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How do you define "mediocre?"

rednails Aug 2, 2007 08:15 PM

I see this word bandied about quite a bit on different boards. So many people refer to food served at various establishments (usually chain restaurants, or the like) as "mediocre." So my question is, how do you define it? Is it the quality, the presentation, the preparation, or what? Or all of that?


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  1. jonich24 RE: rednails Aug 2, 2007 08:57 PM

    Evidently this is a tough enough question that no one can come up with better than a mediocre answer. Including me as I have yet to be able to define it in words other than from a dictionary. Perhaps it is like the old supreme court justice description of Pornography... can't be defined but I will know it when I see( in this case taste) it.

    1. amyzan RE: rednails Aug 2, 2007 09:07 PM

      To me, mediocre food is bland or just a little over or undercooked, or perhaps started out with processed ingredients that weren't then enhanced by technique. I find most peel and eat shrimp to be mediocre, for example, especially if they aren't brined or marinated before cooking. Many chain restaurants cook shrimp in this way. They don't bother to start with a good product, then they don't apply any spices or seasoning or use a cooking technique that adds flavor. Finally, they're brought to the table with some kind of sauce drizzled over, as if that will help. They look appealing, but the first bite tells the story. Bleh.

      So, yeah, I guess it's the quality and the preparation. I love a nice presentation, but poor presentation rarely ruins good food for me.

      8 Replies
      1. re: amyzan
        danna RE: amyzan Aug 3, 2007 09:37 AM

        Good shrimp need not be brined nor marinaded before cooking. The shrimp you are eating at chain restaurants have a lot more serious problems than those. Good fresh, wild shrimp are perfect cooked as simply as possible.

        Mediocre means it falls in the middle of the scale between great and awful. I think that's why many people settle for medicre food. If you aren't actively searching for food that is great, then food that is just not-awful works for you.

        1. re: danna
          amyzan RE: danna Aug 3, 2007 09:47 AM

          Fresh wild shrimp aren't found in Kansas City, where I live. Once or twice I have eaten shrimp in chain restaurants. Thus my example. Please don't assume from my post that I eat regularly in chains.

          I can obtain wild shrimp, whole, no heads, from Florida here, and that's the best I've found. Even they require brining or marinade, because of freezing no doubt. Not everyone is lucky enough to obtain fresh whole wild shrimp, danna.

          1. re: amyzan
            pikawicca RE: amyzan Aug 3, 2007 10:41 AM

            Since I can get fresh wild shrimp (delicious) here in Bloomington, IN, I'm somewhat surprised that it's not available in KC. I've found that the flavor of frozen wild shrimp is still good, but the texture suffers quite a bit.

            1. re: pikawicca
              amyzan RE: pikawicca Aug 3, 2007 11:13 AM

              How do you get it, off a weekly truck? Flown in, at a grocery? Are you certain that it wasn't previously frozen? I've never seen it here. I shop different groceries, and I'm not fibbing. I'd love to know where you find it, and if we have that grocery here.

              1. re: amyzan
                pikawicca RE: amyzan Aug 3, 2007 11:56 AM

                I buy it from a grocery store (Marsh), and sometimes from an itinerant vendor from Texas. It's easy to differentiate fresh from previously frozen: A fresh shrimp will snap back after being uncurled; a previously frozen one won't. Also -- if you don't overcook, fresh shrimp have a very pleasent snap when you bite into one.

                1. re: pikawicca
                  amyzan RE: pikawicca Aug 4, 2007 09:35 PM

                  "A fresh shrimp will snap back after being uncurled"

                  You mean while it's raw, right?

                  1. re: amyzan
                    pikawicca RE: amyzan Aug 6, 2007 06:33 AM


            2. re: amyzan
              danna RE: amyzan Aug 6, 2007 07:15 AM

              I wasn't being critical of your shrimp...trust me, there's plenty of good stuff I just can't get here. I AM skeptical of the brining/marinading thing, though.

              My second para was to address the OP's question of a mediocre definition. It was not directed at you in any way.

        2. meatn3 RE: rednails Aug 2, 2007 09:12 PM

          Imo it means food prepared adequately (not bad as in inedible) but not good enough to want to revisit. Your stomach is fed, but not your palate or soul...

          2 Replies
          1. re: meatn3
            Glencora RE: meatn3 Aug 2, 2007 09:26 PM

            "Your stomach is fed, but not your palate or soul.." You've got it. That was the food I grew up eating. Not awful, but ...nothing. And as a teenager, I tended to eat too much to make up for never feeling emotionally satisfied. Maybe that's why now I like small(ish) portions of amazing food and hate mindless eating.

            1. re: Glencora
              mipiace RE: Glencora Aug 4, 2007 11:17 AM

              I totally agree with both of the above posts. For me, mediocre food leaves my stomach full but the experience of eating it isn't one i want to remember. Maybe people who view food as fuel and not as something that can be exciting, fun and pleasurable have had too many mediocre meals!

          2. d
            dancingTimmy RE: rednails Aug 2, 2007 09:52 PM

            Totally adequate? (I love that phrase!)
            i.e. food was correctly prepared to prevent any type of spoilage (and hence minimized any change of personal damage) BUT: the food was totally uninteresting!
            If it brings up the question: Why am I eating this? then you got Mediocre!
            In my mind it is centered upon taste & texture (pretend it is dark and/or you are blind? so presentation/service sits in the backseat)
            Forget about atmosphere & service. Concentrate on the food itself.
            Do I want to eat this again?
            If you really don't care to eat it again, then it is Mediocre.
            Life is too short to eat Mediocre food?

            1 Reply
            1. re: dancingTimmy
              Leper RE: dancingTimmy Aug 3, 2007 08:23 PM

              Timmy, Agreed, that's why we have Chowhound. The very essences of mediocre food is the concept of a franchise. (PF Chang's, Olive Garden, Claim Jumper, etc.) When food is prepared with no soul, there is no chance to rise above the lowest denominator. Unfortunately, that is the standard American's seem to embrace.

            2. ElsieDee RE: rednails Aug 3, 2007 12:55 AM

              I tend to think of mediocre food like this: by the next day you can't recall what you ate.

              Mediocre food is devoid of personality - it may be perfectly cooked, made from the best ingredients, and lovely to look at, but there is no zing that makes you react with the first bite and makes you want to offer a taste to your dining companions (and no zing that makes you want to rush home and post about your discovery to ChowHound).

              Mediocre food is not bad food - it's not something you send back to the kitchen, because there's nothing technically wrong with it, it's just lacking an essence.

              Mediocre food can be consumed without thought and it doesn't leave an impression, good or bad.

              Mediocre food is a waste of time and calories - I'd rather have an excellent burger from a local burger shack (fresh ground meat, good cheese, perfect veggies) served in a styrofoam box and eaten at a heavily graffiti-carved picnic table than a mediocre three-course dinner that feels like a way to kill time.

              Bland foods are sometimes mediocre, sometimes not - my mother's tuna noodle hotdish is bland, but it's far from mediocre. My own tuna noodle hotdish is both bland and mediocre. A local place makes bland chicken pot pies - but they're not mediocre and they are crave-worthy. I *know* what they taste like through memory - but I can't recall the taste of the chicken pot pie I had at Marie Callender's two week's ago.

              So mediocre is neither good nor bad - it lacks individuality and leaves no lasting impression. At least to me.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ElsieDee
                cheftori RE: ElsieDee Aug 3, 2007 07:17 AM

                I think you are right on with your thoughts of what mediocre food is.

                1. re: ElsieDee
                  danna RE: ElsieDee Aug 3, 2007 09:38 AM

                  "Mediocre leaves no lasting impression" yeah, unless you paid a lot for it, then it sure does! ;-)

                  1. re: ElsieDee
                    scubadoo97 RE: ElsieDee Aug 4, 2007 12:55 PM

                    "Mediocre food is devoid of personality"

                    Mediocre food - ain't got no soul. Uninspiring

                  2. yayadave RE: rednails Aug 3, 2007 06:59 AM

                    Mediocre is a Wednesday night throw together supper at home. It fills the empty space. You don't go out to dinner for this.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: yayadave
                      valerie RE: yayadave Aug 3, 2007 10:30 AM

                      I agree with the "filling the empty space" part, but not the "Wednesday night throw together supper at home". Not that I cook gourmet meals every night, but even the hodge-podge meals that sometimes happen in my house are definitely better than what I consider mediocre.

                    2. s
                      swsidejim RE: rednails Aug 3, 2007 07:08 AM

                      For me mediocre means an average meal. Nothing groundbreaking in taste or quality, but the food didnt make me sick either. Not a meal I would seek out, but in a pinch I can get nourishment.

                      1. s
                        smartie RE: rednails Aug 3, 2007 08:49 AM

                        I think mediocre is when I know I could make it better myself.

                        1. v
                          valerie RE: rednails Aug 3, 2007 10:34 AM

                          To me mediocre means average to below average food (maybe a C or C- on a school grading system). Nothing atrocious, but nothing memorable or even "good" about it. Generic. Lukewarm when it should be hot. Just some things that come to mind. Almost like when you're full, but not satisfied and still looking for something else to eat.

                          And it has nothing to do with presentation or price, since often the cheapest ethnic meals are anything but mediocre.

                          Basically, food that's just "there".

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: valerie
                            Rick RE: valerie Aug 3, 2007 08:30 PM

                            Mediocre to me is food that isn't worth going out of my way to obtain but at the same time it's not inedible. i.e. a Subway sandwich for me is mediocre, I wouldn't make a special trip to get one, but if it's close by and it's $4.29 footlong Tuesdays, then Subway will be fine for lunch.

                          2. m
                            MobyRichard RE: rednails Aug 4, 2007 10:52 AM

                            It can be any or all of the above. For me the definition of medicre is when I can't remember the meal three days later.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: MobyRichard
                              Texchef RE: MobyRichard Aug 4, 2007 11:01 AM

                              I agree with many of the comments above. Mediocre to me means forgettable and disappointing. There might me more than one reason why I think a dinner or lunch is mediocre. It might be too salty, too expensive, bad service or I could make it better at home, or just plain boring. In a word... underwhelming!

                              1. re: Texchef
                                Panini Guy RE: Texchef Aug 4, 2007 02:56 PM

                                I think meatn3 and ElsieDee have wrapped their arms around a loose definition. What's missing is context.

                                I do think one can crave, or at least desire, mediocrity. Few here would agree that Whopper Jr. is the pinnacle of flame-broiled burger goodness. But, we understand both the taste and the value proposition. When we decide to go down that road, we fully expect the Whopper Jr. to be mediocre and when it is mediocre, we're happy it's not worse than that. Delivering the bare minimum acceptable to meet expectations. Nothing more nothing less.

                                However, as one climbs the food chain, mediocrity become a word to describe not only the soulless quality of what's on the plate but, I believe, the soullessness of the kitchen. It's far worse condemnation of a starred restaurant to call food or service mediocre than it is to do same of even a higher end corporate cafeteria like McCormick & Schmick or Cheesecake Factory because your expecations are higher.

                              2. re: MobyRichard
                                flourgirl RE: MobyRichard Aug 4, 2007 03:34 PM

                                It's funny how true this is because of course I remember the amazing meals I've had and the flip side is I also remember the truly bad ones, but the memories of the mediocre ones just fade away...

                                Edit: I don't now why my post ended up down here - it was supposed to be a response to MobyRichard.

                                1. re: flourgirl
                                  Glencora RE: flourgirl Aug 4, 2007 03:40 PM

                                  Or sometimes I'll vividly remember aps, but not the main. Funny how the mind works.

                              3. byrd RE: rednails Aug 4, 2007 04:29 PM

                                mediocre is when you are in a good mood and don't want to say the place you just finished eating at sucks.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: byrd
                                  amyzan RE: byrd Aug 4, 2007 09:34 PM

                                  That's funny, and true. Inferior food can also be merely "mediocre" if someone you love cooked it and you just keep hoping their technique or their shopping skills (or both) improve!

                                  1. re: amyzan
                                    beevod RE: amyzan Aug 6, 2007 05:30 AM

                                    mediocre is one notch below acceptable and one notch above ick.

                                2. The Engineer RE: rednails Aug 6, 2007 06:35 AM

                                  Not noticeably good or bad.

                                  1. NYJewboy RE: rednails Aug 6, 2007 06:38 AM

                                    As the old definition of pornography goes: "I'll know when I see it" (or eat it).

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