Sunday, February 24, 2008

Grammar Dies at Menu's Hands...

...would be a strong contender for the title I'd choose when writing an obituary for English grammar.  

Before I return to writing about food, restaurants and the industry as a whole, I'd like to address a semi-related subject that's near and dear to my heart--grammar.  At first, it might seem like a rather unlikely topic for a blog that's dedicated to food, but when you consider that signage, menus and specials boards are typically what draws a customer in, grammar plays a huge role in how we sell our food.  I'm not saying that words aren't meant to be played with or that menus need be the perfect example of proper English grammar--after all, menus are usually just a menagerie of lists, sentence fragments and headlines that tell us what we're buying.  However, within these confines there still needs to be some sort of standard that doesn't allow us, the sum total of English speakers, to forget that spelling matters and that we're only doing ourselves an in justice by simply forgetting all the formative years of education we suffered through. 

Case in point--Pazzo's, the new "Cucina Italiana" just south of the drawbridge on A1A in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Because I haven't eaten there or even considered such a venture, I'll leave my opinions on the food to a minimum, except to say that given the abundance of such restaurants claiming to serve "Authentic Italian Cuisine," what the grim landscape of the South Florida restaurant scene needs is not another family style Italian place; especially not one that's going to blatantly misuse the English language in order to promote their supposed "FRESH" ingredients, however loaded that term may be.  

"Fresh Pasta's," "Fresh Pizza's," "Fresh Salad's."  If you don't notice the error here, it's the apostrophe at the end of each noun.  In short, the apostrophe should be used to denote possession, i.e. "Patrick's Frustration," or to abbreviate "is", i.e. Pazzo's going to kill me when he reads this; not, however, to denote pluralization, i.e. fresh pasta or fresh pastas (no apostrophe).  Go ahead and call me a nerd, but when I see signs like this around town, on vans promoting someone's (possessive) business or slowly moving its (the one case where an apostrophe is not needed to show possession) way into other written forms (plural), I fear for the fate of English.  

Pazzo's (spelled correctly, ironically, to denote that Pazzo is the owner), is not the first to misuse grammar and they will certainly not be the last.  I suppose I just know that in the future, should I become a restaurateur, a food writer or simply a menu writer, I will try to make my grammar as meticulous as possible, and I just wish that others would, too.  I realize, too, that within the culinary world and consequently on this blog, there are much larger fish to fry (no pun intended) than whether or not an apostrophe was misused, but it just seems to me that to be a successful restaurant or even one that simply appeals the masses, one shouldn't simply rely on good food to get by--it should be an entire package that sells itself like a fine work of art might, based on overall integrity.  

With that, I urge anyone whom I've annoyed by nitpicking at the presence of English in food to call me up for a cook-off.  Yours will most likely be cooked much faster, but mine, I would hope, would be much more eloquently presented.  

Moving Right Along

So, for the few fans that have actually been keeping tabs on what's good, you may have noticed it's been more than two months since I've written anything substantial, or even about food, that wasn't a mere update.  My plan was to do a summary of what I had missed in 2007 so I could catch up myself.  However, 2007 is long gone at this point and a good deal has happened since the New Year, so let's catch up (quickly), move on, and keep eating.

2007 essentially meant getting back on my feet--moving back from Chile after a year and a half, moving to Miami, enrolling in culinary school, meeting Dean Max and, consequently, eating a lot.  I threw myself head first into the culinary field, buying books, doing research outside of class, eating my way into my first credit card and finally discovering a field in which I'm fully ready to immerse myself.  Michael's Genuine Food and Drink, 3030 Ocean, Gramercy Tavern and Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza were just a few of the notable dining experiences that pushed me forward, kept me cooking and fattened me up.  And that was 2007, in short.  Learning and working for, at times, 18 hours a day, not sleeping enough, starting two different jobs, once again becoming an American.  

And now it's 2008, the winter is in full swing, and I'm back in New York city for three months, potentially longer.  Just after the new year I flew up for a stage with Michael Anthony and his staff at Gramercy Tavern, and they accepted me with open arms.  I'm one of just three in my class that either chose or were able to leave the state and go for what should be an outstanding internship.  It's a great opportunity about which I have mixed emotions, mostly because I left New York a long time ago with a bad taste in my mouth, and I wasn't really sure if I'd ever return.  Here I am, though, on the eve of my first day in a world-renowned kitchen, ready to get back to what it is I've been doing for the past year, eager to get cooking.  

The next three months will, I'm sure, prove to be demanding, fun, interesting and, most importantly, full of great food.  I already have a great deal to talk about and it's only been a few days.  So let's tie up a few loose ends in Miami, pack up and move on.  Sounds good to me.