What’s in a name?
Not much, according to Shakespeare’s Juliet who famously told Romeo:
“That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
But apparently, when it comes to food, a name can make a big difference. So, for example, Chocolate Cake may get plenty of takers, but “Heirloom, Fudge-Lacquered Chocolate Decadence” would get more.
Recently there was an article in the New York Post decrying some menu and food descriptions that were beginning to sound overused and over-the-top. It mentioned “artisinal” and “heirloom” among others.
And the writer asked “can we just eat already?”
Well, there have always been culinary buzzwords. Check out some old-time cookbooks and you’ll find entries for things like “Best Ever” Sugar Cookies and “Savory Stuffed Veal.”
The words didn’t actually mean much. Maybe the cookies were the best ever and maybe not. But they sounded better. And what was savory about the veal? Would anyone have expected veal to be something other than savory?
I remember when Chinese food was the rage in America. The names of the new (to us) dishes were awesome and appealing! “Dragon and Phoenix” sounded sublime. Much much better than “fried cut up chicken and shrimp,” which is what that is.
I think it was ever since that time that the high-flung adjectives and nouns took on new life in the food biz. Ever since we’ve been entranced with “pesto” everything and foods that are “pan-roasted” and salads that include “shaved” Parmigiana and “Balsamic infused you-name-it” and “dried shiitake mushroom dusted something-or-others.”
So the current trend to use descriptors like “artisinal” and “bespoke” and “house-made” are really just more of same though maybe a bit grander and more self-aggrandizing these days.
I mean, really, can a big, national chain like Domino’s really serve “artisinal” pizza?
I like to use fancy names once in a while too. My grandma served me gedemfte fleish and my mother served it as Pot Roasted beef. But I always call the dish California-Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs with Winter Squash and Dried Cranberries. Doesn’t that sound nice?
California-Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs with Winter Squash and Dried Cranberries
4 pounds short ribs (with bone)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups California Cabernet wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 cup dried cranberries
Rinse and dry the meat. Dredge the meat in the flour to coat all surfaces. Heat the vegetables oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook the ribs in batches, leaving ample space between them so that they can brown properly. Remove the ribs as they brown and set aside in a plate. Continue until all the ribs have been browned. Add the onions to the pan, lower the heat and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan. Pour in the wine. Sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the pan. Cook at a simmer for 2-1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat to a dish. Skim the fat from the pan fluids. Return the meat to the pan. Add the squash chunks and dried cranberries. Cook, covered, for another 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. Makes 4 servings