American lingo in food????

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by shroomgirl, Jun 17, 2001.

  1. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    OK....I have mixed feelings about this, think I've sorted out what to do, wanna know what you guys think....

    This weekend David Page was in town for a demo, dinner, lunch...book signing. I said he'd just missed the frais du bois. He said call them strawberries, we're in America call them strawberries. We passed the buckwheat flour I said I make blinis with them he said call them buckwheat pancakes....
    He doesn't let his chefs say mis en place anymore...I said so waddya call it cooking shtuff?
    Thoughts????? I'll post my response after you guys.
     
  2. cape chef

    cape chef

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    I find myself having mixed feelings on this thread.Can we call those tiny beautiful berries just "Strawberries"?maybe not. Can we teach the new culinary folk the difference between a incredible tiny white or red strawberry from a standard one? Yes we can. But what should we call it? Are all blinis made from buckwheat flour? maybe not,but can a pancake be called a blini? Why not.Have the words " mise en place"lost there power in todays kitchens? Some yes and some no. I think that the examples given me are just the tip of the iceburg.I can say to my staff...have your station ready to roll by 5:45! Is that not the same as Mise en place? Yes it is. But then again...When I recieve a small amount of "Frais De Bois" That is how I explain the nature of that beast or"Berry" I think we need to use commen sence in our culinary lanquage,Fiddleheads,baby leeks,sweet spring peas,white peaches etc, all should be labled as such,English is a very cool language,but at the same time we must be in tune with what the whole world has to offer us. I understand the concept of having all American words on our menus.Example, Fresh herbs or Fines herbs...Whatever. I am very confident in the ability of the American Chef and public to understand the written word on modern menus that we need not make them to complicated,But..we need to be respectful of our past and the "Culinary Heritage" that landed on our shores..

    Balance is the word I guess I'm trying to say

    I do not write my menus any more with french terms all over the place...But,Foie Gras Is foie gras...Boullibaise sounds so sweet,garlic mayo is nice..so is garlic aoili.
    What do you all think?
    cc
     
  3. kimmie

    kimmie

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    I totally agree with you, CC. There is room for Fraises des bois and Strawberries on the menu since they are different.

    However, about the blini question, hummmmmmmm!

    Blini ALWAYS has yeast in them?
    Pancakes, NEVER?

    :eek:
     
  4. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Kimmie.....

    Thank you, You are absolutly right!!

    What you said reinforces the education needed to properly write a menu
    cc
     
  5. mofo1

    mofo1

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    I think this guy is a little over the top. This is how I do it. If I am talking to a chef, I use culinary french. mise en place or pate a choux. A non-chef or trainee gets told to "get his stuff together" and make some cream-puff paste. I do try to teach them the proper term, if they want to know. I do, for the most part, leave the french out of the menus. Just enough to make it interesting. Most places I've been use americanized french. Mise en place becomes "meez". Monte au beurre becomes "mount". Demi-glace becomes "demi". Is this bad? Who cares. It works. This gentleman needs to lighten up a bit. IMHO
    p.s. Don't get me going on "a confit of" That kind of stuff does kind of irritate me.

    [ June 17, 2001: Message edited by: mofo1 ]
     
  6. isaac

    isaac

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    if i am explaining something to a non cook, i use basic english but if i am talking with a chef, i will use culinary terms.

    i think you should call it what you want (within boundries of course). i think sometimes if you call it by its french name (like strawberrys) it might sell better.

    its your choice really.
     
  7. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Perhaps he did did insert his foot in his mouth by embarrasing you publicly by correcting you, instead of talking about an issue he has strong feeling about?.....Sometimes I'm offended by people correcting my french pronouncations of terms or objects when that person appears to be putting on airs of formality or of superior knowledge. Although it totally depends upon the persons demeanor as to how I would react. I've worked next to a great french chef that never critizied my poor language skills (instead helped my learn) and then I've had an assistant who couldn't follow me if I crawled, play french teacher over every word that I said. Soooo, my reaction would depend upon the persons attitute completely.

    I tend to side with him if his point was to simplify (was everyone at the table a pro?). But to put on "airs" is rude on either side of the point...don't you think?
     
  8. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    <rant>
    The bean counters decided one day that every restaurant in the system was to run a French menu for a week. Fine I said, so I made up a menu... in ENGLISH! Someone upstairs decided it needed to be worded in French so they plugged in the translater and turned it into French! It was a total flop. The waitstaff couldn't pronounce French and felt really stupid describing the items. I'm no Frenchman but the translations were so horrible that I was embarassed to be affiliated with them. For example, "Mousse de Chocolat" for Chocolate mousse? :confused:
    </rant>

    Our culinary lexicon is there for a purpose. Sometimes native foods are best described in their original language and the results are mostly positive. Terms like tandoori and schnitzel have been in our vocabulary for years don't seem out of place when used in a sentence. OTOH, lutefisk should be lutefisk ;) and baloot should be baloot! (duck fetus in shell, like we need to know)

    There are some times when the introduction of something new requires a whole new vocabulary. "Confit of Salmon" might send the French into a frenzy. One might think that this were Salmon cooked and preserved in its own fat! The English sometimes refer to jam as a confiture. Strawberry confit what?!? Strawberries cooked in fat? No, strawberries cooked and preserved in their own juices.

    The division of linguistic labor seems to have fallen into the hands of chefs. We need to be very careful what we say on menus. In America we have this convention of making the description part of the name. No longer do we create classics named Caesar Salad or Crepes Suzette. Now, thanks to the Troisgros brothers, we have "Cotelettes de porc sauce confuse" which, in 1978, was mistaken by the Chinese to have something to do with Con***ius!

    Whether we like it or not, we are introducing new usages into our American vocabulary. We are, as they say in lingoland, expert users of the language. In this case, the language encompasses the entire gamut of culinary terms. Of course, no one is fluent in French, English, Spanish, Urdu, Cantonese, Tagalog, and Afrikaans at the same time, but neither are all scientists experts in Greek, Latin, and Southern. I feel we can use non-American terms. We just have to be very careful of what we speak, lest mislead the Wolves to the Sheep.

    Kuan
     
  9. kimmie

    kimmie

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    Thank you CC!

    This is a wonderful thread. You all made very good points!

    :D
     
  10. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    Those that know me know that I do not embarrass easily.....it was a semi private conversation as I gave him a tour of the market....guys I'm secure enough to deal with other's opinions but thanks for sticking up for me.
    My feelings are look at who your talking to...
    Know your audience, that's been said and I agree.
    I will still say frais du bois and strawberry. I may say tiny wild berry.
    Blinis go with caviar (fish eggs???!!!)
    Buckwheat pancakes are breakfast with syrup.
    They are two different animals.
    I will make a more concious effort not to talk over other's heads.....but dumbing down is not ok either.
    My 2 cents. Communication is an art. The more exact you can be the clearer your message....
     
  11. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    I have no problem seeing "tiny wild strawberries" on an American menu. But I know few FOH people who can actually pronounce "fraises du bois" correctly, or a lot of other unnecessary French terms I see all to often (and often, misspelled) on American menus. I'm hardly fluent in French, but am sensitive to its abuse in restaurant contexts in the U.S. Most patrons don't have enough French to interpret terms beyond the very common ones (mousse au chocolat, for example), so why subject them to it? Exception: a restaurant which is billed as a French bistro, etc. In that case, the menu French had better be impeccable with English translations provided, and FOH trained to pronounce it reasonably.
     
  12. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    I think you are right on Shroom. I once dealt with this same problem when a cook complained to the executive chef (I was the sous) that I was constantly talking over here head and she was sick of it. I asked her what she meant and to give an example. She replied "why do you have say Raspberry Coulis?" "Can't you just say puree of raspberries?". Honestly I wasn't trying to talk over her head and from the sounds of the situation I don't believe you were trying to either.

    I feel that part of the beauty of food comes from it's verbal description. I will be much more interested with a chef's creation when it reads something like

    Fresh Foie Gras pan seared and served with a reduction of port and fresh fig

    as oposed to:

    Goose Liver fried in a hot pan and served with cooked down port wine and fig
     
  13. daveb

    daveb

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    There is a tyranny of the simple as well as a tyranny of the complex. The insistance that EVERYTHING be named in English is as silly as an insistance that everything be named in French.

    Years ago, I happened to stay at a hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel. Every night the left side of the menu featured extravagent French descriptions of the various courses. The Hebrew side invariably described dinner as chicken soup, schnitzel and noodles. Both sides of the issue on the same menu!

    I was most upset, hoever, at Page's willingness to give up precision. Fraise des Bois aren't just strawberries. And apart from the caviar/breakfast distinction, the last time I made blini, they were quite different from the recipe I would use for buckwheat cakes at breakfast.
     
  14. kimmie

    kimmie

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  15. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    When I was over in France this was a very big deal for the French. So much so that they actually passed a law the outlawed the use of English words in French advertisments, signs, etc. Many felt that they were losing the French language with the introduction of such words as "Le Joggin" for jogging.
     
  16. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Heh Nicko, in some parts of the country, you might be able to serve more Foie Gras if you describe it as Fried Goose Liver. Perhaps on AYCE Gizzards and Lamb Fries night! :D

    Kuan
     
  17. isa

    isa

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    I’ve thought about this for a while before answering. It is a subject close to my hearth, being French in a sea of English. And let me states for I am not for the independence of Québec, I just want to protect my language. Furthermore I have a British as well as a French side and I know that my English is far from perfect, I have little knowledge of the English grammar because it was never to me in school.

    My first though when I read Shroomgirl’s post about the reaction of the chef was, well I’m too polite to say. But I stepped back and realised that he’s reacting just as I would, he wants to protect his language. That in itself is very noble and I can understand his feelings on the subject.

    The only problem I have with the use of French is that most don’t even bother to check the spelling and or the grammar. If one can not rely on the teachers and books to learn the proper French terms for your field of work where will one learn? I am always surprised by the number of errors there are in cookbooks even when the authors are French!

    Is fraises des bois the same as strawberries? No wild strawberries would be closer to the French fraises de bois. Foie gras does indeed sounds better then fat liver pâté. In the culinary field, many terms are French because they were the ones who set up the base of cooking. As our horizons widened, we also learn words from many other languages, think, wok, dim sum, paella, enchiladas, pasta, etc. Those words are more then useful, they enriched us all and are used to describe new realities. How often would you order raw fish on rice? Sushi does sound better. We each, in our respective country, have to find the middle ground. I know some find a certain exoticism in using foreign words and will do so, sometimes too freely. Where is the good measure? We each have to find our own middle ground.
     
  18. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Other terms that Mr. Page should not have on his menu,or in his kitchen, if he truly feels this way:

    Entree
    Salsa-hispanic word
    al dente
    filet or filet mignon
    tortilla-it's a ground hominy pancake
    pate
    The list could go on and on. No food, no culture's food lives in isolation. We all borrow from each other. To not call something by its widely recognized name just because it is a foreign name is rediculous. I do agree that it does drive me nuts to go into a restaurant serving "American" cuisine, yet half the menu is in French or Japanese or Thai just for the sake of being flowerery, but sometimes those names are the best way to describe what is being served. Nobody wants to eat "Fattened Liver from a Force Fed Duck" or "Snails cooked in 1/2# of Butter with enough Garlic to make your Breathe Stink for a Week". How else can you can you describe Potatoes Mashed with Salt Cod other than as Brandade?
     
  19. cape chef

    cape chef

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    My Dear Iza...

    So well put!!!

    cc
     
  20. elakin

    elakin

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    hi all

    shroomgirl...this is a great post...really got everyone talking.

    i also thought a tortilla was a ground hominy pancake until i went to spain and had tortilla espanola, which is what we know as a frittata...or an omelet...more or less. and to me....that is the whole point. the language of food is evolving....and it always will be. obviously the word travelled from spain to mexico, but the food that was associated with that word changed somewhere along the way.

    and as chefs who write menus for the dining public to read and digest, we have a big responsibility. i understand why this chef shroomgirl was working with would act this way, because working abroad, i see the way "american food" is looked down upon by the world who thinks only of hamburgers, hot dogs, and big steaks with baked potatoes.

    but to try to eliminate commonly used foreign terms that have already been previously integrated into the american vocabulary is ridiculous.

    one of the beautiful things about food is that it fosters multi-cultural awareness by breeding familiarity with foreign terms and rich cultural traditions. maybe the diner you serve "bouillabaise" to tonight will be inspired to look it up on the internet tomorrow and read about the great tradition and ceremony involved with this particlar preparation of "fish stew with toasted bread slices, and a thick red-pepper garlic emulsion." maybe it will inspire them to go to nice and eat the real thing...maybe it will inspire them to learn french, or read more about provencial french cooking. who knows? maybe they'll go to france and eat the real thing only to realize how the version you made in kansas city didn't even do the term justice.

    obviously, there's tons of foreign words which are now well-incorporated into american language (food-related and non)...and more will be added. i can only agree with a previous post and say that there must be a balance....