HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
What have you made lately?

When did we start calling ingredients "proteins"?

Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 10:57 AM

So in two separate posts today I noticed people calling the meat, fish or whatever-it-is the "proteins". Maybe I've been living under a rock (with the worm-based proteins) but where did this ridiculous affectation come from? Why can't we call it meat or fish or seafood or tofu or eggs like we used to do in the olden days? Am I the only one who think this sounds ludicrous? Should we all now be calling ingredients by their nutritional category? Is this some kind of chef-ism I don't know about?

  1. e
    ellabee Jul 29, 2013 01:24 PM

    It's not chef-ism, it's a useful shorthand that covers meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and tofu (or other legume-derived foods) in situations where they're somewhat interchangeable. A good example, as another commenter's already pointed out, is the chowhound discussion of what makes a salad a meal.

    The term has come into more frequent use since vegetarian and vegan cooking/eating has become more common, because it's a term that covers animal flesh, animal products, and plant-only sources of protein.

    :: Should we all now be calling ingredients by their nutritional category? ::

    No, but there are similar cases in food writing where it makes sense to refer generically to fats (covering animal fats like lard, schmalz, bacon grease; animal-derived like butter and ghee; and plant-derived oils). Occasionally even "carbs", though as often the term "starch" is used in that situation (as in "the traditional dinner of meat, vegetable, and starch").

    1. monavano Jul 21, 2013 06:28 PM

      Probably about the same time plate became a verb and instead of buying food, we source it.

      16 Replies
      1. re: monavano
        westsidegal Jul 21, 2013 11:44 PM

        one can "buy" cheese at the local kroger supermarket.
        if you want higher quality cheese, you will need to go to a better "source."
        if you don't know the difference or don't care about the difference, just buy whatever is cheapest and most convenient.

        same story with spices.
        you can "buy" them almost anywhere.
        if you care about high quality spices, you will need to find a different "source,"

        1. re: westsidegal
          linguafood Jul 21, 2013 11:47 PM

          Using "source" as a verb reeks of foodie pretension. You can buy good cheese at your magically awesome "source". You're still *buying* the cheese. At a source. Not sourcing it.

          1. re: linguafood
            paulj Jul 22, 2013 12:15 AM

            Source as a verb started in the 60s in business and government writings (second sourcing of weapon systems, global sourcing, outsourcing, ...).

            Is there a difference between buying locally grown vegetables, and sourcing local vegetables?

            1. re: paulj
              flavrmeistr Jul 22, 2013 08:51 AM

              Not unless you grow them yourself or you're getting them for free.

              1. re: paulj
                linguafood Jul 22, 2013 09:46 AM

                "Is there a difference between buying locally grown vegetables, and sourcing local vegetables?"

                Yes. One sounds pretentious, the other normal.

                1. re: linguafood
                  flavrmeistr Jul 22, 2013 09:50 AM

                  Also that.

                  1. re: linguafood
                    DuffyH Jul 22, 2013 02:42 PM

                    Sort of like "When is a vase a vahse? When it's holding dahsies." - Miss Manners

                2. re: linguafood
                  Harters Jul 22, 2013 01:53 AM

                  In a past life, I used to work in procurement. We used to source things. I'd see it as a wider process than just buying things - it'd include comparisions of products, suppliers, etc.

                  Whether I'd use it related to cheese purchases is another matter. But when I go to the cheese shop to buy 250g of Red Leicester that's modern day hunter gathering, surely :-)

                  1. re: linguafood
                    monavano Jul 22, 2013 04:50 AM

                    Thanks for putting a finer point on my point!

                    1. re: linguafood
                      juliejulez Jul 22, 2013 08:13 AM

                      In the interior design world "curate" is the new word to use. So pretentious. You didn't curate anything, you just bought a bunch of shit and threw it on a shelf. Same goes for sourcing, when all they're doing is going to the store and buying some food.

                      1. re: juliejulez
                        monavano Jul 22, 2013 08:15 AM

                        Yeah, that's got a pretentious odor.

                        1. re: monavano
                          mcf Jul 22, 2013 08:23 AM

                          Usher recently "curated" the music for the Macy's 4th of July fireworks show. "Edit" in interior design always made sense to me. Definitions of "curate" include looking after the objects involved after organizing and displaying.

                          1. re: mcf
                            monavano Jul 22, 2013 08:34 AM

                            Edit makes sense to me in decorating and fashion.

                            1. re: monavano
                              DuffyH Jul 22, 2013 02:44 PM

                              But it does make sense for the Macy's musical program, where "curate" makes me wonder what the hell Usher's doing.

                              1. re: DuffyH
                                monavano Jul 22, 2013 02:48 PM


                        2. re: juliejulez
                          EM23 Jul 22, 2013 10:41 AM

                          You might enjoy this thread

                  2. w
                    wyogal Jul 21, 2013 06:14 PM

                    I think that it is interesting that on that salad thread, several folks use the word protein to describe what would make a salad a meal instead of just a side.
                    I used it. I think that by adding a protein to a salad, it makes it a more complete meal.
                    Sometimes it's hard boiled eggs, sometimes chicken, sometimes steak, sometimes beans, sometimes nuts......................................... proteins. I didn't list the individual choices of proteins. Just proteins. Not so hard to understand. Not pretentious, not ludicrous, not a chef-ism.

                    1. b
                      batmon77 Jul 21, 2013 04:41 AM

                      Its just slang....it will fade.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: batmon77
                        DeppityDawg Jul 21, 2013 09:17 AM

                        Or it will become normal and everyone will use it without a second thought. Every language is full of words and expressions that, when they first appeared, met with violent resistance and were branded illogical, unclear, unnecessary, ridiculous, pretentious, ugly, disrespectful, etc. and they supposedly represented the willful destruction of a pure and perfect language by unworthy speakers. But no language has ever died from accepting new usages; on the other hand, the inability or the refusal to evolve can kill a language.

                        1. re: DeppityDawg
                          sedimental Jul 21, 2013 09:54 AM

                          Prithee, from whence did thou wrought that idea ???

                          1. re: sedimental
                            greygarious Jul 21, 2013 10:52 AM

                            'Tis "Prithee, from whence didst thou wring that idea?", thou scurvy varlet! ;>D

                            1. re: greygarious
                              sedimental Jul 21, 2013 04:48 PM

                              See? See?

                              I just can't keep up with these damn language changes.

                              1. re: greygarious
                                Nyleve Jul 21, 2013 05:58 PM

                                Excuse me but how, exactly does one cook a scurvy valet - or really any valet for that matter? Do they need to be marinated or can one just grilleth them plain?

                                1. re: Nyleve
                                  JoanN Jul 21, 2013 06:11 PM

                                  That's "varlet," not "valet." It's an entirely different protein.

                                  1. re: JoanN
                                    paulj Jul 21, 2013 07:16 PM

                                    not all that different.

                                    1. re: JoanN
                                      Nyleve Jul 22, 2013 10:58 AM

                                      Ha! Autocorrect strikes again!

                                    2. re: Nyleve
                                      paulj Jul 21, 2013 07:10 PM

                                      Same way you cook a 'longpig' (heard that last night on Saysyou).

                              2. re: batmon77
                                Hobbert Jul 21, 2013 10:13 AM

                                It's not slang. It's an accurate word to describe a group of items. No more slang than "vegetables" are.

                                1. re: Hobbert
                                  paulj Jul 21, 2013 10:21 AM

                                  'Proteins', meaning a type of organic compounds is well established scientific term (from around 1900). 'Proteins' as a collective term for protein rich foods, is closer to slang, or jargon.

                                  1. re: paulj
                                    Hobbert Jul 21, 2013 10:28 AM

                                    I'll agree with calling it jargon, but slang, not so much. Merriam-Webster defines the word "slang" as: an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech. Even those who think referring to a group of food as protein is silly and pretentious all understand what the term means.

                              3. Fowler Jul 20, 2013 09:58 PM

                                "When did we start calling ingredients "proteins"?"


                                1. tcamp Jul 20, 2013 11:58 AM

                                  I'm guilty of using the term "protein" to describe a component of a meal I'm planning. I know I did so on WFD recently. I am trying to center meals around vegetables to deal with my CSA so when planning, I do indeed consider the available veggies, decide how I want to cook them, and then figure out what available protein, from freezer or pantry, I will use.

                                  If you're using it to describe a specific protein that you already ate, it is annoyingly imprecise.

                                  1. h
                                    Harters Jul 20, 2013 07:04 AM

                                    "Should we all now be calling ingredients by their nutritional category?2


                                    It's commonplace to collectively describe things as "vegetables". It is reasonably commonplace to collectively describe bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc as "starches".

                                    I'm happy to describe lamb, beef, chicken, etc as "meat" and cod, plaice and herring as "fish". But when I'm also wanting to include in the collective description fish, seafood, tofu, egss, etc, I'm at a loss to know whatever collective word there is other than "proteins". It would just seem so long-winded to write "meat, fish, seafood, paneer, tofu and eggs" when I could write "proteins".

                                    1. d
                                      DeppityDawg Jul 20, 2013 01:56 AM

                                      There was also this thread:
                                      "Referring to Meat as Protein"

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: DeppityDawg
                                        Nyleve Jul 20, 2013 04:52 AM

                                        Ok so that's interesting. I missed that thread the first time it came around...4 years ago.

                                        1. re: Nyleve
                                          DeppityDawg Jul 20, 2013 05:09 AM

                                          It went kind of off-topic at the very start with people bickering about whether fish is meat, and this continued for 100 posts and more before the Chowhound Team shut it down. So it was useful for you to open this new thread, since people clearly still feel the need to vent…

                                      2. v
                                        virtualguthrie Jul 19, 2013 08:11 PM

                                        It's a chef-ism as you guessed and yes I agree it sounds pretty ludicrous.

                                        1. ipsedixit Jul 19, 2013 07:33 PM

                                          October 14, 1957 at 11:45 a.m. (EST)

                                          1. Samalicious Jul 19, 2013 05:21 PM

                                            So I wonder if you can still just buy your protein somewhere, or does it have to be sourced?

                                            12 Replies
                                            1. re: Samalicious
                                              paulj Jul 19, 2013 07:24 PM

                                              Over on the LA board, there's a current debate about:

                                              "Farm to table, locally sourced restaurants with non local wine lists"

                                              1. re: paulj
                                                flavrmeistr Jul 20, 2013 07:32 AM

                                                ...which is the only place such a discussion makes any sense. California has world-class wines and fresh local produce year-round. CA is entitled to gloating rights.

                                                1. re: flavrmeistr
                                                  paulj Jul 20, 2013 09:22 AM

                                                  Though some posters questioned whether it was relevant to LA (as opposed to SF). But in the context of this thread I was more interested in the use of food jargon.

                                                  1. re: paulj
                                                    flavrmeistr Jul 20, 2013 11:41 AM

                                                    I understand. You see a lot of this jargon bandied about these days-- "localvores", "farm-to-table", "only locally-sourced fresh ingredients", and so on. In most regions of North America, local fruit and produce is only available three to four months out of the year, tops. How do these "local-sourced only" restaurants stay open year-round? What do they serve the rest of the year? Flour, lard and potatoes? As far as "local vintages", you can have most of 'em. Except for California. They can pull it off year-round, in spades.

                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr
                                                      mcf Jul 20, 2013 11:54 AM

                                                      " In most regions of North America, local fruit and produce is only available three to four months out of the year, tops. How do these "local-sourced only" restaurants stay open year-round?"

                                                      Many don't, but they do as much as possible. Others, as in Bar Harbor, ME, where we often visit, close down after mid October for the season til spring. Many restaurants there grow their own produce and herbs on site, or get them locally, including eggs, poultry, seafood and meat.

                                                      In my area of NY, some prioritize local products, but they aren't using them exclusively. One has to stay in business. There are increasing numbers of restaurants, though, including very high end, who stay very seasonal with their menus, and can use a lot more local stuff that way.

                                                      1. re: mcf
                                                        flavrmeistr Jul 20, 2013 07:37 PM

                                                        "One has to stay in business". Yes, of course. I suppose that the "farm-to-table" crowd is willing to overlook the fact that in March, the farm is only a few thousand miles from the table. Or more likely, farm-to-freezer-to-table. Whatever. It's all good.

                                                      2. re: flavrmeistr
                                                        westsidegal Jul 21, 2013 11:37 PM

                                                        in southern california, it's easy to eat locally sourced food year round.

                                                        1. re: westsidegal
                                                          flavrmeistr Jul 22, 2013 08:49 AM

                                                          Yes. South Florida, too, but no local wine. Plenty of rum, though.

                                                          1. re: flavrmeistr
                                                            DuffyH Jul 22, 2013 02:41 PM

                                                            With enough rum, I don't care where the food comes from.

                                                            1. re: DuffyH
                                                              flavrmeistr Jul 22, 2013 06:04 PM

                                                              Me either. Even without the rum.

                                                              1. re: flavrmeistr
                                                                DuffyH Jul 22, 2013 06:34 PM

                                                                Matter of fact, give me enough rum, and I'll pass on the food completely. But don't skimp on the pineapple wedges!

                                                        2. re: flavrmeistr
                                                          LindaWhit Jul 22, 2013 12:16 PM

                                                          Quite often, there are local greenhouses that grow year 'round. While they don't produce ALL of the vegetables an area might need, they can augment that "locally sourced" issue.


                                                2. Karl S Jul 19, 2013 05:04 PM

                                                  I use the word "flesh" to cover, well, flesh.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Karl S
                                                    Leepa Jul 20, 2013 03:56 AM

                                                    Shouldn't it be muscle rather than flesh? Or either? :)

                                                    1. re: Karl S
                                                      melpy Jul 20, 2013 05:21 AM

                                                      But that excludes tofu, seitan and tempeh... :)

                                                      1. re: melpy
                                                        DeppityDawg Jul 20, 2013 05:32 AM

                                                        It also excludes blood, which is the protein in many dishes. Tempeh is fermented soy flesh. Tofu is coagulated soy blood.

                                                    2. deet13 Jul 19, 2013 04:37 PM

                                                      About the same time some people started referring to toasted, sauteed, baked, or fried veggie and tofu patties and dumplings as "burgers"...

                                                      It's just marketing for the herbivores...

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: deet13
                                                        pikawicca Jul 19, 2013 04:49 PM

                                                        Has nothing to do with "marketing."

                                                        1. re: pikawicca
                                                          JoanN Jul 19, 2013 04:57 PM

                                                          Actually, marketing has quite a bit to do with it.


                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                            deet13 Jul 19, 2013 05:37 PM

                                                            If a majority of the TV chefs are saying it repeatedly, then it's primarily about marketing.

                                                            IMO, a canny ad agency conducted a focus group and found that six out of ten women between the ages of 18-36 expressed positive reactions when the term "proteins" was used in conjunction with certain food stuffs and lifestyle choices.

                                                            IMO, the same group of people also had a similar reaction to the words "balanced", "eclectic", and "spiritual" as well as green colored packaging on their foods.

                                                            1. re: deet13
                                                              calliope_nh Jul 19, 2013 06:31 PM

                                                              I was just wondering if "people" are using it in a general sense. It seems to me that unless related to planning and diet it is just TV chefs/cooks who say it.

                                                              1. re: calliope_nh
                                                                deet13 Jul 19, 2013 06:46 PM

                                                                IMO most of the people who are using the term "proteins" and aren't media figures (yourself, picca, Joan, myself, and so on) probably would use it in a very general fashion.

                                                                But you rarely see terminology from popular TV shows or slogans plastered across store shelves that don't pass through several layers of market research, and "proteins" is a documented example of one of those ("EXTREME!!" would be another).

                                                                1. re: calliope_nh
                                                                  westsidegal Jul 21, 2013 11:35 PM

                                                                  in my experience "people" are indeed using it.

                                                          2. pikawicca Jul 19, 2013 03:47 PM

                                                            Vegetarians and vegans, especially, find the term useful. When I'm planning meals for my husband (carnivore) and me (mostly vegan), "protein" means something specific and important to me. If you don't like it, don't use it.

                                                            1. paulj Jul 19, 2013 02:01 PM

                                                              Wouldn't it help to have to have some real examples? Labeling something as pretentious or affectation without context is nearly meaningless.

                                                              Doing a search I found:
                                                              "bonus protein" (in reference to something extra found in broccoli)

                                                              "Having protein with each meal" - on the topic of weight loss tricks.

                                                              topic: Protein ideas

                                                              Got the makings for Bubble and Squeak...any thoughts on a protein to serve with?

                                                              Paella question
                                                              " I was not comfortable cooking the proteins on top of the rice as Bittman suggests."

                                                              22 Replies
                                                              1. re: paulj
                                                                Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 03:15 PM

                                                                That last one - the paella one - was one of the two that set me off. I probably would have said seafood or used more words, like seafood and meats, instead of calling them proteins. I think it was the coincidental use of the word protein in two posts that I read one after the other that made me pull the trigger. It felt like a movement. And I don't like it.

                                                                1. re: Nyleve
                                                                  Jenny Ondioline Jul 19, 2013 03:25 PM

                                                                  Why use three words -- seafood and meats -- when one would do, and everyone would understand that in the context of "paella," that word means "seafood and meats"?

                                                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline
                                                                    Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 03:28 PM

                                                                    Most of us have enough time to use three words.

                                                                    1. re: Nyleve
                                                                      melpy Jul 20, 2013 05:18 AM

                                                                      As a poster who is not short on time but who uses a Smartphone for 90% of my posting, I often opt for a shorter term. I think perhaps some empathy for others would go a long way. As someone who is over weight , I also need to make sure I am eating more protein and less simple carbs to feel full longer. This whole topic seems to attack this way of thinking about food. Be lucky you can simply think, what do I want to eat. Now let me go cry into my dish of protein. :p

                                                                      1. re: melpy
                                                                        Nyleve Jul 20, 2013 07:05 AM

                                                                        Look, I understand about smart phone brevity, but to be honest, I still go the long way around when I use mine. I realize this is not the norm, but I really don't like the trend toward shortness. I may be alone with this. And as for weight control, no I am not "lucky" - I too struggle with weight and if I think about food in terms of of proteins or carbs, it happens in the background for me. So no, I am not sitting on my high, skinny, manual typewriting horse. I am attached to language and to cooking and to health. I just don't like the term "proteins" they way its being used lately. I'm sorry I called it a ridiculous affectation, but I still think it represents a neutering of language and I won't use the term. I found it surprising how it has been popping up more and more and thought it sprang from television. And maybe it has.

                                                                        1. re: Nyleve
                                                                          paulj Jul 20, 2013 09:08 AM

                                                                          But I don't recall it being used like this on TV. A quick glance a Google ngram shows that 'proteins' started to be used around 1900. Recent entries in their book database are still academic, referring to the chemicals.

                                                                          'protein' (singular) is common in recipes like 'high protein bars' or 'shake'. But the plural, as a term covering 'meats etc' is more likely to appear in quick notes like these posts, or as many have noted, a category in meal planning.

                                                                          Jargon like this has been around a long time, and has never been a threat to formal writing or speech.

                                                                        2. re: melpy
                                                                          westsidegal Jul 21, 2013 11:30 PM

                                                                          melpy, you are not alone.
                                                                          like you and like almost every one i know who has to exert some conscious effort in order to keep their weight under control,
                                                                          i find that if i don't eat a lot of protein (much more than i really need for nutrition) i get fat.

                                                                          there is no other category of food that is as filling per calorie.
                                                                          also, in my experience, high protein meals don't lead to "rebound" eating the way simple carbs do.

                                                                          1. re: westsidegal
                                                                            Fowler Jul 22, 2013 07:30 AM

                                                                            >>>i find that if i don't eat a lot of protein (much more than i really need for nutrition) i get fat.there is no other category of food that is as filling per calorie.<<<

                                                                            While I love protein, I would not claim that it is more filling per calorie. Lentils, vegetables, wild rice, oatmeal seem to fill me up without any excessive calories. They also limit IGF-1.


                                                                            1. re: Fowler
                                                                              mcf Jul 22, 2013 07:37 AM

                                                                              Many diet studies have conclusively found that satiety comes primarily from protein. There's ample metabolic proof that it provides a sustained, level supply of energy over hours, unlike carb foods. Fat also contributes to satiety, though not nearly as much; it just doesn't stimulate glucose or insulin. Carbs trigger hunger in studies, earlier and more of it post meal.

                                                                              There's no good reason to try and suppress your growth hormone by diet. IGF1 is a marker for a process that can be pathological or healhty, depending on its release trigger, Don't confuse markers for causal.

                                                                              1. re: mcf
                                                                                Fowler Jul 22, 2013 08:01 AM

                                                                                Thanks. I do not follow the "diet studies" so I will have to trust you on that. I just pay attention to the science instead.

                                                                                Just out of curiosity, do you attempt to increase your IGF-1?

                                                                                1. re: Fowler
                                                                                  mcf Jul 22, 2013 08:04 AM

                                                                                  No, I only ever have it tested due to pituitary issues. IGF1 is a marker for growth hormone release. I eat high protein, have for many years, and my IGF1 is normal for my age. Normal is hugely variable by age, diet, and also by endocrine status.

                                                                      2. re: Jenny Ondioline
                                                                        DuffyH Jul 20, 2013 01:12 AM

                                                                        I'd make it 4 words, as I don't categorize birds and mammals together. that's why I like "protein".

                                                                        I'd guess a lot of us have many, many recipes that are very versatile, working well with beef, pork, chicken and a few other critters that walk, swim or fly. That's where I use 'protein', it's just so much simpler to say or type than 'meat, poultry or seafood'.

                                                                        Now imagine you're sharing one of these recipes, are you going to type out all those words every time they're referenced in the instructions?

                                                                        1. re: DuffyH
                                                                          Nyleve Jul 20, 2013 04:48 AM

                                                                          Yes, I am. Every. Single. Word.

                                                                          But that's just me.

                                                                          1. re: DuffyH
                                                                            westsidegal Jul 21, 2013 11:34 PM

                                                                            and for some of us it's more than 4 words:
                                                                            tree nuts

                                                                            you get the picture. . .

                                                                            1. re: westsidegal
                                                                              melpy Jul 22, 2013 04:55 AM


                                                                        2. re: Nyleve
                                                                          paulj Jul 19, 2013 04:04 PM

                                                                          In paella, a mix of proteins is common - ham, sausage, chicken, rabbit, snails, various shellfish. I don't see any ambiguity in using one word for the whole category. On the other hand, the meats call for different treatment than the shellfish. One category is cooked before adding the rice, the other, with or after the rice.

                                                                          But even using 'meat' involves a lumping of categories. Many cookbooks have separate chapters for 'meat' and 'poultry', where meat means 'beef, veal, pork, lamb'. Rabbit might be in a separate 'game' chapter. Snails - shellfish or seafood?

                                                                          1. re: paulj
                                                                            flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 05:40 PM

                                                                            Gastropoda, but "snail" works.

                                                                          2. re: Nyleve
                                                                            mcf Jul 19, 2013 05:40 PM

                                                                            OH! So you're the one who's all worked up!

                                                                            1. re: mcf
                                                                              Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 06:08 PM

                                                                              If you mean me, well, I guess you're right. I don't feel worked up, though. Just judgemental and annoyed.

                                                                              1. re: Nyleve
                                                                                flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 06:11 PM

                                                                                Rightly so. Damn philistines!

                                                                                1. re: flavrmeistr
                                                                                  Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 06:12 PM

                                                                                  Sigh. The world has gone to hell in a hand basket.

                                                                                  1. re: Nyleve
                                                                                    flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 06:24 PM

                                                                                    "It's not the one thing. It's the dismal tide."

                                                                                    --Cormac McCarthy, "No Country For Old Men"

                                                                        3. n
                                                                          Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 01:44 PM

                                                                          Wow I did not expect such a flood of responses. I assure you I am neither cranky, nor futzy. I just find the term protein, when it refers to that hunk of stuff that occupies a certain position on one's plate, to be a somewhat neutered term that sounds either pretentious or clinical. I get that it's used by dietitians to balance a person's nutritional needs. But when I plan a meal I never - and I mean never - think in terms of proteins etc. I just think of what I'm going to make. I realize I am probably in the rare minority that gives not a flying fig whether my meals are balanced or not, but rather look at the bigger picture. There will always be plenty of protein over the course of a couple of days. I guess I just don't like the nutritionification of food, so that's probably why I find the term so objectionable.

                                                                          And if I remember correctly, the word protein was used in a post asking about a specific technique for sautéing something. It would have been just as clear to ask why the chicken or beef was placed in the pan a certain way.

                                                                          Please everybody just have a glass of alcohol and calm down.

                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Nyleve
                                                                            wyogal Jul 19, 2013 01:50 PM

                                                                            "I just don't like the nutritionification of food"
                                                                            No need to "calm down" here.

                                                                            1. re: wyogal
                                                                              Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 03:27 PM

                                                                              Ok so I made that word up.

                                                                              1. re: Nyleve
                                                                                wyogal Jul 19, 2013 03:39 PM

                                                                                It's not that it is a "made up" word....

                                                                            2. re: Nyleve
                                                                              mcf Jul 19, 2013 01:52 PM


                                                                              Just saynzall. :-)

                                                                              1. re: Nyleve
                                                                                cowboyardee Jul 19, 2013 01:59 PM

                                                                                "Please everybody just have a glass of alcohol and calm down."
                                                                                Didn't realize anyone was worked up.

                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee
                                                                                  mcf Jul 19, 2013 02:08 PM

                                                                                  I find it pretty easy to keep my cool on these boards (especially over nothing issues like this) without sedation in any form. :-)

                                                                                  1. re: mcf
                                                                                    DuffyH Jul 20, 2013 01:04 AM

                                                                                    But a little liquid sedation goes with any mood. ;)

                                                                                  2. re: cowboyardee
                                                                                    Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 03:10 PM

                                                                                    Responses seemed a bit worked up. Maybe I read the tone wrong. That can happen.

                                                                                    1. re: Nyleve
                                                                                      DuffyH Jul 20, 2013 06:19 AM

                                                                                      Maybe the respondents read your tone wrong. But you did call using 'protein' a "ridiculous affectation", and it appears to me that a lot of us (including me) use the term whenever we're referring to broad category of components. It's not an affectation, it's a convenient shorthand.

                                                                                      1. re: DuffyH
                                                                                        Nyleve Jul 20, 2013 06:52 AM

                                                                                        You're right. It was the wrong thing to say. I apologize to those who I offended with that. But I still object to the term, personally.

                                                                                        1. re: Nyleve
                                                                                          DuffyH Jul 20, 2013 11:18 AM

                                                                                          And that's cool. What a dull place this site would be without the lively discussions. :)

                                                                                          1. re: Nyleve
                                                                                            DuchessNukem Jul 20, 2013 10:01 PM

                                                                                            You raised an interesting point and it's a good discussion, even if we don't all agree. :)

                                                                                            Now..... if we really want to anger the villagers, we can start posting about our "protes" --

                                                                                            "So I looked in my fridge to see what prote I wanted to use for the stew,"

                                                                                            "And then I realized that the protes were burning the bottom of my Le Creuset!,"

                                                                                            "I left my protes on the counter overnight.. are they ruined?"

                                                                                            Pitchforks? Check.
                                                                                            Torches? Check.
                                                                                            Mob rage? Check. ;)

                                                                                    2. re: Nyleve
                                                                                      melpy Jul 20, 2013 05:11 AM

                                                                                      How is whether or not your meal is balanced not the bigger picture?

                                                                                      If you are purely thinking, "what do I want to eat" then that would be the small picture.

                                                                                      What do I want
                                                                                      Is this balanced
                                                                                      What else have we recently eaten
                                                                                      What is on sale
                                                                                      How much time so I have to cook
                                                                                      Will there be leftovers and is that good or bad

                                                                                      To me all angles is the bigger picture. Otherwise you are just coming from one side.

                                                                                      1. re: Nyleve
                                                                                        Virginian Jul 20, 2013 09:28 AM

                                                                                        If the word protein disturbs you so much, I suggest that you just not think about it.

                                                                                      2. paulj Jul 19, 2013 12:38 PM

                                                                                        In the olden days did you talk about 'starches'? Or was it always 'potatoes, rice, noodles, or bread'?

                                                                                        'Proteins' is a generalization of the common 'meat' category of American (western?) meals. As we have moved beyond a 'meat and potatoes' diet, it is convenient to have one term that refers to all of the protein rich ingredients, just like it is convenient to have a term that refers to the starch rich ingredients (in Spanish the corresponding term is 'viandas').

                                                                                        If you don't like 'proteins', what short, simple term would you use?

                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: paulj
                                                                                          RealMenJulienne Jul 19, 2013 01:06 PM

                                                                                          I wouldn't use any blanket term. I would refer to the food by what it's actually called. 'Protein' is so general that it it is meaningless in a culinary sense. What does a bowl of lentil stew have in common with a pork chop, other a few amino acids? If the experience of cooking and eating them is so different, why even refer to them with the same word?

                                                                                          If I ever find myself serving as the commissary officer in a political prison, then I might think in terms of X grams of protein and Y grams of starch per inmate. But for day to day conversations and meals with friends there's no need for such a sterilization of the language.

                                                                                          1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                                            cowboyardee Jul 19, 2013 01:15 PM

                                                                                            "I wouldn't use any blanket term. I would refer to the food by what it's actually called. 'Protein' is so general that it it is meaningless in a culinary sense."
                                                                                            Isn't 'food' an even more general term?

                                                                                            "for day to day conversations and meals with friends, there's no need for such a sterilization of the language."
                                                                                            Do you talk about cooking theory or nutrition with your friends in day to day conversations and over meals? That's what it's used for, so it shouldn't be surprising to see it often on Chowhound.

                                                                                          2. re: paulj
                                                                                            Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 01:30 PM

                                                                                            But for those who use the term for dietary purposes--and they may be in the majority--it refers to all food containing protein, not just meat. Hence we sow confusion rather than clarify. Are you talking about meat? Or food containing protein? Who knows?

                                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                              wyogal Jul 19, 2013 01:38 PM

                                                                                              I think that is precisely the point, it depends. Like others have said, it is used in meal planning. Pick a protein, any protein.
                                                                                              It is not used to describe, for instance, a meal I have already consumed. "The protein was grilled to perfection." no, not appropriate, but I don't think that is what people mean. Several great examples have already been given as to how it is used.
                                                                                              Basing a meal around a lean protein.... (individual choice as to what that protein will be)
                                                                                              Eating lots of green leafy vegetables, and protein.
                                                                                              Start your day with a breakfast centered on protein... etc.
                                                                                              The vagueness of the term allows for the individual to decide, fish, chicken, beef, pork, tofu, eggs, etc.

                                                                                              1. re: wyogal
                                                                                                Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 02:36 PM

                                                                                                That's fine under the dietary usage of the term. But for people who think the term is synonymous with meat, it is misleading. And that's a big part of the problem--there's just no consensus as to what protein means in a meal context.

                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                  wyogal Jul 19, 2013 03:38 PM

                                                                                                  It's not my problem if people think it is synonymous with meat. and really, there is NO problem.
                                                                                                  Protein in a meal context is just that, protein. What does it matter what the individual chooses?

                                                                                                2. re: wyogal
                                                                                                  melpy Jul 20, 2013 05:07 AM

                                                                                                  I agree. I use it in the purely hypothetically. Perhaps "I would have preferred a different protein other than chicken in that stir fry". I am not talking dietary but rather that it would encompass more than meat. Maybe tofu or shrimp would have been better.

                                                                                            2. m
                                                                                              maxie Jul 19, 2013 12:09 PM

                                                                                              It's a food service term, and comes In to play at home when you start accommodating different diets, as in if you're having a vegetarian over, you will want to include some plant-based protein. Also, usually if you are on some sort of organized dietary program, as chartreauxx mentions, you would be using this as a guideline to keep you nutritionally "balanced" (the balance will vary based on the originator and purpose). I also think the popularity of Paleo-ism, and its focus on protein, has bolstered the use in everyday language.

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: maxie
                                                                                                Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 12:16 PM

                                                                                                Alright. I can understand the dietary rationale for the usage. But what I don't understand is why people use this term when dietary concerns are not an issue. And they do. Plenty.

                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                  mcf Jul 19, 2013 12:21 PM

                                                                                                  All the folks on Top Chef use it, and it doesn't seem to dim their enthusiasm for enjoyment of good food and cooking, so I don't really see we have an issue here.

                                                                                                  Except cranky folks; must be the heat.

                                                                                                  1. re: mcf
                                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 12:24 PM

                                                                                                    They're free to use the term to their heart's content; it's still a somewhat free country. But as an afficianado of the English language, I disdain the term and see it as part of the ongoing degradation of the language. It also strikes me as trendy pretension.

                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                      mcf Jul 19, 2013 12:31 PM

                                                                                                      Whereas I think it's possible to over think such things. ;-)

                                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                        cowboyardee Jul 19, 2013 12:35 PM

                                                                                                        Language cannot easily be degraded. She's a hardier old dame than schoolteachers and her various white knights like to acknowledge.

                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee
                                                                                                          INDIANRIVERFL Jul 19, 2013 01:38 PM

                                                                                                          Just ask the French government. They ban anything they don't like.

                                                                                                2. cowboyardee Jul 19, 2013 12:04 PM

                                                                                                  "Why can't we call it meat or fish or seafood or tofu or eggs like we used to do in the olden days?"
                                                                                                  We still can and do. Talking about 'proteins' doesn't actually preclude anyone from calling meat, poultry, fish, eggs, seitan, etc, by name when talking about specific dishes. People use 'protein' when talking about making a meal in general (usually in the Western tradition), and the form of 'protein' is not yet specified. Or of course in talking about nutrition. If there is a better term for the situation, it's not springing to mind.

                                                                                                  1. RealMenJulienne Jul 19, 2013 11:57 AM

                                                                                                    I don't like it. 'Protein', 'starch', 'roughage' and other reductive food words all remind me of the machine-dispensed victory gruel that the oppressed citizens consume in Orwell's 1984; food reduced to its building blocks to provide sustenance without pleasure.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                                                      Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 12:06 PM

                                                                                                      Pithy and much to the point. I couldn't have said it better.

                                                                                                    2. a
                                                                                                      antimony Jul 19, 2013 11:50 AM

                                                                                                      So do you object to the "veg" in "meat and two veg" as a meal descriptor, too? And I'd heard "a starch" long before I started hearing "a protein".

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: antimony
                                                                                                        flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 11:55 AM

                                                                                                        I object to "meat and two". It must be "meat and three".

                                                                                                      2. DuchessNukem Jul 19, 2013 11:40 AM

                                                                                                        I'm planning the weekend menu (I work weekends and leave food for the husband to warm up). I think in terms of, "Okay, I've got several vegetables, some starches (old term, I'm old), some salads, and some proteins for him to choose from." There will be fish, beans, falafel, and some sausage as "proteins" for him.

                                                                                                        No one seems to object to the term "vegetables" as a catch-all for a variety of foods (fruits! even! tomatoes! lol).

                                                                                                        Just seems easier to think of that way, I assure you I couldn't output a decent affectation even if I could afford one. :)

                                                                                                        (Edited to add: I think I'll hard-boil a couple of eggs too.)

                                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                                                                          Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 12:04 PM

                                                                                                          But there are vegetables that contain protein, are there not?

                                                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                            DuchessNukem Jul 19, 2013 12:10 PM

                                                                                                            I'm sure. But proteins also contain (varying) amounts of fats and carbohydrates themselves; grains contain protein and fats also.

                                                                                                            (Edited to add: Oops, sent before finishing. In my head, I group by main category.)

                                                                                                            1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 12:13 PM


                                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                DuchessNukem Jul 19, 2013 12:17 PM

                                                                                                                I don't use the term when I say, "Hey, let's go out to eat". I consider it in meal planning.

                                                                                                                I also use it when I advise my husband to diversify his meals, not to just eat a plain bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, or just a bowl of blueberries, or just an egg. He knows what protein means and he can choose from what's in the fridge. In these circumstances, it clarifies plenty for us.

                                                                                                                I don't know which references Nyleve saw and how the other posters used the term.

                                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                  DuchessNukem Jul 19, 2013 12:25 PM

                                                                                                                  I never understand the "nevermind" or ".". You wanted to make a point; what happened? I was enjoying the conversation. My answers too stupid for ya?

                                                                                                                  1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 12:26 PM

                                                                                                                    Not a bit of it. I read somebody else's post and it rendered otiose the post I deleted.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                      DuchessNukem Jul 19, 2013 12:29 PM

                                                                                                                      Cool, I gotcha.

                                                                                                              2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                mcf Jul 19, 2013 12:18 PM

                                                                                                                Not much, and not bioavailable by themselves.

                                                                                                              3. re: DuchessNukem
                                                                                                                sedimental Jul 19, 2013 12:29 PM

                                                                                                                Me too. Where did i leave my walker.... :)

                                                                                                                Protein, vegetable, starch....not a new concept by any means.

                                                                                                              4. greygarious Jul 19, 2013 11:31 AM

                                                                                                                Maybe you'd prefer MoPoFoSoToE? "Protein is just a shortcut for the awkwardly-long "meat or poultry or fish or...."

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious
                                                                                                                  melpy Jul 20, 2013 04:59 AM

                                                                                                                  I agree. I don't want to say all the different categories every time I want to discuss the component of the dish based on its function. If you know of a more appetizing way of referring to this, OP please let me know.

                                                                                                                  1. re: greygarious
                                                                                                                    Lambowner Jul 22, 2013 11:02 AM

                                                                                                                    How did we ever manage before the recent appearance of this word? Reminds me of the internet.

                                                                                                                  2. w
                                                                                                                    wyogal Jul 19, 2013 11:22 AM

                                                                                                                    It's what we called it in cooking school.
                                                                                                                    It denotes the aspect of the meal that is protein, be it meat, fish, eggs, etc. Not all people eat red meat, nor poultry, nor fish. It's just that spot on the plate were one has a "protein."
                                                                                                                    Nothing to get worked up over, and I don't understand the hostility.
                                                                                                                    As another poster mentioned, it is used as a part of many meal plans, and with so many people on other types of diets, it's a label that indicates it's place in said plan.

                                                                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: wyogal
                                                                                                                      flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 11:27 AM

                                                                                                                      Evil, I say! Evil.

                                                                                                                      1. re: wyogal
                                                                                                                        westsidegal Jul 19, 2013 12:38 PM

                                                                                                                        i completely agree with wyogal AND would like to add that many, many, recipes work equally well with any of several varieties of protein.

                                                                                                                        i am mystified at Nyleve's hostility to this very simple, obvious, easy, functional, approach. . . .

                                                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                                          virtualguthrie Jul 19, 2013 08:13 PM

                                                                                                                          I don't detect a hint of hostility from the OP, exasperation maybe, but not hostility.

                                                                                                                        2. re: wyogal
                                                                                                                          flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 04:06 PM

                                                                                                                          I don't think anyone's worked up, really. My "outrage" is half in jest. It's fun playing the curmudgeon once in a while.

                                                                                                                          Nevertheless, the OP struck a chord with his comment. Reducing gustatory delights to generic terms such as "protein" and "alcohol" might be acceptable shorthand among food service industry professionals, but it sounds somewhat, I dunno...distasteful...to the customers on which the industry relies. It sounds like you're moving hog feed. In some cases that's probably true, but it's not beneficial to remind us of it.

                                                                                                                          1. re: flavrmeistr
                                                                                                                            wyogal Jul 19, 2013 04:14 PM

                                                                                                                            It seems to be helpful for quite a few people outside "food service industry professionals."
                                                                                                                            and yes, it sure seems some are worked up over the use of the word.

                                                                                                                            1. re: wyogal
                                                                                                                              flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 05:22 PM

                                                                                                                              Yes. Dieticians, the healthcare industry and agribusiness. That's where it belongs. Bon apetit!

                                                                                                                            2. re: flavrmeistr
                                                                                                                              paulj Jul 19, 2013 04:24 PM

                                                                                                                              Is there an alternative to 'alcohol', one that covers beer, wine, and distilled spirits?

                                                                                                                              is 'alcoholic beverage' better?

                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj
                                                                                                                                flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 05:36 PM

                                                                                                                                Sure. The given name of those beverages in their various iterations. It's worked for centuries. Although, a friend of mine does refer to beer as "a refreshing beverage". I think it's code of some kind.

                                                                                                                              2. re: flavrmeistr
                                                                                                                                Nyleve Jul 19, 2013 04:37 PM

                                                                                                                                Yes, flavrmeistr. Pretty much exactly what I meant.

                                                                                                                                1. re: flavrmeistr
                                                                                                                                  Lambowner Jul 22, 2013 11:01 AM

                                                                                                                                  When I hear it used, especially by someone outside the industry, I just do an inside smirk at the affectation.

                                                                                                                              3. i
                                                                                                                                INDIANRIVERFL Jul 19, 2013 11:05 AM

                                                                                                                                I think this started when home cooks discovered they could substitute hamburger for tuna in their Helper.

                                                                                                                                Hip and in the know.

                                                                                                                                This too shall pass.

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                                                                                                                                  Uncle Bob Jul 19, 2013 11:12 AM

                                                                                                                                  'This too shall pass'

                                                                                                                                  I hope sooner, rather than later!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                                                                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 12:03 PM

                                                                                                                                    "This too shall pass."

                                                                                                                                    In more ways than one.

                                                                                                                                  2. f
                                                                                                                                    flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 11:03 AM

                                                                                                                                    It's part of the plot to suck every scintilla of pleasure out of our lives, imposed by the same people who refer to all beer, wine and cocktails as "alcohol". I don't care for the direction our modern society is taking.

                                                                                                                                    1. chartreauxx Jul 19, 2013 11:02 AM

                                                                                                                                      i refer to things based on my meal plan. during recovery from an eating disorder, i worked extensively with a dietician to develop a meal plan that i follow every day. for me, and this is just me, i operate on an "exchange" based system. foods are classified as fruits, vegetables, grains, milks/calciums, proteins, fats, and desserts (desserts can also be broken into their component pieces, i.e. 1 cookie = 1 dessert = 1 grain, 2 fats).

                                                                                                                                      any dish/recipe can be broken down this way. for example, 1 cup of spaghetti with 0.5 cup marinara sauce, 0.25 cup parmesan cheese, and 3oz of chicken would count as 2 grains, 1 vegetable, 1 milk/calcium, and 3 proteins.

                                                                                                                                      i don't know why others might refer to meats, eggs, tofu, etc as "proteins", but i call them that because that is how they count on my meal plan and how i track my daily intake. it's really helpful to me to think of things by their "category" to make sure i eat a balanced diet.

                                                                                                                                      1. Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2013 11:00 AM

                                                                                                                                        Makes that particular food category sound rather sterile, doesn't it?

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                          flavrmeistr Jul 19, 2013 11:59 AM

                                                                                                                                          Why not just refer to "vertabrates/invertabrates" or "carbon-based lifeforms"? Much more appetizing, no?

                                                                                                                                        Show Hidden Posts