Thursday, November 20, 2008

Guess I'll be making skull-OPS for dinner then

Sunday night Aa, our friends R & H, and I went to dinner at Poppy, one of the new restaurants here in Seattle that's been getting a lot of attention. (The chef-owner was head chef at the dizzyingly expensive Herbfarm for several years, and garnered just tons of foodie praise during that time.) It was a meal I'd been looking forward to for a while. And the food was really kind of amazing, like the culinary version of seeing a technically perfect gymnastics routine in the Olympics. Flawless, but kind of sterile. It kind of felt like the food came out of a very clinical kitchen. And the restaurant felt weirdly clinical too. Our main waitress lady talked to us like we were kids and she was our teacher. People kept trying to take H's food away before she was done eating. All in all, I don't know if I'd go back.

But the thing that sticks with me is this odd discussion we had with the runner who dropped our food off. She explained what each little dish was as she came to it. And one dish had shallots in it. Her description: "...and this is the black cod with fried shul-LOTS and peanuts..." At which point everyone at the table started looking confused. Shul-LOT? What the hell is a shul-LOT? One of us, I can't remember who, asked "Is it really prounounced "shul-LOT"? Someone else piped up: "yeah, I always thought it was "SHALL-uht". The runner looked at all of us. "Uh, no. It's shul-LOT. That's how we all say it here." In saying that, it was clear she meant "that's how our superstar chef guy, the reason you're probably here, says it. There's no way he's wrong and you all are right." We were all silent for a moment, until one of us said something like, "well, you learn something new every day!". Then we all chuckled and the runner went away. We mumbled amongst ourselves ("that can't be right"; "seriously? Shul-LOT?") and then went on with our dinner.

For some reason, four days later I am still thinking about this. I mean, I worked in restaurants before, and I can imagine the kitchen staff deciding to mess with the cute, naive young runner. "Yup, it's definitely shul-LOT. Everyone knows that. All serious chefs pronounce it that way." Which makes me feel a twinge of compassion for the young woman. But I think what sticks with me is not how funny that interchange should have been, or should be in my memory (because, shul-LOT? That's funny. It's like saying I had len-TEEL soup for lunch today or something). It's the snootyish certainty the young woman had when she explained the right way to say shallot. I mean, if you look it up it turns out you can say it both ways, but who do you know who says shul-LOT? Thinking about how and why the runner felt so certain about her pronunciation does make the memory sort of funny, and that makes me feel even worse for some point she will realize she sounds like a crazy person when she says shul-LOT. And that singular exchange won't keep me from going back to Poppy. Probably it's the rest of it, the weird hermetically-sealed-clinical-technical-perfection part of it. I like my food with a little feeling, I guess. Kind of slop-PEE.


Mr. Smith said...

Will it surprise you to learn that I have always said "Shu-LOTS"?

McTodds said...

My mother-in-law says BAH-sil and TOE-ma-toe... oh and SAWL-mon. She is the queen of all wasps, but I have never heard SHUL-lots.

Ryan Schierling said...

Onions are $0.99 per pound. Shallots are $1.99 per pound. Shu-LOTS are $7.99 per pound. Being pretentious is expensive.

You should have asked your server if the shu-LOTS were French Grey or Griselle, or if they were the more common wild shu-LOTS. That would have sent her back to the kitchen with her snobbity-ass tail between her legs.

Z_gal said...

Your description of that place reminds me of my feelings towards free-form jazz - just because it's inaccessible doesn't automatically make it a better form.
But, regarding pronounciation, my Grandmother - who's lived on the west coast since the 1930's and has lived in Oregon for 15 years - still pronounces it or-uh-GONE. But whaddya gonna do, she's 100. Rock it grandma.

Ryan Schierling said...

Something interesting I found that you might check out... the International Dialects of English Archive.