Monday, April 23, 2012

American Cheese













Once upon a time, before the days of real jobs and bills, I embarked on one of those post-college, self-discovery adventures. I ended up living in a village on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica called Puerto Viejo. Despite having contracted a bizarre mosquito-related disease, it was a wonderful experience; there were beautiful beaches, a laid back vibe, and hot local men. But, since it was a village, the culinary options were quite limited.  When a French woman opened a restaurant, my friend and I were excited by the prospect of eating  something for breakfast besides eggs and gallo pinto (a rice and beans dish).

We were stoked when the owner said she served french toast. And she looked like an angel when she walked towards us holding two plates of what I thought were morsels of sweet, egg-soaked, fried, buttery deliciousness. What she set down in front of us was plain old toast.

If we had taken her to court over it, I’m not sure we would have won our case because she might have had us on a technicality: she was French and she did serve us toast.

I guess we got French toast instead of french toast.

Since that traumatic experience, I don’t like to capitalize foods and drinks that include the names of nationalities, such as french fries, swiss cheese, and irish coffee. It’s not incorrect to capitalize them; it’s more of a stylistic choice. I don’t capitalize them for the same stylistic reasons I choose not to wear Crocs: I think it looks a bit clunky. 

Also, it could be confusing. For example, if I wrote, “I remember a little Danish,” it would be impossible to know whether I was referring to the language or a delicious pastry of yore. And if I wrote, “Have you seen that Irish stew?” I could either mean a soup or a troubled Irish person.

18 comments:

Mark said...

I've never really thought about it that much, but I think I would be a bit miffed. Then I would laugh at the technicality of her being French and serving toast. It was technically french toast.

Kristi said...

The bit about Crocs made me laugh out loud. Seriously. Toddler just gave me a weird look. Cracks me up. And I agree, capitalizing can definitely lead to confusion depending on the use. :)

Mykuljay said...

You always catch me on so many of my issues. To me, french toast is what I love. French toast is toast prepared in a unique French way. What do I know? I'm still getting through - you guessed it - my love of hyphens. Please I beg you - ask your students - "where do you use a hyphen?" and see what they reply.

Shelly said...

The troubled Irish are not the kind of folks you want to be dining on french toast with, indeed.

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

Excellent. You made me chuckle, again. Must have been an interesting stint in Costa Rica!

Play off the Page

anthony stemke said...

Good post here. I was thinking not to capitalize "Dutch" when combined with oven. But I kept it upper case because it is so well known.

Shannon said...

You are brilliant when it comes to relating grammar to your experiences. I am still in awe every single time you do this.

And THAT'S why you got a book deal.

Jaya J said...

Crocs...they're a bit too expensive for their aesthetic value.

Terra Shield said...

"She was French and she did serve us toast" That really made me laugh.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hi, Jenny. You really got me with that one. I was thinking, "where is she going with this?", and ended up craving french toast. I guess one last beer for the night and something covered in chocolate will have to do.

-Jimmy

cestlavie22 said...

I never really thought of it this way! You are right though! Very interesting article :)

Ioana-Carmen said...

That`s very interesting! :X
Fashionspot.ro

Theresa Milstein said...

If I asked for french toast, but received bread that happened to be french-style and toasted, I would cry. That would almost be worse than a mosquito disease.

Jo-Ann said...

LOL.
Wow, have you evr thought of becoming a food writer .... ?Seriously mouth watering description.

BTW the French don't see French toast as part of their culinary repertoire. Egg soaked fried bread is called pain perdue which literally means lost bread, in other words, stale bread that was resurrected with egg and lotsa butter... Hmmmm....

DWei said...

I found a recipe for French toast recently and I'm kind of excited to try it. :P

Shutterbug said...

interesting post. I does seem to make more sense to keep the words in lowercase letters.

Rocky, SeriousScholar.com said...

Going against Merriam-Webster huh? ;) I'm tempted to do that at times, and I'm still waiting for them to change Web site to website. :) I'm a guy but never really understood the crocs thing either...they do look clunky. :)

Janet Johnson said...

I would have been SO disappointed! French toast is my breakfast of choice (you know, when I'm not counting calories and have boatloads of time to make . . . which means I don't get it very often).

And you make a good point about captializations. I think I'll let you swing me your direction on this one. :)