Remember when Thanksgiving was simple? A bird. A pie. Maybe a nap? No more.

Instead of cooking squash, we're cooking heirloom squash. We're lacing it with a pepita (squash seed) puree. Sunchokes are finding their way onto our tables, and not only are they caramelized, they're finished with beet confit. We spike our food with additives other than alcohol; we whip, stuff, wrap, crust, and brine before we eat. And perhaps the French philosopher Jacques Derrida's invited to dinner this year to have a nibble of our deconstructed apple and pumpkin pies?

If the recipe suggestions pulled from several major US newspapers* and are to be believed, Thanksgiving remains a celebration of abundance. But unless you're someone who trucks in red fife (a wheat variant), uses remoulade interchangeably with mayo, and refers to a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake as semifreddo (half frozen), you might find the holiday to be more about an abundance of new words as much as it's about an abundance of food. 

Last week, in a controversial New York Times review of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, Pete Wells took objection to over-the-top menu writing, citing "Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche" as a reason "panic" might "grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex.” 

But here at, we see the plethora of food-related vocabulary not as a reason to panic, but as an opportunity to learn. Just like any other word, food words can be examined in context. Their spellings and pronunciations can help us understand their language of origin, which in turn can help us break the word into its component parts and figure out what those parts mean. When in doubt, we can whip out our smartphones, look up the word in the Dictionary, add it to our Challenge queue, and then learn that word for life. 

After all, if we're going to put it in our mouths, it's probably best we know what it is.

* The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The LA Times