "haricots verts".

                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                              ok but i'm Canadian and that's what we call them? So i guess we have to be sensitive to regional/ cultural differences, rather than assuming someone is a snob.

                                                                              1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                Oh - I wasn't suggesting you shouldn't call them haricots verts (I spent 6 years in Canada!). All I meant was that emilief said that haricots verts are the same as "french" green beans, which, as you point out, are indeed different from "regular" green beans. I guess I was trying to point out that the two of you were in fact in agreement - albeit not v. artfully on my part! I actually also would say haricots verts rather than "french green beans" - had never really thought of calling them that before.

                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                  Are we talking about "haricot verts" vs. "frenched" green beans? (Or did I just add another type of bean to the pot?)

                                                                                  1. re: troutpoint

                                                                                    I was guessing that the poster meant that haricots verts = french green beans, rather than "frenched" ones.

                                                                      1. re: emilief

                                                                        Possibly the same people who purchase aubergenes (eggplants in the US - http://www.foodsubs.com/Eggplants.html ).

                                                                        Would you also take issue with someone who mentioned scallions instead of green onions (also called spring onions in England and shallots in Australia [not sure what American shallots are called in Australia, though - anyone care to chime in?])?

                                                                        This is an interesting site for further reference: http://www.foodsubs.com/

                                                                        1. re: ElsieDee

                                                                          I am beginning to note a disturbing trend: that unfamiliar or foreign terminology (specifically non-US) seems to be regarded as snobbish. How odd given that unfamiliar foods are embraced as 'authentic' ;)

                                                                          Other language choices might be a matter of precision. I'm not clear on why it is snobbish unless the person hearing/reading the term is somehow beating themselves up for not knowing the word, and is then eager to cast that self-doubt outwards.

                                                                          There is snobbism, to be sure, but it usually can't be conveyed in a word, but more in a context, yeah?

                                                                          1. re: Lizard

                                                                            You're completely right to note that trend. That is exactly what's going on and this thread is demonstrating it quite well.

                                                                            In my experience, most people who use such terms are using them because either 1) it is more accurate or 2) its the term used regularly where ever they are from. Shockingly, that's often not from the US.

                                                                            1. re: Lizard

                                                                              If a menu uses foreign or unfamiliar then it must explain what those words mean. Most places do this in a small font underneath. If they dont then the customer has to ask what this means what that means, etc.

                                                                              I have more problems with restaurants using general terms and not being specific. "seasonal vegetable" "mixed greens" "root vegetable" "vegetable of the day" "cream sauce" "starch" "cheese" "herb crusted" "spices"

                                                                              1. re: tom porc

                                                                                <If they dont then the customer has to ask what this means what that means, etc.>

                                                                                Yes, and so what. By all means, ask, there is no problem with this and any place that looks at you funny for asking a question about the menu has a service problem. However, there is no way a restaurant can design a menu all people will completely understand. Some people don't know what "poached" means, some might not get "julienne", again, that is why you ask questions. If you want to know what the "vegetable of the day" is, you don't call the restaurant snobbish, you just ask your server.

                                                                                1. re: andytee

                                                                                  Asking a couple of things is no problem but I dont want to have the server go through most of the apps, entrees and desserts explaining what it is, how it's prepared, what accompanies it, etc. Why not just have better menu decriptions? Those of us novices can learn the foreign or culinary terms.

                                                                                  As far as "vegetable of the day" goes. Have seasonal menus or insert in the menu what the fish/veg/soup/fruit is for that day. How can I decide what to chose if I dont know the choices?

                                                                                2. re: tom porc

                                                                                  there would be a lot of white-out on menus everywhere if you couldn't put "soup of the day" or "vegetable of the day" on menus. items like these have more to do with available sourcing and use of existing food stocks than anything else.

                                                                                  if the chef can get cases of zucchini cheap, that's gonna be the "vegetable of the day" for a while. maybe a small producer shows up with some great asparagus-- hold the chicken noodle soup until the weekend, lets make an asparagus soup instead until it sells out, or a "vegetable of the day" is a melange of several mostly-empty cases of vegetables used in tuesday's banquet, with a couple of orphaned peppers, some bok choi, a small amount of carrots that need a good home. . .

                                                                                  the only chefs who plan menu "vegetables of the day" months in advance get the vegetables from cans-- they work for school cafeterias and hospitals.

                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                    I also see more frozen veggies in restaurants.

                                                                                    With the small amount of vegetables they serve on my plates a case of zucchini would last 6 months.

                                                                                    1. re: tom porc

                                                                                      At least it's not the dim dark days where canned was the rule.

                                                                                      1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                        That reminds me of a story my dad told me. Long ago in a restaurant somewhere in Scotland he ordered a steak with fried mushrooms. About a half hour later steak shows up with no mushrooms. My dad asks the waiter about the mushrooms, his response "We're no gawn ti open up a whole can jis fer you sonny!" Incidentally when he cut into the steak it was still frozen.

                                                                                3. re: Lizard

                                                                                  <I am beginning to note a disturbing trend: that unfamiliar or foreign terminology (specifically non-US) seems to be regarded as snobbish. >

                                                                                  Yes, thanks for saying this. As I said when I first posted, it strikes me as both xenophobic and uniquely North American.

                                                                                  Since when should we expect the right to have everything explained to us without having to ask questions? There is this strange assumption that we ought to
                                                                                  feel dumb for having to ask for information, that someone has placed an unfair burden on us by not spoon-feeding us. And tied to is is the assumption that what we don't know, most other people don't either, and what we do know, everyone should. An assumption of universal understanding.

                                                                                  The real world isn't like that. Thankfully, communication solves most issues of understanding, if you try it, and in a restaurant, you have someone whose job is to attend to you and answer your questions.

                                                                                  1. re: andytee

                                                                                    There's a big difference with asking a quick question or two and having the waitress sit at your table and explain most of the items on the menu and having her repeat it 15 minutes later because you forgot a few things.
                                                                                    And reading is an excellent form of communication. And unless menus come with audio CDs they must be printed and read by the patrons. Why not have an English or laymen's translation beneath each item?

                                                                                    Latest word used snobily ... ragou^t. I got a plate of beef stew. So why not call it beef stew?

                                                                                    1. re: tom porc

                                                                                      Oh, tom porc, how low do you want restaurants to go?
                                                                                      They assume that most diners have enough vocabulary past the Dinty Moore stage to know that a ragout is a type of beef stew. Do you expect them to give definitions for everything? "Parsnip: a long, thick, sweet white root used as a vegetable; similar to a carrot."
                                                                                      If you eat out at all, read CH or food media, you're going to know almost all of what's on most restaurant menus unless it's a new ethnic experience. Then you have to treat it as a learning adventure anyway - those places will never put "beef stew" on their menus.
                                                                                      Sure, we all have to ask about some things but we shouldn't expect menu vocabulary to be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.

                                                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                        Agreed! Besides, fewer people would order "Beef Stew" in a restaurant since most people can make a perfectly good stew at home. Now Ragout, on the other hand...

                                                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                          Why wouldnt restaurants say "beef stew" if that's what a ragout is and that's what you are getting? Why use the French term when an English one is understood?

                                                                                          And you have seen parsnips on a menu? Where! Where?

                                                                                          1. re: tom porc

                                                                                            I hope you have more than one recipe for beef stew, tom porc.
                                                                                            Just like you used French "term" instead of French "word," we use different words because language adds richness and variety just like different preparations and recipes adds richness and variety. A ragout is slightly different than a stew, bourguignon, daube, goulash, carbonade, bouilli, au Lambic, etc. You can call someone a "doctor" or your can say he's an internist or obstetrician. One term tells you the bare minimum while another gives you much more information.
                                                                                            Everything a restaurant does adds to the overall experience. Otherwise they could call their dishes by the plainest names (which would require a lot more explanation) plopping the food on melamine plates on formica tables under brightly lit florescent tubes with no music or flowers. It's all part of increasing the pleasure and honoring the experience. Like putting a frame on a painting.

                                                                                            Parsnips? The French bistro in my neighborhood, that also served salsify a lot this winter. Now they've moved on to sorrel for Spring...

                                                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                              The restaurant can call their food anything they like but I prefer if they had a descriptive blurb underneath. And as accurate and specific as possible.
                                                                                              When I asked our waitress what is a ragout. She said a stew. Ok good. I love stew but I should have asked her what were the "root vegetables" that accompanies it. I got small chunks of meat (actually it was boar so not beef I'm sorry) with diced carrots and celery. The whole plate was as dry as the Sahara. They gave it a fancier name that turned out to be a very ordinary dish with a (too) high price tag. I alerted the snob police.

                                                                                              I believe restaurants purposely add some snobiness to the place to give it a little mystique and justify the higher prices. While I appreciate the flowers, recorded music and attractive wallpaper and tablecloths, I'd rather that energy put into better food.

                                                                                              1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                I always have the opposite reaction to paragraphs on menus. When they give a perfectly adequate description of a dish that most people would be expected to recognize and then proceed to explain it's like saying: For you people who aren't as sophisticated as we are, we'll tell you what this is before we take your money. Saves us the tedium of explaining to the peasants. So condescending.

                                                                                                Sounds like you hit a primo example though of a mediocre dish at a restaurant that did a poor job of describing a menu item that they also cooked poorly. They probably should have described it as Ragout of Boar, especially to head off the dingbat waitess giving the dismissive, incomplete explanation. "Root vegetables" was also a trendy thing this winter that made too many cooks lazy and allowed them to throw in a bunch of el cheapo carrots. No imagination. I hate pretentious crap like that.
                                                                                                High prices + snotty attitude + poor service + pretentious menu + mediocre food = no return. I would have been as turned off as you were.

                                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                  you can often pick out an awesome server by pointing to a menu item and asking her/him to tell you about the dish, or to describe the day's specials. the server's description will be at worst as tom porc describes (or, **OMG*** an "i dunno"), and at best an animated, articulate description that covers ingredients, cooking method, source of ingredients, how the dish looks and tastes, and perhaps a helpful comparison to a more familiar food. if they're really on the ball they'll throw in a wine or side dish rec-- all in a friendly and non-condescending tone. at the end of their explanation you should want to order the dish and bump up their tip percentage. an uninformed, unenthusiastic server does not bode well for their own performance or the quality of the restaurant-- when i stumble across these zombie-like servers i usually order an app, tip well, and enjoy the rest of my meal elsewhere so as not to get ticked off by poor service and poor quality food.

                                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                    Did I get taken in by a pseudo-trendy, pretentious, snobby fine dining wannanbe? At least I lived through it to learn from it. And I had such high hopes for the entree. I never tasted boar and thought it would be great to have it stew-like with tasty (and different) "root vegetables." While the meat was tender it was too dry to be braised. So I dont know how it was prepared. Guess I should have asked that too. And the carrots were bright orange so my guess is that it wasnt cooked with the meat but dumped on the plate afterwards. I did enjoy the sesame ginger dressing on the "asian" caesar salad. My DC enjoyed her salmon and ratatouille (the waitress described it as stir-fry). Although I wondered if it had all the ingredients its supposed to have since it looked like gray mush. She also liked her creme brulee. They torched the crust nicely, however, my "NY style" cheesecake was closer to jello no-bake. They had an extensive wine list with 25 offered by the glass but we didnt drink.

                                                                                                    1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                      Maybe they Googled "Food Trends." One from Column A, one from Column B...
                                                                                                      You nailed them in your description in the first sentence. They're wannabes and the waitress was more clueless than the "chef."
                                                                                                      Wonder who chose their wines? Thank your lucky stars you didn't venture down that path...

                                                                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                        I fell for the "trendy" once. I wont do it again.

                                                                                                        I'm glad I didnt order their duck confit. I never had duck before and was tempted to try it.

                                                                                                        1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                          Yep, duck confit. You probably dodged another trendy bullet.
                                                                                                          Sounds like you might have some uncharted culinary territory to cover if you haven't yet tried things like duck and boar. Maybe trendy places - particularly iffy ones - aren't the best ones to to try for yardsticks to learn what these things should taste like.
                                                                                                          How about looking for a simple established French restaurant that has gotten good reviews over a long period of time. Not a fancy place, no haute cuisine, stuffy service place. They might do duck well. Some Italian places might have boar on a winter menu. Once you know the basic flavors, when you encounter it at more adventurous restaurants, you'll know if they did a good job or messed it up. You could even venture into cooking it at home once you know how it's supposed to turn out.

                                                                                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                            Duck Confit "trendy"? It's a classic dish that has been around for centuries.

                                                                                                            1. re: andytee

                                                                                                              Actually, it's a method of preserving food by cooking it in its own fat and storing it covered in that fat to prevent it from coming in contact with air. The meat was removed as it was needed throughout the year and used in various dishes. I have a vat of wild goose confit in my basement fridge right now.
                                                                                                              The recent trend was making it up fresh, serving it by itself as an appetizer, using it to top salads, etc. The New York Times printed a recipe for Turkey Wing Confit, for example, that was intended as a fresh entrée. That's very different than the traditional method of using it to preserve food. It actually tastes better after a few weeks or months.

                                                                                                              1. re: andytee

                                                                                                                Absolutely, and like so many classic dishes that have been around for ages, it became trendy again. Pesto one week, aioli the next. Trendy is often just a way for people to latch onto one ingredient to make them feel educated as opposed to learning the context of the cuisine. What's in expensive restaurants one year will trickle down to pricey in 2, medium-class in 5 and Denny's in 10. Duck confit with your skillet slam anyone?

                                                                                                                1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                                  Ten years ago on Seinfeld, George was whining at a restaurant, "Pesto! Why did I order pesto? I don't like pesto. I'm trying to like pesto. You're supposed to like pesto. Where was pesto 10 years ago?"

                                                                                                              2. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                Thanks for your suggestions. I am checking my regional message board for good places to try. It's a little difficult because I live in a "trendy" wealthy touristy area. As the cliche goes, "A fool and his money ...."
                                                                                                                But there must be some gems if I search around. There are a few ethnic places that have quality food that I havent tried before.

                                                                                                  2. re: tom porc

                                                                                                    are you serious? lots of menus put parsnips on the menus, especially in puree form on the side and in soups. they're not particularly exotic.

                                                                                                    1. re: nc213

                                                                                                      You have to remember that even though this is Chowhound, lots of folks who post here have yet to eat at a place that serves parsnips. I've seen the online menus for Cheesecake Factory, McCormick & Schmick and Chili's -- no parsnips. Or turnips or rutabagas or beets for that matter...

                                                                                                      1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                                        May I have all of the above in a soup or stew, please? Except maybe the beets, I'll put them in my salad.

                                                                                                        1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                          There's a LOT more that you can do with those vegetables than soups and stews, for goodness sake! And don't just mash them or roast them.
                                                                                                          But it's Spring now. To be continued next Winter...

                                                                                              2. re: andytee

                                                                                                Andytee, it sounds in this post as if you are saying that many North Americans expect to be spoonfed information at a restaurant because they are actually xenophobic, and that only happens in North America. But couldn't that statement itself be a little xenophobic about North Americans? At the very least, to be valid it would require a complete knowledge of how every other country and caste considers food nomenclature.

                                                                                                In a wider context, it's the case that there are many, many different types of restaurants in North America and that foreign cuisines actually thrive here. In some cases, when people criticize use of a lot of foreign terminology on a menu, I suspect they're saying it's used pretentiously, not well in context. (Sure, some would prefer to have everything explained in their home language. But I doubt that's at all "uniquely North American." It might be less the case in Europe where many languages exist in close proximity - dictated partly by the size of the countries/cultures invoved. But there are wide swaths of the world where there's a pretty singular language and I sincerely doubt you wouldn't hear some of the same issues there.)

                                                                                                1. re: Cinnamon

                                                                                                  <But couldn't that statement itself be a little xenophobic about North Americans?>

                                                                                                  Not to nitpick, but since I am a North American, there is no way I could make a xenophobic statement about North Americans. The "xeno" would not apply. Perhaps I have made a sweeping generalization, but xenophobic? No.

                                                                                                  <It might be less the case in Europe where many languages exist in close proximity - dictated partly by the size of the countries/cultures invoved.>

                                                                                                  Yep, that was exactly my point. Chowhound boards are not exclusively Eurocentric, but are definitely largely so, thus Europe is my point of comparison. However, I suspect a similar tolerance for unfamilar languages and cultural customs would be found in many other countries. Aurstalia and New Zealand have a much greater cultural predilection for overseas travel than North Americans, South America offers a confluence of culture and language that, while it does not compare to Europe, is still significant, similarly Southeast Asia. Most regions of the world developed (read: rich) enough to have a culture of fine dining are also blessed with both the cultural sensitivity not to expect everything to conform to their cultural norms, and the humility to not be offended when they don't understand something.

                                                                                                  Since the original poster has not provided us with any explanation of their statements, I can't speak to their experience, but I am more than willing to say that the restaurant "tom porc" has described sounds terrible. However, I think the issue there is more that they can't cook and don't themselves know the meanings of the words they use to describe their dishes. Nothing "snobbish" about this, it is simply artfully veiled incompetence.

                                                                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                nobody thinks twice about calling them zucchini, an Italian word...

                                                                                                  1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                    Works the other way round too. It drives me batty when people from the US use the term "entrée" to mean a main dish, and not a starter!

                                                                                                    I note with pleasure that the Chowhound recipe page does not do that!

                                                                                                    By the way, a pram is a baby carriage, or buggy (the big ones) - a stroller is a pushchair in UK English. Sorry, professional deformation...

                                                                                                    I don't see many prams these days in Montréal, but they are popular among the Chassidic mums in Outremont and Mile End.

                                                                                                    1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                      You are being too literal about the use of "entrée."
                                                                                                      In the Larousse Gastronomique: "Although in French the word entrée literally means "beginning," it does not in the culinary sense as some people seem to believe. The entrée is the course which, in a full French menu, follows the relevé (remove) or intermediate courses which, in its turn follows the fish (or whatever dish may be served in place of it.)...At a large formal dinner, it is usual to serve several entrées..."

                                                                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                        i think lagatta means how the general use of the term entree is used in the u.s. specifically, as opposed to the rest of the world. overheard 2 young american women on the tube in london complaining about "european meals" and portion sizes-- specifically they were pretty miffed that their fish dish the night before wasn't very filling, it was an "entree", after all. they evidently didn't even bother to look at the menu following the entree section, and had no clue that a main course of sole would probably cost more than 4-5 pounds (convert to present day euros, please). . .

                                                                                                        in regards to much of this thread, i don't think "they" look snobby as much as "we" look parochial and ignorant.

                                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                          Yes, that is exactly what I meant.

                                                                                                          I am aware of the meaning of the term in haute cuisine, but not many of us attend formal State dinners, and if you look at the State dinner President Bush served to the Queen (elsewhere on the board) you will find it is not nearly as much a groaning board as it would have been two centuries ago, in the days of the Council of Vienna, or back in the era of the Sun King...

                                                                                                          1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                            You may not approve, it may even drive you "batty," but the word entrée is used in the US for the main course of a meal. It's in US dictionaries, on menus and used by caterers and in cookbooks. It's not slang. It has a definite meaning and communicates a specific thing which Americans generally understand.
                                                                                                            Chowhound-speak doesn't follow the US convention but lots of people on CH aren't from the US. So using "main" may avoid some confusion.

                                                                                                    2. re: julesrules

                                                                                                      Well, some people do call arugula "rocket". But don't both words come from Europe? Arugula from the Italian, arucola, and rocket from the french, roquette?

                                                                                                      1. re: andytee

                                                                                                        Sure, I just meant that "rocket" is perhaps the most "English" option (used in England, right?) but the North American convention seems to be to use the Italian word. Which doesn't bother me in the slightest... Of course many words in English are borrowed from other languages.

                                                                                                      2. re: julesrules

                                                                                                        Well, some of us do. I grew up with my grandfather growing roquette in his Louisiana garden. Never heard it called arugula until way after I was grown.

                                                                                                1. re: emilief

                                                                                                  Yes, we also call zucchini "courgette" and chicken "pouisson". It isn't snobby at all, that's just how it's commonly referred to.

                                                                                                  1. re: hrhboo

                                                                                                    It is affected and silly for Americans who have been using ordinary words like zucchini their entire lives to spend a little time abroad and start calling them courgettes. Or using other non-standard words. The same with heavily accented foreign pronunciations sprinkled in the middle of English sentences. Not snobby, just goofy.

                                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                      I agree, but if an American moved to the UK they would likely start calling them courgettes because few people would understand the word "zucchini". I'm a Brit living in the US and I call things by what they are commonly known as in the US to avoid confusion.

                                                                                                      The poster above appears to have taken issue with a British person living in London using the name "mange tout" for snow peas, not snobby in the slightest! The person is living in a city where mange tout is the standard term.

                                                                                                      As for throwing heavily accented foreign words into English sentences, if my native tongue was French and I was using a French word in an English sentence, naturally I would use the correct French pronunciation. I fail to see the point of Americanising my pronunciation of French terminology just because I am speaking English.

                                                                                                      1. re: hrhboo

                                                                                                        Didn't somebody say something about Americans and Brits divided by a common language?

                                                                                                        There's a way of using a perfectly accurate pronunciation of a word from any foreign language within a sentence within the rhythm of that sentence without exaggerating it. It sounds natural because it is, as in the example you gave of a native French speaker or perhaps a person who is comfortable with the names of wines.
                                                                                                        I was referring to the use of affected pronunciations in an effort to seem more cultured or worldly. Really bad when you screw it up. Pouilly-Fuissé, anyone?

                                                                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                          I believe it was Winston Churchill....

                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                            I am also a Brit living in the US. We call eggplants aubergines in England, amongst words like courgettes, rocket, hors d'euvres, mange touts, main course (not entree), petit fours, etc. Like the other expat Brit in America I use American words to avoid confusion and blank looks. I even call tomahtoes tomaytoes.

                                                                                                            1. re: smartie

                                                                                                              smartie, when I go back to visit the US, I have to pronounce Spanish names as they're pronounced there or sound like a git: Loss An juh luss instead of Los Ang heh less or Loss Ban us instead of Los Ban yos, for example.

                                                                                                              And what about "brindjle" for eggplant--used in India from the Brits?

                                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                I understand what you are saying, Spanish pronunciation in Europe is different from American Spanish pronunciation.

                                                                                                                the Italian pronunication in the US is also different, pahsta not pasta, parmiagiano not parmesan.

                                                                                                                and I am with you on Indian restaurant words, brinjal, aloo, sag, murgh, bhindi. It probably sounds pretentious to order a sag aloo bhaji and a murgh korma - we know it's a spinach and potato dish and a chicken korma (curry).

                                                                                                                Embrace the differences!

                                                                                                                1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                  Sam and Smartie, just watch. Curry and chutney have been part of regular American food for centuries. Indian food is trendy now and some of it will work its way into regular American cuisine and vocabulary in the same way that Hispanic foods stuffs have. Breyer's Dulce de Leche ice cream is in every supermarket, Doritos and salsa at every party, and tortillas wrap half the sandwiches in kids' lunchboxes.
                                                                                                                  Not all of Indian food will work its way into the mainstream any more than all Latin foods have and it won't be as extensive because there are fewer Indian immigrants, but you'll see the influence.
                                                                                                                  Not pretentious, just the leading edge of great Melting Pot!

                                                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                    could murder a good curry in south fl.

                                                                                                                    1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                      Lot of people forget that Florida has changed a lot with migration of people from other sections of the US and from Latin America in recent years. It's now very different from "old Florida." The Panhandle still has a lot of old South, East Indian and British influences.
                                                                                                                      Some Indian food might come pretty easily to the areas from Charleston to Mobile.

                                                                                                                    2. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                      MY comment re brindjle: I once was asking an Indian farmer in Haryana what else he grew. My researcher translator said, "Brindjle". I asked twice for a translation into English. My guy grew red in the face, repeating, "Brindjle, brindjle! That is English".

                                                                                                                      My Brit friends here in Colombia later agreed that the word "brindjle" was originally from the Brits. So I'm not talking about the introduction of food words from other languages into American English, but the wayward return of another English word.

                                                                                                                2. re: smartie

                                                                                                                  I use all of those words too, but I draw the line at "tomaydo"!

                                                                                                                  1. re: hrhboo

                                                                                                                    As someone who regularly says "tomaydo" because it's what I grew up with, I do agree with the larger point on not "Americanizing" pronounciations of foreign words. Nothing snooty about that - if anything I think it shows a lack of arrogance and greater respect for the subject.

                                                                                                                    And let's remember, there is also efficiency. If I'm prepping a soup or stock and I ask for pint of mirepoix, that's a heck of lot easier than saying, "two cups of that celery, onion and carrot broth thing."

                                                                                                                    1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                                                      I agree with you, if someone knows how to pronounce a word in the correct way then it shouldn't be Americanized at all. Having said that, it doesn't really bother me when Americans utter French words without attempting French pronunciation and just using their regular American accents. After all, the French use English words with French accents, why can't American's use French words with American accents?

                                                                                                                      1. re: hrhboo

                                                                                                                        I agree... the mingling of languages is natural in our globalized, cosmopolitan, modern societies. However, I do get a chuckle when certain people use French words & pronunciation in particular to establish themselves as social superiors.

                                                                                                                        You know what I mean.... the person who brings the French dish at the potluck so that it leads to discussions about he/she learned how to make it while living in Paris.... and then constantly brings up France & French things etc., etc. and you can't just help but saying... its just a stock... any peasant in a 3rd world country can make that!

                                                                                                                        1. re: hrhboo

                                                                                                                          It's possible to use correct foreign pronunciations in a graceful way while speaking English without using exaggerated trillings, gutterals, umlauts, rollings of rr's, etc. Many educated multi-lingual speakers do this easily as they move from one language to the other. Some people will even pause briefly before using an obviously foreign pronunciation as a form of sarcasm to highlight its silliness.

                                                                                                                          Most French say some English words with French accents because they can't pronounce certain English sounds just as most native English speakers can't pronounce certain French sounds. Unless you grow up with them or have learned. This is different than affecting an accent.

                                                                                                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                            There is a difference and it's hard to describe. Molto Mario, I think, uses Italian phrases and they roll off his tongue. When Giada uses them, it sounds like she's overemphasizing them and it grates on me. I don't think anyone bats an eye when Jacques Torres uses a french phrase with the proper accent (He's funny--on his show, he joked about how he learned to say "baking" pan instead of "sheet" pan because people would give him funny looks).

                                                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                              Which is sort of funny, because all three of the people you mention are, in fact (and rather obviously) fluent in the languages you mention.

                                                                                                                              Not questioning your take on it, just pointing out that its all in the ear of the beholder.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                                                Being "fluent" though can mean different things. I consider myself bilingual but English is by far my better language. Obviously Jacques Torres uses both languages with ease and it seems Molto Mario does, too. Maybe Giada is removed generationally from Italian where she speaks it but is far more fluent in English. I don't know Italian to tell how well she speaks it, though I guess she does overemphasizes all her words when you come down to it. FWIW, my university considered me "fluent" in French and sign language...hahaha.

                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                  Having heard her on a couple of the specials she's done in Italy its pretty clear she's both fluent and exceedingly comfortable conversing in Italian. So, I'm guessing she's more fluent than what your college held you to for French or mine held me to for Italian. I think you're right, its just her speech pattern, regardless of language.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                                                    Wasn't she born in Italy and keeps close ties with her famous family? I think she is just plain annoying 'cuz that is who she is.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                      Lol, ccbweb and Eat Nopal, maybe it is just the way she speaks overall that grates on my nerves.

                                                                                                                                      I am proof, though, that just being born in another country and keeping close ties w/ relatives might not keep you completely fluent in that language. Anyone not familiar with the language would think I'm conversant but my relatives say I have an "american tongue."

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                        Wiki says Giada was born in Rome and moved to SCal when she was 7. So she must be able to speak Italian but since she came to this country while young she lost her authentic heavy Italian accent and now speaks like an Italian American speaking Italian.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                                                    Bingo! You nailed it, ccbweb. They're obviously fluent and they're not just putting on airs in an effort to impress people. That is so different from someone using words, especially with an exaggerated pronunciation, when they obviously don't speak the language, to a group of people who are going to look at them and say "Huh"?
                                                                                                                                    The whole purpose of speaking is communication, not to prove that you're ever-so-much smarter than other people. That's disrespectful, putting them down. Probably means that you're insecure anyway.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                                                      "Not questioning your take on it, just pointing out that its all in the ear of the beholder."

                                                                                                                                      This is a great point, btw. I think this whole thread shows that.

                                                                                                                        2. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                          " was referring to the use of affected pronunciations in an effort to seem more cultured or worldly"

                                                                                                                          I call that an "NPR accent"

                                                                                                                          1. re: danna

                                                                                                                            Heh heh. I like that.

                                                                                                                            This thread is hilarious.

                                                                                                                3. So last night my S/O and I went to dinner at a local soul food restaurant - we're semi-regulars there and last night got a new (at least to us) server - she was bubbly, cheerful, and enthusiastic (and quite adorable - pretty much the quintessential southern California server) - however, she was not quite up to the normal service we've previously received at the restaurant (messed-up entrees and sides, non-refilled glasses, etc., but she was apologetic and set everything to right when issues were mentioned).

                                                                                                                  Anyway, my S/O and I chuckled all through the dinner - for when we'd placed our orders, he'd requested the Filé Gumbo and she corrected him, saying, "Oh, you want the FILE Gumbo." (Yep, pronounced just like "file" cabinet.) And then when she brought the entrees, she again repeated "Here's your FILE Gumbo." Really, it was just too funny.

                                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: ElsieDee

                                                                                                                    You and S/O could have sung a snippet of:
                                                                                                                    Jambalaya, crawfish pie, filé gumbo...
                                                                                                                    Son of a gun, gonna have big fun on the bayou..

                                                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                      Was thinking the same, but Hank sang it more like "feely".

                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                        Not only that, he rhymed bayou with gumbo. The ending of bayou is not the long o of gumbo. It's the u sound like the word you.

                                                                                                                    2. re: ElsieDee

                                                                                                                      Similar incident ocurred to me in a Japanese restaurant when we ordered sukiyaki, which my Japanese mother always pronounced as "SKEE-yah-key." When I pronounced it that way, the server corrected me, "You mean the SOO-KEE-YAH-KEE?" She repeated it when she brought me the meal.

                                                                                                                      It was also pretty awful, like Cup o Noodles with beef jerky and extra salt. Worse than Hitler or, more correctly, Tojo.

                                                                                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                        As wrong as is "SOO-KEE-YAH-KEE", your mother was probably saying, "t'SKEE-yah-key" with an initial "ts" sound/

                                                                                                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                          Oh...we always called it skee yah kee and I don't know why I didn't make the connection that sukiyaki and skee yah kee were the same thing until now. The skee yah kee we had at home was not like sukiyaki I've had out but my mom had to make do with what she could find in the 70's in regular grocery stores.

                                                                                                                          I ordered a chicken siciliano (sichiliano) which was on the menu and the waiter had no idea what I wanted. "Oh, the Sicilian-o?"

                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                            I thought there's no "ch" sound in sicily or siciliano...

                                                                                                                            1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                              The "ci" is pronounced "ch" in Italian. Sicilia is pronounced See chee leah.

                                                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                I didn't know this! You learn something new every day here. :)

                                                                                                                                1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                                  the letter 'c" before a vowel is pronounced "ch" in italian.

                                                                                                                      2. Well, in Louisiana we have a strange mixture of Southern American English, French, Cajun French along with a little Italian and Spanish thrown in for some excitement. I don't think it's snobbish at all to see or hear words from those languages used in conversation or on menus.

                                                                                                                        1. One of my favorite quotes from Will and Grace, in a fancy restaurant.

                                                                                                                          Grace: "Is that pie?"

                                                                                                                          Restaurateur: "Yes, but we call it a galette. That way we can charge $18 for it."