When a windyloo is meant to be a Vindaloo

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When a windyloo is meant to be a Vindaloo - Reprinted from salonculinaire.com

It does at not surprise me to see food critics are commenting on the out of control "artistic" expression presented on many restaurant menus. Not only frightful spelling, but also the added misrepresentation of technical terms used to describe dishes without even the slightest consideration to their derivative source.

Currently the out of control artistic expression on menus I fear aims to totally confuse clients. Chefs now attempt to express every conceivable dish with usually unheard of ingredients, leaving the client to guess what they are going to be presented with.

How about this! in an attempt to be " different” putting on a menu: cilantro instead of coriander. Either the chefs was American or more probably an Australian chef attempting to show-off.

For many years I have said that chefs educate the public through their menus and stated that one can legitimately argue, which comes first, the demand for a particular dish or the supply of a new concept dish that becomes popular. Subsequently when a menu has a misspelling or is incorrectly portrayed, Joe public then believes this and the inaccurate becomes the acceptable.

A little tip for all you chefs to think about ? Personally I have never being good at spelling or grammar, but at least know it. In a previous life, after checking my menu with my library of reference books, I used to give them to the senior apprentices to research as a learning experience and challenging them to find mistakes. Many a time we both learnt lessons.

This reflection on menu compilation grew from reading a great article Words of Wisdom by John Lethlean, and I have to wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments in the article. With permission I reproduce the article below for you to agree or disagree with it. It is well worth reading and so true.

Words of wisdom

  • Reproduced with permission – The Age Newspaper April 1st 2006.by John Lethlean

John Lethlean gets started on a translation service for literacy challenged menus.

HAVE YOU SEEN THE cartoon of Apostrophe Man, the one where he descends - all tight, blue leotard, underpants on the outside, cape flowing with a symbol on his chest - to a hapless restaurateur on his knees, busy writing up the day's specials board?

"I'll have that chalk, thank you," Apostrophe Man says to the restaurant guy. It’s a kind of in joke but one with broad application.

It was sent me by a restaurant public relations specialist, demonstrating both a refined sense of humour (a rare thing for her industry) and an understanding that those funny little commas above the line do not automatically precede the letter "s". To that point, I had come to assume anyone associated with restaurants believed otherwise.

Language is a powerful tool, but it's not really the domain of your average chef or restaurateur (often one and the same) - in the same way that sewing may not come easy to the man who handles elephants at the circus and cooking commercially and creatively almost certainly is beyond the vast majority of journalists.

Yet language - words, punctuation, grammar, all that stuff we were lucky enough to have been taught in school - is a tool employed on a daily basis by those in the restaurant industry. It’s a tool handled clumsily. For every (exrestaurateur) Gay Bilson, whose book Plenty: Digressions on Food won last year's Age Book of the Year Award against candidates across the literary spectrum, there are a thousand out there who play fast and very loose with punctuation, typography and words when it comes to the main document they create as the marketing tool of their restaurants - the menu.

Commas (like, apostrophes) are, inserted completely randomly. Capital Letters appear out of nowhere. Bolding? Why not? Spelling? Don't get me started.

If all the chefs and restaurateurs interbred for the next thousand years (don't laugh, it's already happening), we'd get menu items like this: Brest of sichwan twice-cooked Duck with confit shitake mushooms a carpaccio, of bok choi and cassoulette of black bean Tarte Tatin on a Jus of star Anus.

It's got to the point that I sit up and take notice when somebody makes an effort to get things right on a menu. I've come to assume that if a menu is grammatically correct, the spelling accurate and the intended meaning clear, the food and service must be shite.

But language is a tool for the creative, and a lot of chefs are very creative people. The rest want to convey the impression they are too, and so words are bandied around like promises in a pub, and all the better if they make you sound continental when they roll off your tongue. Among the chief offenders:

Carpaccio: a name once given to a plate of raw beef thinly sliced because its colour (red) reminded its creator of the painter Carpaccio, who used a similar red with abandon. Now anything thinly sliced is a carpaccio. Thinly slice a hunk of tinned dog food and you can give Rover a carpaccio of Pal. Getting a lot of use in conjunction with fruit, I notice.

Confit originally a process of, first, preserving protein in salt and, later, slow cooking it in fat at very low temperature as in confit duck, this has been picked up to refer to just about anything that has been cooked in anything for a long time at low temperature. If you get a potato chip that's been cooked in inadequately hot oil, well, that's confit baton of potato, OK. Often applied to leeks, tomatoes, salmon and baby vegetables.

Cassoulet anything with beans in it. Forget that it is originally a most complex, time-honoured combination of varying porky meats and smallgoods (varying according to which part of France you visit), including the aforementioned confit bird of some description. Every real cassoulet has small white beans in it, which has provided chefs with enormous licence over the years. It's just a matter of time before someone offers a Breakfast Cassoulet that turns out to be a sausage, bacon and baked beans on toast.

Ballontine: this is the creative conjugation of two distinct meat preparations traditional to France the ballotine and the galantine. People do get them confused. Which is hardly surprising when the chefs not sure whether ifs one or the other either.

Tarte tatin: any combination of pastry and thinly sliced fruit or veg is a tarte tatin nowadays. Roll out some puff, throw some red onion on top, bake it et voila! Never mind that the Tatin sisters invented a special caramelised apple tart made with shortened pastry and cooked upsidedown during a lengthy process. Slight fly in the ointment, mate.

Assiette: fancy word for plate.

Tapas: anything small.

Local: as in local Iamb. Anything grown in Australia. Or as one wag suggested, Local Peninsula Rabbit probably means it was bought from a business named Peninsula Restaurant Supplies.

Line caught: how are we going to prove that one?

Sashimi: anything raw and sliced.

Oven roasted: and exactly how else might we roast this? Now wood oven roasted is something to boast about.

And so on ... this could go forever. But hey, enough of my yacking.

Thank you John - But you forgot the Ragout served in a shaving dish with dejohn mustard and the chocolate mouse

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