The key to good food is good key words

I don’t know about you, but I’m really bad at making decisions.  This terrible fear of choosing often hits me at the worst moments…like when I’m trying to order food at a restaurant.  How the hell am I supposed to decide between things like apple juice or orange juice?? That’s like comparing apples and oranges! (ba dum chh)

But seriously, given that America has become more than a little obsessed with food, I’m not sure we’ll ever have easy menu choices again.  Even McDonald’s is jumping on the let’s-add-more-things-to-our-menu bandwagon.  I mean, everyone seems pretty excited about the breakfast all day thing, but just wait until they can’t decide between an Egg McMuffin with extra cheese and a Big Mac with extra cheese. (At least in America you never have to decide on extra cheese.  It’s a given.)

As you move away from the McDonald’s sphere, things are in even more dire shape.  Some places like Applebee’s offer bottomless appetizers: if you choose the wrong one–too bad, you’re stuck eating it until you puke anyway!  Pizza has become not just pizza, but a barrage of questions: how many toppings? which toppings? are you sure you don’t want the onions just on half? did you want stuffed crust? how about low-fat cheese? and did you actually want a calzone?  The options are endless.  Not to mention that if you make the wrong choice, you could later suffer from crippling “order envy.”

Fine, most of us don’t really have trouble deciding what to get at fast food restaurants.  I’m just trying to illustrate the problem by giving universal examples (that’s what you do in good writing, right?).  But the fact remains that some of us have a hard time when it comes to facing the waiter’s notebook.

Over the years, I have unintentionally set up a system for dealing with food-related decision problems. What gets me through these hard times is looking my key words.  That is, there are certain ingredients on a menu that just really get me going (can we call them “good trigger words” or is that offensive?).  When I see one of these things listed, all doubt slips away, and I stride up to the counter ready to order with my mouth watering.

  1. caramelized onions
  2. basil
  3. miso-ginger-sesame (either listed together or in various combinations of two)
  4. cheese
  5. pickled anything
  6. “served with a side of home fries”

The actual menu item could be like “picked maggots with moldy noodles lightly tossed in a miso-ginger sauce,” and I’d be like “SOLD. TAKE MY MONEY.”

Anybody else have food key words that inspire such insanity?

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7 thoughts on “The key to good food is good key words

  1. allthoughtswork says:

    Speaking of key words, your blog title makes me want a pound of chocolate-covered sea salt caramels. Also, “seasaltandvinegar” urges me to break my Potato Chips Are Gross Rule for the eighth time. I only do it for the vinegar ones. Because vinegar.

    Our key word lists seems to line up fairly closely which means we can never eat out together. There would be too much begging and food stealing. Many a friendship was ended with the simple words, “Would you like to split a chocolate lava cake for dessert?” (shakes head sadly)

    I would add:

    7. Smoked
    8. Sea salt
    9. Rum sauce
    10. Toffee
    11. Beer battered
    12. Complimentary

    1. seasaltandvinegar says:

      Vinegar is indeed great–one of the only ingredients that literally makes my mouth water.
      I love your additions to the list! I wasn’t even thinking about desserts…so many more possibilities. Like, I also love a good chocolate lava cake, but doesn’t it sound even better as a “molten chocolate lava cake?”

  2. codeinfig says:

    one thing that helps a lot is to have a food allergy; not necessarily something life-or-death, just something that if you eat it youll be very sick for a week.

    i dont recommend getting a food allergy on purpose (how?), going vegetarian would be easier (note: im not vegetarian.) this is just one more way to make it easier to pare down the choices.

    1. seasaltandvinegar says:

      Funny enough, I actually am vegetarian! In most cases, you’re right…the choices are easy: there aren’t too many. But lately, where I live, that’s starting to change. At the places at which I DO have more than one or two options, I find it even harder to decide since I don’t get much regular practice. Pretty sad, but true.

  3. soulandmeat says:

    My Key Food Words:
    -steamed mussels/clams
    -white wine sauce
    -pesto
    -(literally anything) pasty/handpie
    -pie
    -tart
    -dutch crust
    -avocado
    -sun-dried tomatoes
    -goat cheese

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