Merriam-Webster Adds 9 New Food Words in September 2022

Before yesterday, whenever you said “pumpkin spice” or “oat milk” in a sentence, you weren’t speaking real words. At least not according to Merriam-Webster, America’s almost two-century-old gatekeeper of the English language. On Wednesday, those phrases, along with 368 others, were officially added to the dictionary. Nine terms on that list—which delightfully includes “yeet” and “janky”—are food-related.

To decide what makes the cut, Merriam-Webster editors monitor social media, national newspapers, and big media sites, according to an explainer from the dictionary. Sure, they’re just words. But they’re also mirrors to our cultural fascinations. The addition of “sessionable” speaks to a boom in low-alcohol drinks while “plant-based” speaks to…everyone on the West Coast. And terms like “ras el hanout” and “mojo” represent a diner-driven shift towards ancestral cooking.

Here’s the full list of phrases, and some recipes to cook up at home.

The definition: “A mixture of usually cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and often allspice that is commonly used in pumpkin pie.”

The scoop: All I can say here is: Starbucks dunnit. Since the drink’s inception in 2003, the coffee chain’s unctuous, harmless, and dare we say delicious pumpkin spice latte has iconized the spice blend and turned it into a curious cultural phenomenon. Both a comfort beverage and an emblem of our anxieties around capitalism, this seasonal frenemy is here to stay.

The recipes: Channel your inner autumnal earth angel and bake a batch of toasty, buttery, and pumpkin-spiced chocolate chip cookies. Go the extra mile and dunk them in a homemade (gasp) pumpkin spice latte.

Image may contain Food Bread Dish Meal Confectionery and Sweets
Pecan Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

“The Holiday Triple Threat Cookie” from Amanda Mack of Crust by Mack in Baltimore.

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The definition: “A series of small servings or courses (as of sushi) offered at a fixed price and whose selection is left to the chef’s discretion.”

The scoop: America’s high-end sushi scene has, to use an objective metric, blown up over the past decade. And omakase, the style of sushi chef–guided tasting menus popularized in the 2013 cult film, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, has become a top prize for the dining elite (by which I mean the bros).

The recipes: If a $500-per-person omakase experience feels like a stretch in this economy, try making your own at home. Think: spicy tuna rolls, umeboshi-stuffed onigiri, and omusubi with salty, buttery mushrooms.

Omusubi With SoyButter Mushrooms recipe
Omusubi With Soy-Butter Mushrooms

These adorable Japanese stuffed rice balls just might be the most perfect snack.

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The definition: “A mixture of ground spices that is used in northern African cooking and includes coriander, ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne pepper, and other spices.”

The scoop: According to Pinterest’s 2022 trend report, ancestral foods—basically, “somebody’s grandparent’s recipe,” as the site clarifies—are outpacing over-the-top dining experiences. And in 2019, the site allegedly reported a 311% increase in searches for African recipes. Lucky for us, a proliferation of direct-to-consumer American spice companies means getting your hands on some ras el hanout has never been easier.

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