Hyperbole for Dinner?

The-Greatest-Indian-Curries-Ever-Created-by-Meera-JoshiI guess the reasons are sort of obvious but isn’t it odd how food writers feel the need to exaggerate? Laura Miller really nails the phenomenon:

“Fried-Chicken Cutlets Can Solve Life’s Problems” and “This Instant Pot Thai Chicken Will Rock Your World,” I’ve been assured. Why is so much online food writing couched in ludicrous hyperbole? …

Above all, online food writers proclaim themselves obsessed. Among the things they’ve confessed to being obsessed with over the past couple of weeks: a one-skillet chickpea dish, a brand of salad scissors, and a serrated paring knife.

Of course, it’s all about trying to get attention in a world of too much information. “Tasty chicken” or “reliable soup” just isn’t clickbait.

No doubt, the democratization of information channels is also having its effect:

Never before have so many non-writers crashed the public conversation, then struggled to articulate exactly what they want to say, falling back again and again on overblown intensifiers like “amazing” and “incredible. Furthermore, behind all this gushing is almost certainly a corporate imperative to make dowdy-seeming recipe sites more appealing to people in their 20s, who are all presumed to communicate in this way.

Truth be told, unless you’re René Redzepi most recipes will be ordinary. As Miller points out, that’s the point of day-to-day cooking. Most food is made extraordinary by the occasion or the company.

The same exaggerated description marks the “superfoods” we’re all supposed to eat to add years to one’s life. Take a little-known type of produce from a little-known  culture, throw it in the juicer and you’ve got a magic elixir.

But having complained about hyperbolic recipe descriptions, let me take the other side of the argument.

Maybe the hyperbole just comes with the territory. Most home cooks who go to the trouble of creating recipes and writing them up are in the business of making the ordinary extraordinary. Isn’t that what all focused, creative home cooking is about? We’re not just trying to put something filling and nutritious on the table. We want to produce sparks of pleasure, transform the routine into a singular experience, regardless of how short-lived. The more life is filled with those singular experiences the better life is.

Perhaps the hyperbole is a bit of honesty, a bit of inflated language for an inflated moment, unnecessary to be sure, but no less real.

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