“Writing with knowledge and wit, Dan Jurafsky shows that the language of food reflects our desires and aspirations, whether it’s on a fancy French menu or a bag of potato chips.”
— Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
For foodies and non-foodies alike The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu by Dan Jurafsky provides an interesting insight into the world of culinary influences.
It might seem obvious that customers can tell a great deal about a restaurant from it’s menu but Stanford University professor Dan Jufasky embarks on a fascinating journey through The Language of Food, uncovering subtle hidden meanings, storytelling tropes and marketing jargon that influences the food we eat.
Interestingly, the fact that the way in which food is described heavily influences our decisions provides a yet another area for both restaurants and customers to navigate.
It is not as easy as there being good food and bad food. Storytelling tropes and marketing language may have the ability to dress up average food to something that it’s not and similarly, we may disregard amazing food because it is not described in the way in which we would expect. In the same way that great imagery can do wonders for a restaurant by luring customers in through their website or social media, Jufasky’s book suggests that the way in which food is described is equally important. Clearly the value of a poached egg is far lower than a Old Cotswold Legbar poached egg but the dissection to why is where Jufasky interestingly elaborates.
Food for thought, as it were.
There are also interesting details regarding the etymology of words and the relationship between certain foods such as macaroon versus macaron, why we say “toast” when drinking wine, how old Middle Eastern stews became British fish and chips and that Japanese tempura and ceviche are also connected to the latter. Naturally having an American author it does lend itself to a more US view but who does’t want to know why Yankie Doodle Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni?