Ladies, give yourselves a pat on the back. Through your perseverance, dedication and resilience, you’ve made it to your midlife years (and, for some, beyond). While we don’t normally give thought to this magnificent achievement, we should…we really should. Life is tough. But look at you — sitting there, running your life, doing the damn thing. I applaud you.
So now here you are, in this second act of life, and things are going okay. You’re making decisions, in command of your life, being an all-around badass, able to pronounce any- and everything.
Wait…what’s that? You say there are some words floating around out there that you’re not sure you’re pronouncing correctly? Words like ‘nicoise’ and ‘jicama’ got you stumped? Girl, join the club.
I’m not above reproach; I’ve been known to butcher a name or two, especially when it comes to food.
There’s nothing worse than going into a fancy restaurant, staring at a menu, realizing you can’t pronounce half of the dishes and then boldly going where everyone has gone before: You take a stab at it anyway. If the humiliation alone doesn’t kill you, perhaps your self-loathing will when the thin-to-the-point-of-emaciated yet perky waitress with the smile glued to her face has the unmitigated gall to correct you. Yes, you–the same you who attended college, matriculated with respectable grades, found your niche in life and won’t take smack talk from anyone–yeah, that you.
I for one am tired of mumbling, and you should be, too. It’s time to open mouths wide and say it loud, say it proud, “Nee-swaahz,” without fear of recrimination, degradation or finger-pointing. That hurts.
While this list isn’t exhaustive (not to be confused with utterly soul-crushingly exhausting), it does touch on food words that can twist a tongue in knots. But don’t worry; I’ve got you covered with a reasonable facsimile of pronunciation for 30 such difficult words. (And if all else fails, simply point to the dish on the menu and stare doe-eyed at the waiter/waitress. He or she will likely feel empathy for you and bring you a complimentary cocktail for your worries.)
- Anise (ann-iss)
- Acai berry (ah-SIGH-ee)
- Beignet (ben-yay)
- Bouillabaisse (BOOL-yuh-beys
- Bruschetta (broo-SKET-tuh)
- Imagine being in Italy, ordering “brew-shet-ta” and having the waiter correct you. Yeah, it happened to me. At least the waiter wasn’t thin-to-the-point-of-emaciated and he was about six levels below perky.
- Charcuterie (shar-KOO-tuh-ree)
- Chipotle (chi-poht-ley)
- Crudité (crew-da-tay)
- Dulce de leche (dool-seh deh LEH-cheh)
- Endive (ahn-deev OR in-dive)
- Espresso (e-spres-oh)
- Foie Gras (fwah grah)
- Gnocchi (nyawk-kee)
- Gyro (yeer-oh; however, I’ve been told that Greeks pronounce it “yee-raw”)
- I can’t begin to tell you how many evil looks I’ve received from well-meaning Greek people on the back end of trying to say this one.
- Haricot Vert (ah-ree-koh vare)
- Jicama (hi-kuh-muh)
- Mole (MOH-lay)
- No, this is not that squinty eyed creature that burrows underground with huge, powerful paws that look eerily like human hands.
- Muffuletta (moo-fa-la-tuh)
- Nicoise (nee-swaahz)
- Paella (pie-aye-ya)
- Pho (fuh)
- Pommes frites (pohm freets)
- Pouilly-Fuisse (poo-yee-fwee-say)
- Poutine (poo-tin)
- Prosciutto (proh-SHOO-toe)
- Quinoa (KEEN-wah)
- Sriracha (see-RAH-cha) (DISCLAIMER: Search the web and there will those who say that, according to the official sriracha website, it’s pronounced “shree-rah-cha”; I found no such mention of pronunciation on the website.)
- Tagine (tah-zheen in American English; ta-jean in British English)
- Vichyssoise (vish-ee-swahz)
- Worcestershire sauce (wus-tuh-shur sauce)
- If you insist on uttering this word in a public place (some may prefer to say “May I please have some of the brown sauce?”), you might want to consider pronouncing it the way our friends on the other side of the pond do: “woo-ster.”