I’m an educated girl. I’ve always done well in English and writing; knocked sentence structure and grammar grids out of the park in school. That said, I also know my fair share of expletives (expletives = swear words for those who need a dictionary), plus a few in French and Italian.

If I happen to drop something important, or burn myself in the kitchen, the occasional mild *bleep* will come out of my mouth. But I don’t walk around town dropping the F-bomb every five seconds in place of an adjective or adverb like my classmates do in culinary school.

The use of the F-word seems be the norm in the culinary industry, and I’m not sure why. I can’t tell if its demographics, kids just trying to be “cool,” or people just being lazy and stupid? How did this become part of everyday language for the 20-something culinary crowd? And is it just the young kids, or are the adults/managers encouraging this mouth-cancer by using the same language?

Despite my animosity, I found myself dropping an F-bomb last night during a squabble with a classmate:
One the young girls on my team, whom at the age of 21 has the mouth of a truck driver, found her tomato sauce burning on the stove. I looked up (while grating cheese) at the same time to notice the dry pan, too, and said “I think your tomato sauce is burning.” She replied in a tone of voice, that as a mom, made me want to slap her in the face and take away her cell phone privileges for a month, “You know, you could f*ing stir it once in a while. We’re a team here, it’s a team effort!”

Now prior to this, mind you, she spent the better part of the evening criticizing most everything I was preparing, so this incident was the last straw for me with this girl.

She wasn’t satisfied with the way I was caramelizing the onions for the French onion soup, I didn’t cut the crusts off the bread like the way “they did it in her restaurant,” and she warned that I had better cut the potatoes for the mashed potatoes the right way. Apparently, I must have looked like the kind of person who had never caramelized onions or cooked mashed potatoes before. Or, at least, not the way she wanted.

After she threw the F-word at me, I looked at her and said, “I’m 40 years old. Don’t f*ing talk to me like I’m 12.” And I actually gasped out loud after I said it. More words were exchanged, and then R. stepped in as mediator, using the F-word himself, but with a gentler meaning.

I was furious with this girl, AND with her mother for delivering this child to us with such bad manners.

She later apologized, explaining she has to talk like that in her kitchen to “keep up with the guys” she works with.

If I were her supervisor, I wouldn’t promote her past dishwasher with a mouth like that. Come to think of it, maybe some dish soap in her mouth would do her good.

At the same time though, I understood what she was saying: In order to be taken seriously, she had to talk just like the people she worked with; just like an uneducated, disrespectful jerk.

I hated that I had to stoop down to that language level to get her to hear me. But somehow the F-word added meaning to what I was saying – it was like adding an exclamation mark, a warning that I really meant what I was saying. And it was so easy to do. The F-word was convenient, was understood by everyone within ear-shot, and rolled right off my tongue, into her face.

And I think that stinks.

Maybe if more people took the time to expand their vocabulary, they could find other words, better words, to express themselves. Using profanity as a way to drive home a point, to express your opinions or emotions can eventually cause you to lose out on some great things in life, like career opportunities, friends, and respect.

Despite her truck-driver mouth and dictatorship-like behavior, my French onion soup came out great — Chef said it was perfect, which was enough validation for me. And I don’t plan on adding the F-word to my everyday language any time soon; once this week was quite enough to last me a while. I do, however, plan to brush up on my literary comebacks, so I won’t have to get my knees dirty again.

So, what’s your take on it? Why is the F-word freely flying around commercial kitchens like a dirty dish rag? What’s it like in your kitchen?