Beyond the dictionary and thesaurus found on Merriam-Webster’s site, there’s a great little column called Word Well Used, where readers send in examples of good grammar. Or more accurately, of examples of those who employ nouns, adjectives and the like in wondrous ways. A recent column on the use of the word insipid in The New York Review of Books caught our attention. Here’s the quoted sentence: “It is impossible to sit at table without analyzing, forkful by forkful, every flavor and ingredient as if the experience will be incomprehensible and insipid without commentary.”
Turns out it’s from a thought-provoking December 2nd blog post under the header Eats & Reads by Ingrid D. Rowland. Rowland’s thesis (one of them) is what she called “meta-cuisine.” That today we tend to talk about food a lot, especially while we’re eating it. “Taste no longer affords pleasure on its own,” Rowland wrote in the post: “Just as contemporary art exists only if someone talks about and interprets it, so cooking only lives, these days, in the comments of its consumers.” Rowland goes on to make points about food being, if not the art, the obsession of our current time, and also to poke fun at the way modern menus love to include “geography,” or provenance of pork and of produce. (Though having laid eyes on several menus from centuries past in the New York Public Library’s collection, we can say for sure that trend has come and gone in American society before.) This is especially ironic, she notes, at a time when the world grows smaller through trade and technology and books and reading in general are in decline.
No matter your response, her piece is certainly worth a read, if only to have something to talk about at the dinner table tonight. Other than the ricotta gnudi and Dutchess County lamb with heirloom apples and onions, that is.