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Busted! Sifton Once Banned "Delicious"; Now Uses It Himself

I wrote a piece last week about New York Times critic Sam Sifton’s repeated use of over-the-top adjectives like terrific, fantastic, perfect, and so forth. (Today’s review had another pair of terrifics.)

In 2000, when Sifton was editor of the Dining section, he chided freelance writer Andrea Strong for using delicious:

My delicious veto started about seven years ago, when my editor at the New York Times, an amazingly talented guy named Sam Sifton, returned a piece I had written for him with one comment. “Never use the word delicious,” he said. “It’s banned in my book. Gimme something more than that.” He was right. Delicious? What a cop out. It’s too easy. He wanted me to work for it, to dig deeper. And I don’t blame him. Now that I teach a food writing class, I’ve borrowed his advice for my students. Last week at our first class, I broke the news to them. “There’s one word I don’t allow in my class and it’s delicious,” I said. They looked alarmed. Why?” They asked. “Because it’s not good enough. I want to know why it’s delicious. Is it the flavors, the textures, the temperature, the contrast of all three? Give me more. Delicious is just lazy.”

Guess what? Now that Sifton is writing, rather than editing, he uses “delicious” almost every week—often twice in the same review. I won’t list them all, but here are some examples:

  • ABC Kitchen: “…a few pizzas for your table would not be in error, starting with the delicious morels with Parmesan, oregano and a soft large-yolked egg…”
  • Fatty ’Cue: “Dessert is delicious, but is not strictly necessary…”
  • Pulino’s: “It is delicious…” and later, ”…will elicit shrugs from any New Yorker who has spent 45 minutes waiting for a table here, delicious as it is.”

Let’s all quote Andrea Strong together: “Delicious is just lazy.”

Reader Comments (1)

I teach food writing and everyone who knows me always laughs about the word "delicious" because they know I don't like it.

Many writers use it as an introductory general word, and then go into more specifics. That's a little more defensible, but not much.

June 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDianne Jacob

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