Food with a pseudonym

William Shakespeare, or rather, Juliet, said: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." 

Juliet was speaking of family names, saying that it didn’t matter to her that Romeo had the name of the family with whom her family feuded.

I would like to argue the same point, but with respect to food.

The modern world is one full of boundless possibilities. Some of those have come about because of limitations.

An increase in food allergies and dietary restrictions has created an industry that is about offering products that fit our traditional view of food while fulfilling the requirements for limitations like gluten free or paleo or keto diets.

The rise of vegans and vegetarians has created a larger market for products that fit with their philosophy or dietary choice. This doesn’t just mean that items in the grocery store or at a restaurant are marked as being friendly for people in these groups.

We now have products that are meant to imitate something not included in the diet.

Sometimes these products are just about a name. I saw a recipe posted by the Food Network recently entitled Absolutely Addictive Cauliflower Buffalo Wings.

There was an added note that included a recipe for vegan Ranch dip. I laughed when I read it.

First, it seemed like they were trying awfully hard to sell those wings: do you need to tell me they are absolutely addictive?

Second, why can’t you decide what this dish is – cauliflower or Buffalo wings (as in chicken)? If it’s cauliflower, why can’t it be called Zesty Hot Cauliflower Bites?

To paraphrase an old chicken joke, cauliflower doesn’t have wings (you know, like chickens don’t have lips).

I am not trying to malign vegetarians and vegans for wanting a dish that uses the traditional Hot Wing sauce for cauliflower.

But why would you want to call it wings?

How do vegans and vegetarians feel about eating something that purports to be meat?

Why would restaurateurs presume to think such a crossover would be met with approval? Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this is a silly way to promote food.

My hubby gets upset about this practice, too, and his is a professional dismay. As a trained chef, he takes umbrage when he sees Tomato or Butternut Bisque on a menu.

You see, a bisque is a type of soup that requires a certain technique, one that is only possible with seafood. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Bisque is a method of extracting flavour from imperfect crustaceans not good enough to send to market. In an authentic bisque, the shells are ground to a fine paste and added to thicken the soup.

It is thought the name is derived from Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay, but the crustaceans are certainly bis cuites "twice cooked" for they are first sautéed lightly in their shells, then simmered in wine and aromatic ingredients, before being strained, followed by the addition of cream.

It has become common for any soup with pre-cooked ingredients that are puréed and finished with cream to be now called a bisque, but poor hubby, with his classical French training, shudders every time he sees it.

To him, it represents the loss of a technique that created a particular dish. It’s like not bothering to learn how Grandma makes her special dish; eventually the door closes on that part of your culture when no one can pass it along.

I could be reading too much into the names of dishes, but new man-made foods that have been invented are a category that deserves our full attention.

Have you heard of cheez? A product that resembles cheese but is made from nut or soy milk is available in some markets.

It doesn’t melt the same as the traditional dairy product, but it can be used in similar ways for people who can’t have or don’t want real cheese. As with the cauliflower wings, I am not looking to upset people who are consumers of these products.

I do know that I want to be sure such products are labelled properly though.

All consumers have expectations at the grocery store, and we deserve to know what we are getting (or not getting, in the case of non-dairy cheese).

 Using cheez with a z to denote a non-dairy product has a derogatory tone, if you ask me.

The term is used for goofy humour that is usually in poor taste, and its beginning in the dairy world was with Cheez Whiz, the Kraft processed product that appeared in the early days of convenience food.

Perhaps it’s fitting though, as Cheez Whiz no longer contains real cheese.

You can read that sad story from years ago here.

I will save the most revolutionary new food for another column. “Impossible Meat” is something that was not invented so much for vegans and vegetarians as it was to combat the environmental impact of consuming large quantities of meat in our diet.

That’s a whole other pile of beans, if you’ll pardon the broad pun.

In closing, I’d like to call out Juliet. I admire her romantic sensibility, but I protest the logic of her conclusion. Romeo would have been a different person with a different name.

She might still have loved him, like some people love cauliflower wings and cheez. But the rhymes in the story would have had to change and who knows?

Maybe the ending would then have been different too.

How about we appreciate our food for what it is, and don’t worry about disguising it or giving it a pseudonym?

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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