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The word Pedestrian and Food?

Can someone please explain to me why the word pedestrian is used to describe food and where the origin of its usage as a food adjective comes from? Thanks.

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  1. I don't know how or why it originated, but as the word Pedestrian pertains to anything but one who is walking afoot, it just means un-original, run-of-the-mill; nothing special.

    1. I'd imagine it would have something to do with poorer, or 'common' people not being able to afford horses, carriages, etc, in olden times. If common people were pedestrians, plain and unexciting things associated with common people likely had the term applied to them as well.

      1. In food usage, pedestrian = ordinary.

        1. um, it's a joke-- or at least it started out as one. it's from a simpson's episode, when homer stumbles into a food critic job. he's criticized by the editors for his over-effusive raving about every restaurant "nine thumbs up? what the hell is that?" . . . so then he goes the other way and becomes an uber-snob. he describes some of the food at some point as "pedestrian."

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          1. re: soupkitten

            Researched some more. In James Beard "American Cookery" published in 1972. "Roquefort cheese dressing, which can be a delicious item or utterly pedestrian." It is also mentioned in relation to baloney in a 1965 Life Magazine article.

          2. Pedestrian can be used to describe anything that is ordinary. Not just food. Something you might walk past every day of the week. Not special.

            1. Check out dictionary.com regarding this word as an adjective:
              "lacking in vitality, imagination, distinction, etc.; commonplace; prosaic or dull: a pedestrian commencement speech."

              As much as I hate to admit it, I lived before the Simpsons, and pedestrian always had this definition. It apparently dates to the 18th century; luckily I can't personally attest to that ;)

              1. In this day and age, "pedestrian" is most commonly associated with a misbegotten soul who was struck by a motor vehicle. Perhaps moving forward we could substitute "peripatetic" ; think he who walks the road less traveled. A little greener, more upbeat and adventurous, still alive, less moribund than pedestrian. Unless one's food was so bad that a simile for roadkill is more descriptive.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Veggo

                  Well, I recall a Southern food critic mentioning that the 'possum was "pedestrian." I had assumed that since few 'possums drove automobiles, that they must have been walking, when struck. Maybe I missed something very important?


                  PS - That Cuban Cohiba is rather "pedestrian." OK, so I will offer up a Cuban Montecristo # 2!

                  1. At one time, there was an obvious class thing going on. Those, in the upper-classes, rode, while the "common folk" walked - "pedestrian." I attribute the description to "ordinary."


                    1. To me, "pedestrian" is a bit of an insult to food. It's not "peasant", as that, to me, implies simple and accessible and indigenous.
                      "Serviceable" is a word that I've come across for the first time on food boards. I think of "serviceable" being ordinary in every way, but not unpleasant to eat. It served its purpose in providing landfill and hopefully nutrition.
                      "Pedestrian" means that your cooking skills are being insulted ;-)
                      "Peasant" means homey and delicious and comfortable.

                      1. gaffk is correct above: "Pedestrian" has meant "commonplace, dull" since the early 18th century at least, and this meaning in fact predates the use of the word to mean "going or walking on foot; a person who travels on foot" in English (although this is the original etymological sense of the Latin source word, "pedester").

                        The motivation for the figurative meaning (which already existed in Latin) is not the contrast between being rich and in a vehicle vs. being poor and on foot. Instead, the explanation is that being on foot implies "not rising above the ground". In other words, "pedestrian" is the opposite of "elevated, lofty".

                        "Pedestrian" is also used for describing statues. So keeping this in mind I think the opposite of "pedestrian food" should be "equestrian food".

                        1. I've always associated with heart rate, as in something that is 'killer' (for example, there are better adjectives) would make your heart soar or work your adrenalin, not to get too scientific since it's just an analogy. Something that you eat that is pedestrian would be a bit more boring.

                          1. Would one eat Pedestrian fare on a Culinary Walking Tour?