I’m tearing through last week’s New Yorker (trying to get as much of it read as I can before this week’s descends upon me), and I just finished Lauren Collins’s “Burger Queen: April Bloomfield’s gastropub revolution.” Well, I say “finished,” but in fact I skimmed the last couple of pages impatiently; there’s some interesting stuff in there (I had no idea carrots were purple until the Dutch discovered how to make them orange in the seventeenth century—until then, people didn’t like to cook with them because they turned everything they were cooked with purple), but it’s basically an overlong puff piece full of chummy references to celebrities and annoying statements like “What Friedman really wants is a tongue-in-cheek red-sauce Italian place.” But I did learn a new word, pluot, which is new not only to me but to the language, having been invented in 1988 by Floyd Zaiger. The online OED defines it as “A proprietary name for: (the fruit of) a complex hybrid between the plum, Prunus domestica (which provides a greater proportion of the parentage), and the apricot, Prunus armeniaca” (which shows us that unlike most publications, the OED does not abbreviate genus names after first mention); it’s pronounced PLOO-ot, and the first cite is:
1988 N.Y. Times 7 Aug. VI. 62/1 ‘Primarily we work with peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots.’ Lately the focus has been on the last two; Zaiger is cross-pollinating them, and what he has dubbed ‘pluots’ are on the way.
However, the magazine piece managed to annoy me even in teaching me the word, because it occurs in the sentence “In California, Bloomfield acquainted herself with American ingredients; she ate a pluot, and, she said, ‘my eyes rolled back into my head.’” Not only do they not bother to define a word that only their most dedicated foodie readers will be familiar with, they refer to it as an “American ingredient” as though it were a sweet potato rather than a newly created hybrid.
I should point out that despite my kvetching, the Food issue of the New Yorker is always worth reading, and this is no exception, with writers like Calvin Trillin, Jane Kramer, and Alexander Hemon (a hymn to borscht). I just have a low and ever decreasing tolerance for hype.