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The word Pedestrian and Food?

sport7 Nov 10, 2011 10:39 AM

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. mamachef Nov 10, 2011 10:51 AM

    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. t
      TuteTibiImperes Nov 10, 2011 11:08 AM

      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. r
        ricepad Nov 10, 2011 11:57 AM

        In food usage, pedestrian = ordinary.

        1. s
          soupkitten Nov 10, 2011 01:16 PM

          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."

          1 Reply
          1. re: soupkitten
            sport7 Nov 10, 2011 01:25 PM

            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. s
            Steve Nov 10, 2011 01:25 PM

            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. gaffk Nov 10, 2011 05:20 PM

              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. Veggo Nov 10, 2011 05:43 PM

                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
                  Bill Hunt Nov 10, 2011 08:45 PM

                  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. re: Veggo
                    Gastronomos Nov 27, 2013 08:01 AM


                  2. Bill Hunt Nov 10, 2011 08:47 PM

                    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. monavano Nov 11, 2011 07:34 AM

                      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. d
                        DeppityDawg Nov 15, 2011 05:59 AM

                        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. lilgi Nov 16, 2011 04:38 PM

                          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. Kholvaitar Nov 19, 2013 06:11 AM

                            Would one eat Pedestrian fare on a Culinary Walking Tour?

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