Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Things Gleaned From the AP

Several months ago the newest edition of the AP style guide landed on my desk at work. For anyone who doesn't know it's a quintessential resource for writers. It helps keep track of the millions of specific, counter intuitive rules journalists follow. It's a way to ensure continuity. Grammar geeks like myself dig books like this. And because it's used by the writers and editors who produce a lot of what we all read, it's interesting to see what makes the list. What terms are so important or so often questioned that they need to be included in the book everyone consults when copyediting their work? Which is why I noticed that the 2011 edition of the style guide includes--for the first time--a section dedicated to food.

Separate sections have existed for years for business and sports writers, but there has not been a dedicated section for food writers, restaurant reviewers, etc. It could be a sign that food has crossed into the realm where it's equated with sports as an acceptable hobby (read: obsession). Of course, arguably that status was achieved years ago and the AP is just now catching up. Regardless, I found the words and terms that were included in the guide an interesting, if at times bewildering read.

In no particular order they are:
  • Balogna is undefinable. Described only as "lunch meat," it is a terrifyingly vague definition, especially when compared with prosciutto, "a salt-cured Italian ham, served thinly sliced."
  • You want to be labeled a gourmet, not a gourmand (someone who likes good food, who tends to eat to excess, aka a glutton). A gourmet is "a person who likes fine food and is an excellent judge of food and drink."
  • Corn dog is 2 words.
  • You can call it a colander, but strainer is "preferred." (Preferred by whom the book does not specify.)
  • Carnaroli is an Italian rice similar to arborio, both used to make risotto. (Personally I'd say carnaroli is superior, but let's not split hairs. I'm just impressed it made it onto the list at all.)
  • There is NO apostrophe in farmers market. Unless of course a singular farmer owns the market in question.
  • The term frankfurter is still apparently used. (Really?!?)
  • Filet-O-Fish earned its own entry. (!)
  • Filet mignon, that super tender beef cut, is usually 1-2 inches thick and cooked by a brief searing, then finished in the oven or under a broiler. The definition is that specific. 
  • Crock-Pot is a brand, not an appliance. Unless it says those words on it what you have is a slow cooker. (other brand vs. object entries include: Fluff vs. marshmallow spread and zip-close bag vs. Ziploc. However, that thing you put hot beverages in can be a thermos or a Thermos.)
  • Dr Pepper does not have punctuation in it. (Dr not Dr.)
  • Note: French dressing, french fries, French toast. Capitalization counts. The "french" in french fries refers to the cut, not the country of origin. (Freedom fries do not rate an entry.)
  • Grits make the cut. Polenta does not.
  • Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on corn and is considered a delicacy in Mexico. It's flavor is smoky-sweet. (Is this a term that comes up a lot?)
  • It's Jamaica rum, not Jamaican.
  • Ketchup, not catsup.
  • Locavore is in there. (ugh!)
  • Kool-Aid is still apparently considered food.
  • Mustard=the condiment. Dry mustard=the powder. Specificity counts.
  • Red onions are also apparently called Italian onions. (Who knew.)
  • Skillet is preferred to frying pan.
Don't you all feel more prepared now?