Sense of Taste in Writing: The Hell of Hyperbole


For me, the most challenging sense in writing is the sense of taste, which is why I’ve left it for last. I love good food, interesting food, food from all over the world, but I am utterly challenged to explain what it is about a particular taste that captivates me. I think I am intimidated by professional food writers . . . in their constant bid to outdo each other they have descended into the Hell of Hyperbole where we are left wondering what the hell they are talking about. Thus my delight at finding the following description of the output of British caterers in a recent UK Guardian:

From “Wedding Season is Here: Crimes Against Food”

by Jay Rayner

“We are meant to be experiencing a British food revolution, and in many ways we are. There are better restaurants than ever before. But in the business of mass catering we are generally awful. I say generally. Obviously, if you run a catering firm and you’re limbering up to complain, I don’t mean you. You’re brilliant. Likewise, the food at your wedding was obviously fabulous. It’s everyone else.

“Everyone else is responsible for dry canapés that taste only of margarine and complacency. Everyone else is responsible for desiccated lumps of yesterday’s pre-cooked chicken the colour of an old stained sink; for sauces that could creosote fences and vegetables so overboiled you could suck them through a straw; for cream desserts that have split, and overbaked tarts with pastry like walnut shells. And the cost! I only use exclamation marks for shouting, which is what I’m doing. THE COST! Despite economies of scale, caterers charge more for this dismal crud than the price of a quality restaurant meal and rising. Why are they allowed to get away with it?”


I don’t think that anyone who has attended a catered wedding — on either side of the Atlantic — would fail to understand exactly what Mr. Rayner is talking about.  Applause, please.  SSH

Photo by SSH

Photo by SSH


About SSH

Philadelphia native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, Shaw Homer has lived in Costa Rica for over 30 years, where she has taught languages and worked for environmental NGOs. In addition to writing for the local press, her fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in both print and on-line literary and travel journals, as well as on her blog, Her travel memoir, Letters from the Pacific, received excellent Kirkus and Publishers Weekly reviews. Her most recent book is Evelio’s Garden: Memoir of a Naturalist in Costa Rica. She and all her books can be found at

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