I remember one episode of Masterchef in which a contestant served up what amounted to beans on toast.

I can’t remember the details, but no doubt it was described by that woman with the ‘come to bed’ voice as something like ‘deconstructed legume focaccia.’

While I enjoy the programme, I usually end up irritated by the ridiculously fancy names given to what appear to be fairly basic dishes.

Yet names go some way to making food sound more appetising. Chefs who describe vegetable recipes creatively on their menus are more likely to persuade diners to choose them, university researchers found.

People ate more ‘twisted citrus-glazed carrots’ than the same dish labelled simply ‘carrots’,in a study carried out at the cafeteria at Stanford University in California. This was also the case for other foods such as beans and shallots, which were given jazzed-up names.

At least they retained the word carrots. The name wasn’t changed completely, like replacing gravy with ‘jus’ - which is simply a thin gravy - fish fingers turning into goujons or chips to pomme frites.

Aren’t crepes just pancake? And when did a bun become a cupcake? My mum made plenty of them when we were children, but they were just buns with buttercream or glace icing. Using the Americanism ‘cupcake’ seems to have turned them into something for which cafes can charge £3.50 a piece.

A similar study by Cornell University found that diners were easily seduced by long-winded, flowery menu descriptions.

For instance, when researchers changed the name of seafood filet to the more hyped up ‘succulent Italian seafood filet”, and jazzed up red beans and rice to “Cajun red beans and rice”, sales soared by 28 per cent.

The same dishes were also rated as tastier despite the fact that recipes were identical.

Using grandiose language, or a foreign translation that makes a dish sound more appetising is common practice in restaurants and sometimes I struggle to understand what’s on the menu. Some include a helpful layman’s terms translation underneath.

‘Pan-seared’ is another over-used phrase, describing a technique in which the surface of the food - usually meat, poultry or fish- is cooked at a high temperature until a caramelized crust forms. In my house that’s called burning it.

That’s another buzzword in the food industry: ‘artisan’ crops up everywhere. For centuries food has been hand-made in a traditional - ‘artisan’ - manner, but only recently has the word become extensively used to sex-up the names of products.

‘Artisan bread’, artisan pies, ‘artisan cheese’: it all sounds very wholesome and a cut above the norm. The word and it conjures up images of someone in a hessian smock plying his craft in a thatched barn surrounded by meadows, which is rarely the case. It persuades us that what we are buying is healthier and better for us.


And the posher it sounds, the more it costs. If it’s artisan-baked with even a hint of olive, you might need a bank loan.

It’s not only the names of food that make it seem tastier. Napkin colour can also have an impact, says a top Swedish chef. Pudding served with a pink napkin makes the dish taste extra sweet and a mustard yellow one is best with greens.

So next time you have visitors you want to impress, bring out the ocean-foraged crab bisque or the farm-fresh - another popular fancy food term - beouf bourginon (with teal napkins) and don’t let anyone spoil the party by letting slip that it’s soup followed by stew.

Give me simple fish and chips on newspaper. No smoke and mirrors there.