Snap of the Grain
Warning, humble brag first liner.
It wasn’t until a week ago that I realized how distinctively different my food knowledge was from my fellow eaters.
It happened at a friends meeting friend of a friends dinner, where the hosts had firmly secured the baby in a breast milk coma prior to our arrival.
The food was deliciously simple: roast chicken, green salad, white rice.
We had scrambled for our addition to the potluck, and hastily swiped a vegetable tortellini in with our libations purchase because the friend of honor was vegan.
The friend of honor was like, diehard since birth, in utero vegan.
And the pasta had some weird lactose powder in it. Naturally.
Still, the wine flowed leisurely between majority of us, a combination of red and Riesling making their way in circles about the dinner table. The conversation played its way through fitness politics, childbirth and fonder memories of the East coast.
Everyone complimented the food periodically and appropriately, passing seconds and thirds where remainder allowed.
I always relished in the way the host could set a table, with rosemary garnish sprigs on porcelain plates, thin snifter bowled glasses for red and more fluted tall ones for white. Everything at her table was always just so, and I had come to adore the way she would change the settings each time we ate, adding to the seemingly endless possibilities birthed from that modest kitchen.
The art of table setting is almost entirely lost on my generation. It has been traded in for the single food hero generally shot birds eye with a linen thrown somewhere to the left. I find it particularly soothing to know that someone enjoys the traditional formality of a gathered repast, and takes not only pride but also creative intrigue in framing the dinner. My job leans more towards ensuring the finality of the experience but I believe it is the stylist that has the first line of attack on our prey.
I note aloud the interesting choice of white rice over brown for the evening’s meal, being that over half the table dedicated themselves to rigorous daily fitness.
The diehard chimes in-
Apparently there’s no real nutritional difference between the two.
I could do little more than skew my lips and shrug. Muscles like hers obviously knew something mine didn’t and I wasn’t about to put myself on blast like that. I continued to chew.
“I think I just like brown rice more altogether,” I ventured safely. “I like the snap of the grain.”
Forks hit plates.
The what? is universally conveyed through mouths agape.
I attempt to backtrack and put into layman’s terms what I had just said, but the damage was done. Everyone at the table was now floored by the understanding that not only was this the technical term used to describe casings of all kind, but that it is common practice to relate many attributes and characteristics of food items with bodily parts, functions and maneuvers.
I personally think there’s something comforting for humans, whether they’ve registered it or not, about the anthropomorphizing of anything, hence cartoons, toys and pets.
Same with food.
We bring a glass of full-bodied red to eye level and swirl the glass- why?
It is called looking for legs on wine.
We bring it to our nostrils and inhale to take in the nose.
Our first sip, the body.
It’s interesting to think of onions sweating in a pot, salads made of massaged kale, the foot of an oyster or letting bottles breathe. But once the ear has been tuned in to this phenomenon, the less novelty and more familiar it becomes to the vernacular.
In my profession, to describe food outside of these confines leaves tremendous room for confusion, more so than the initial inception of the terms themselves. It becomes more apparent in food media that panders to frothy foodie culture, calling for the treatment of vegetables like infants, swaddled in pans and cradled on beds of this, that and the third.
It is undoubtedly comparable to learning a foreign language in the sense that, a single word with understood connotation placed slightly out of context, distorts the comprehension of native English speakers.
I sat at a table of jaw dropped individuals after a brief history on the etymology of food jargon and began to understand that this dialect was kind of “members only”. Like a language taught only to those who make it their life mission to know how one ought to linguistically relate to food; a niche opportunity many will bypass in their lifetime. We continued the meal with the unique hilarity and humor that only friends of friends meeting friends for the first time could have. We left and I continued to ponder on my newly realized aptitude, and concluded that with this obscure knowledge in hand, I would always know where my tribe lurked.