Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Please, ladies and gentlemen:

1) My heroine, mentor, and sweetheart Dorothy Kalins recently told me she was making a list of certain words that need to be flushed entirely out of the food world. Mine, or a beginning of one, is below. I’m sure there are others besides the ones here, and I’d love to hear from anyone who’d like to contribute to this Hall of Shame:

über-[anything] (usually misspelled “uber-” without the umlaut)
program (e.g., “cocktail program”)
crispy (the word is crisp, people)

2) There are also words that every person in the food world damn well ought to how to pronounce and even to spell. And yet, it seems, rather many do not know:

sommelier: In a highly regarded new restaurant in San Francisco the other night, the waiter repeated what seems to have become the egregiously widespread howler in which the word sounds like that benighted nation on the Horn of Africa. It is pronounced, in American, roughly, súmmle-yay. Not Somalia.

mascarpone: In a restaurant review in the New York Times of October 6, 2010, under the byline of the rightly renowned Sam Sifton—I must believe that this was not his but an editor’s error—the word was misspelled as it is so often so painfully mispronounced, as marscapone. Whether or not you decide to append the Italian é sound at the end, please just pay attention to the order of the consonants at the beginning: mas-car, preferably with a broad a so as not to rhyme with NASCAR.

restaurateur: There is no n in this word. If you’ve been saying it wrong all your life, it may take some practice, but you will feel a great endorphin rush when at last it becomes effortless.

granità: As the grave accent, so often missing from menus and hence from minds, makes clear, the emphasis is on the third syllable, not the second.

panino: An Italian sandwich. Two of them are panini. No matter how many of them you’re talking about, they are never paninis.

ravioli et al.: Here admittedly things get complicated. In Italian it’s a plural word, as is spaghetti. In American, however, by long usage, both have become pretty much singular. “Ravioli is one of my favorite dishes” doesn’t sound wrong to me. But “He makes these great white truffle raviolis” hurts. An American person wishing not to sound subliterate would do well to treat the word ravioli as both singular and plural according to context, and never to tack on that tacky s.