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Verbal Energy: Meatballs and some other revelations

A look at the spiritual experiences of our food and film critics.

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It's a word I've been tracking out of the corner of my eye for a while. But when it jumped out at me from the pages of a recent issue of The New Yorker I was catching up with at the gym the other day, I knew its arc had peaked.

It was in a cartoon by William Hamilton, who's been making me chuckle since I was in high school.

The cartoon showed a woman being helped into her coat by her husband (presumably) after dinner in a restaurant and telling another man – the maitre d' or, more likely, the owner, "Revelatory, Michael – such airy meatballs."

Let's savor for just a moment the comic irony of airy meatballs. Is there a food on the planet that sounds more earthbound than meatballs? The word even has the same two-beat rhythm as earthbound.

But what really caught my attention was the first word of the punch line – "revelatory." Why does the secular culture so often turn nowadays to metaphors of "revelation" to bestow high praise? After all, isn't revelation more associated with religious believers?

It may be too much to impute political thinking to the figures in New Yorker cartoons. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that if the woman in this Hamilton cartoon were a real person, she would not have voted for Mike Huckabee.

And yet "revelatory" seems to be a fairly common adjective in, for instance, food writing, particularly restaurant blogs.


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