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Monday, April 25, 2011 at 9:34AM
I was recently surprised to see people taking part in a spoof version of Master Chef for the recent Comic Relief – surprised because this new series of Master Chef is so over the top that it should be beyond parody. Emotional contestants weeping over the amazing journeys they have made, prima-donna professional chefs shouting the odds, and, of course, a liberal slather of the new language that the programme has helped to create.
The new language is all about the adjectives. The last lot of menu phrases to pass into laughable cliche (jus, reduction, veloute etc) did so because they were pretentious, foreign words for things that just sounded less exotic in English. In Master Chef land, though, the joke is the use of multiple, complex describing words; here, adjectives are as much in abundance as the seared scallops. One is never enough; things must be chunky, hand-tossed, locally-sourced, triple-coated and baked boiled or fried.
This language has been used on gastro pub menus for some time, but it was when I saw a menu featuring ‘outdoor reared sausages’ that I began to think about how over used and meaningless certain phrases have become. How exactly do you rear sausages outdoors? (This particular menu had a Master Chef cliché in every single dish, from its pulled beef brisket to its Cornish brie. There were so many words in the descriptions of each dish, you could use up your entire lunch hour just reading the menu).
The best phrases are the ones that try to make something ordinary or unhealthy sound better. My favourites are ‘pan fried’ (What else would you fry it in? Does this mean that the oil is good for you?) and ‘double fried’. (Does this just mean fried beforehand then dipped back into the chip pan to crisp it up?) ‘Line caught’ fish always amused me too. Does it make people feel better if they know that their fish suffocated after having its mouth pierced by a sharp hook, rather than dying in a net with its fishy pals?
I’d love to predict this gobbledegook’s imminent demise, but the sad truth is that these phrases are filtering down so that they appear on menus that clearly offer food of less-than-Master Chef quality. How long, I wonder, before Greggs offer West Country seared beef served on bread home baked with locally sourced flour?