6,000 ways to say mediocre
There are two quotes from colleagues of mine that have gotten me through my work life intact. Former Sun reviewer John Dorsey once said, "If you make the slightest error, restaurant owners will fall upon you like a pack of ravening wolves," or words to that effect. And food columnist Rob Kasper told me famously, "To review you need 6,000 ways to say mediocre."
Now a third colleague (I refuse to think of him as an ex-colleague), John McIntyre, has issued a challenge. Welcome to my world, John. EL
A challenge: How well can you describe a banal restaurant meal?
A classic description appears in the first P.D. James novel Cover Her Face. Even though James is assisted by the quality of British cookery, can you top hers? ...
"Mrs. Piggott was reputed to take trouble with her soups. This was true in so far as the packaged ingredients had been sufficiently well mixed to exclude lumps. She had even experimented with flavours and today's mixture of tomato (orange) and oxtail (reddish brown), thick enough to support the spoon unaided, was as startling to the palate as to the eye. Soup had been followed by a couple of mutton chops nesting artistically against a mound of potato and flanked with tinned peas larger and shinier than any pea which had ever seen pod. They tasted of soya flour. A green dye which bore little resemblance to the colour of any known vegetable seeped from them and mingled disagreeably with the gravy. An apple and black-currant pie had followed in which neither of the fruits had met each other nor the pastry until they had been arranged on the plate by Mrs. Piggot's careful hand and liberally blanketed with synthetic custard."
I read the novel many years ago, and I still remember this queasy-making description. I would call it something stronger than "banal." EL