Dictionary jumps on foodie trends; adds ‘Froyo,’ ‘Sriracha’

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This is the life cycle of a food trend: First, it starts bubbling up in cool boutique shops in New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco, and then every city in America has it. It goes mass-market, then there’s a backlash, and then a backlash to the backlash, and eventually, if it’s something truly enduring, it ends up where froyo finds itself today: In the dictionary.

The abbreviation for frozen yogurt, froyo — spelled exactly like that, no hyphen — a dessert that was stratospherically popular from 2006 to about 2012, is now a defined word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of 250 new additions announced Monday. The definition notes that its first use was in 1976, and that it is “often used before another noun: a froyo shop; froyo flavors.”

It’s among many other food words that received the book’s official blessing Monday, and they’re a glimpse of food trends past and present, flavors high and lowbrow, and culinary traditions from France to Asia.

Sriracha is another new entry to the dictionary, defined as “a pungent sauce that is made from hot peppers pureed with usually garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar and that is typically used as a condiment.” The flame-red sauce has experienced a froyo level of overexposure in recent years, thanks to an abundance of Sriracha products such as potato chips, lip balm and candy canes. McDonald’s even has a Sriracha and kale burger, “a corporate attempt to capitalize on two of the biggest food trends of the past decade (although far after each has peaked),” wrote Tim Carman for The Washington Post.

But some of the other entries may be less known to all but the most dedicated foodies (“foodie” is already in the dictionary). There are words such as Callery pear, a fruit “native to China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. Its twigs are often tipped with a single thorn.” There’s choux pastry, “a very light, egg-based dough used to make pastries (such as cream puffs and eclairs).” There’s Saigon cinnamon, a word with a pretty easy-to-guess definition.

And then there are words that you might be surprised to learn weren’t already in the dictionary. Like farmers market, which was first used in 1864. Or cross contamination, first used in 1898. Its use in a sentence quotes former Washington Post critic Phyllis Richman: “With raw eggs, as with raw chickens, it is important to avoid cross contamination. Use separate utensils — bowls, forks, knives, counter tops, and cutting boards — for raw chickens or eggs, and clean them thoroughly before reusing them for cooked foods.” IPA and cordon bleu are making their first appearances in the dictionary, too, as well as California roll, another entry that falls in the super-hot-trends-of-yesteryear category. And bibimbap, the Korean rice, vegetable and meat dish, has also been granted an entry, reflecting the growing popularity of Korean food in America.