By Ezra Klein
Helene York was annoyed to read a menu for steamed buns -- in Palo Alto, not in China -- that advertised three flavors: "Slow-Smoked Pulled Pork, Bacon Cheeseburger or Veggie." Two of those, you'll notice, actually correspond to flavor profiles. One of them doesn't. There is no such flavor as "veggie," except insofar as it denotes other uninspired dishes that went under the moniker "veggie," like soggy sandwiches anchored by cold Portobello mushrooms and zucchini.
A friend of mine used to say that the rhetorical separation between good food and bad food came down to adjectives. Onion omelet? Pass. Caramelized onion omelet? Sure. Chicken? What do you mean, chicken? Roast chicken? Sure. Vegetable salad? Yawn. Spring vegetable salad? I'll take a look. And it's easy to go on: Potatoes vs. roast potatoes, fish vs. seared tuna, beans vs. farmers market fava beans.
There are a lot of vegetables (and assorted other non-meat items) that can be prepared in a lot of different ways. But if you're not interested enough in the dish to explain what's in it and how it was made, it's a pretty good signal to potential buyers that it's not very good. You don't see menu items labeled "meat" and you shouldn't see menu items labeled "veggie." It's like a large, blinking, sign: "THIS WILL NOT TASTE VERY GOOD."
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