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Meet Barry Foy

(article, Kim Carlson)

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p(blue). Barry Foy's The Devil's Food Dictionary: A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely 
of Lies, is what he calls a "full-blown culinary dictionary parody," with tongue-in-cheek definitions for everything from salad bar to trail mix. Oh, and ethanol ("corn that gives you gas"). 

p(blue). A blend of food reference, satire, and foodie lit, the DFD is hard to categorize but certainly fun to read.

Why should I buy your book if it consists entirely of lies?
That is precisely why you should buy it. After all, years of research have demonstrated that lies constitute the most grossly underrepresented category of information in culinary literature. (This contrasts, incidentally, with clichés, misconceptions, and just plain silliness, all of which are there in abundance.) You would almost think that liars don’t eat! By [ "purchasing a copy"] of The Devil’s Food Dictionary, you do your part to help right this arbitrary imbalance.

[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="Barry Foy"]

A great man once said, “The path to enlightenment is paved with lots of little sharp thingies that can hurt your feet if you forget to put your sandals on, such as bottle caps.” And indeed, my initial reaction to the discovery that food writers were so severely biased toward, you know, truth was shock — shock and deep, troubling chagrin. 

It wasn’t until I had recovered from that trauma (thanks to a carefully controlled regimen of hot-stone massages and small-batch artisanal bourbon) that I realized it had all been a gift, meant to show me just where my market niche lay. From then on, I considered it a kind of a moral obligation: If the people were starved for lies about food, and I, in all humility, was in a position to fulfill that need, what right did I have to refuse?

(I should mention, by the way, that in spite of my best efforts, there are some entries in The Devil’s Food Dictionary that could be said to contain a germ of truth. Nobody’s perfect.)

The Devil’s Food Dictionary offers the foodish reader something no other culinary reference work can — namely, relief from the triple burdens of veracity, reliability, and informativeness. In this fast-paced digital age, when every single item of information found online, on television, or plastered to the side of a city bus is 100 percent true and authoritative, it is comforting to know that at least one author cares enough to set a lower standard. I am that author.

In conclusion, I’ll offer just one randomly selected example of the contrast readers can expect to find between the conventional approach to culinary reference and my own. Following are two definitions of “shad.” The first comes from Sharon Tyler Herbst’s highly respected [%amazonProductLink "Food Lover’s Companion" asin=0764112589]:

bq. SHAD: Ranging from 3 to 6 pounds, shad is the largest member of the American herring family (Alosa sapidissima). Shad are anadromous, meaning that they migrate from their saltwater habitat to spawn in fresh water. They have a moderately firm, beige-colored flesh that’s distinctively rich but replete with bones.

Not bad, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing. But now compare that entry with the one on the same topic in The Devil’s Food Dictionary:

bq. SHAD: Past tense of shid.

I rest my case. 

Um, shid? Could you use that in a sentence, please?
That will be $5.95 plus tax.

OK, back to business. How did you determine which words you would define?
My method was the one scholars call "pockets full of paper scraps with things written on them, many of them legible." That is, for months on end I diligently surveyed the whole spectrum of food books and magazines and newspapers, blogs, menus, and food-related conversations for any ingredient, technique, utensil, flavor, trend, or culinary-history tidbit that had potential as an entry subject. These I scribbled onto random bits of paper and stuffed into my pants pocket. On a good day, my cache of notes could get so heavy that I'd lean to the left a little as I walked.

At the end of each day, out would come all the scraps, and I would transfer any contents I could actually read to a list of entries-in-progress. There they'd sit and cure ("CURING: A time-consuming process by which a food that started out raw is painstakingly brought to a stage at which it is uncooked"), or perhaps ferment ("FERMENTATION: Aw, never mind"), for as much as a couple of weeks, as I visited them over and over again, trying to think of something unflattering and/or misleading to say about them.

As you can imagine, I learned a huge amount about food in the course of this long process. It is a source of great regret for me that none of it could be applied to the writing of The Devil's Food Dictionary. Nonetheless, I eventually accumulated a whole book's worth of entries. Or nearly — all that remained was to add "LIFE, A LONG AND HAPPY: A condition often suffered by people who pay insufficient attention to the nutritional content of their diet" — and we were ready to go to press.

Sounds like a lot of work. Do you consider yourself a food scholar now?
I wouldn't flatter myself by assuming the label of "scholar." I'm merely a simple seeker after truth, like so many others, except perhaps for what I do with the truth once I find it, which is suppress it as ruthlessly as possible. No, I have to draw the line at "scholar." "Prophet," maybe, or "guru," or even "exalted divine avatar," but "scholar," I believe, goes too far.

What do you like to eat? Are you a kitchen whiz?
After years of effort and dedication, I have finally achieved the status of truly mediocre cook. This level of accomplishment did not come easily or naturally to me, and I'm determined that no one will deprive me of it. My repertoire is wide-ranging, touching on all three major food groups: the pork-tongue-confit group, the panforte di Siena group, and the no-knead-bread group. Occasionally I find a way to combine all three. But not often.

As for my diet, it's proudly, even boldly, omnivorous. I have eaten many kinds of avian, aquatic, and terrestrial animals — often parts of those animals that were hidden deeply inside them — and look forward to eating many more. I relish sturdy greens, such as mustard and collards, and cook them on a regular basis, either meaty-style (with ham hocks and hot links) or vegetarian (ham hocks only). In view of all that, my inability to enjoy the common cucumber may come as a surprise. Still, I'd eat a cucumber before I'd eat the Philippine egg specialty called balut. There is a limit.

p(blue). Congratulations to [/user/Colengal "Colleen"] and [/user/choochoo "Heather"] who both won autographed copies\ of The Devil's Food Dictionary, as for entering their comment below.

h6. \Eligible winners must have U.S. mailing and addresses and reside in the U.S. Please note that all standard Culinate contest rules apply to this drawing.

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