I was lucky (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) to have studied journalism and English Literature during university. (Medieval German Literature too, but I would not recommend anything by or about Hildegard von Bingen.) While I would never boast overmuch about my writing and editing skills, my degree has given me a fine appreciation for both a cleverness with words and the proper use of the semicolon. This is true especially within the blogosphere, where someone like me can often run out of substitutes for “delicious” and “amazing,” and while there are many fine blogs, there are few great writers/bloggers. (Please note that all blogging street cred is lost by the use of “yummy” and “amazeballs.” I, admittedly, lost my own credibility eons ago through my overuse of “awesome” and selling my soul to Chobani yogurt in order to pay my hosting fees.)
I was reminded yet again of the true greatness of great phrasing when I learned that the British food critic Jay Rayner was coming to Chicago to promote his new e-book, My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways to Have a Lousy Night Out. Bloggers, if you have ever wanted to pursue your side hobby as a full-time career, fork over the $2.99 to Amazon (or £1.99 if you’re in the UK) and set aside an hour or two to remind yourself of the depth and breadth of grammatical and vocabulary magic that separates journalists like Jay from the rest of us. My Dining Hell is a collection of the 20 lousiest dining experiences Jay has ever been abused by.
Some lines, which I wish I could highlight in the e-book, but it seems to have the highlighting and dictionary features turned off:
“In an attempt to complete the tour of Asia we also had a Thai-style red curry with shrimp, and it was indeed in the style of a Thai curry much as Zimbabwe is in the style of a democracy.” (On visiting London’s Buddah Bar.)
“Silverbrow’s gedemte meatballs, served in a gloopy cornflour-thickened sauce the same shade of orange as Dale Winton, were, if anything, worse. ‘Gedempte’ usually means ‘long cooked’, so that they fall apart. Here ‘gedempte’ took on an onomatopoeic quality, as of the sound a boulder makes when dropped into water.” (On dining at Bloom’s in London.)
“Because I am here to serve you I ordered not according to appetite, but description. If a dish read badly I had to discover if it really was a disaster. So: ‘Crispy chargrilled veal sweetbread, braised marrow with garlic and thyme, veloute infused with Amaretto and almonds.’ The sauce was so sweet it should have come with a health warning from the British Dental Association.” (On dining at the newly reopened Petrus at the Berkeley Hotel in London.)
You get the point. This is a short, quick and HIGHLY entertaining read that will remind you, if you are a blogger, that the chasm between you and the professionals is a large one, and it cannot be crossed via zip-line. It takes time and energy and effort and a lot more than a good a thesaurus and a Canon S95. (You really don’t need to live in London to enjoy this read.)
Full Disclosure: I have followed Jay’s work for many years and when he knew he was coming to Chicago this week, he invited me out to dinner and being the gracious and incredibly wealthy person that he is, he paid for my meal at Chicago’s newly opened g.e.b. (Graham Elliot Bistro.) Jay and Graham Elliot know each other from Top Chef Masters, where Jay was a judge for two seasons.) g.e.b. comped our desserts — presumably in recognition of the relationship between Graham and Jay — and I paid the tip on the full-tab. I am writing about Jay’s book because IT IS VERY GOOD and you should read it, especially if you, like me, have a (sorely neglected) website and fancy yourself a writer every other Tuesday or so when the moon is full.