Here at the resort where we're staying we've learned that menu descriptions are interpretive. It's an interesting twist that tends to throw people off because what you order may not be what you get. At dinner one night when someone was asked what he had gotten for dessert he replied "I have no idea." This is sometimes good and sometimes not. On the other hand as long as you know what you're getting into you can approach each meal with an open mind and a sense of adventure. You never know when you're going to stumble across something great.
As we were discussing the broad interpretations of the menu descriptions I realized that it wasn't so different from what many chefs in the States do. We ourselves are often knocked for our tongue in cheek menu descriptions that can seem disrespectful, if not downright sacrilegious, to others. We defend our right to creative expression but catch ourselves occasionally raising our eyebrows at others, especially when we don't enjoy the food offered. It's an interesting double standard and one that I hadn't realized that I possessed. The words "you can't call that a cannoli." came out of my mouth one night. But the truth is they can and they did. Certainly we've stretched classic culinary descriptions much further than that slightly soggy confection that resembled a taquito stuffed with barely sweetened cream cheese. Does being delicious make it any less disrespectful? And is it even about respect at all?
Philosophy at the table. I don't suppose there are any concrete answers although it did give me pause. We defend our use of classic culinary terms because they are a point of reference, giving the diner a sense of what they are about to receive even when what is on the plate is far removed from the original intention. In many cases we are paying homage to a well loved creation. If we lose the original definition then we also lose the analogy. On the other hand classics change with the times. Today's confit is not the same one that was created to preserve meat through the winter in France so many years ago. We can't shy away from evolution. Acceptance of change means acknowledging that everyone has a right to employ it.