The nacho cart

Drew Dernavich in the August 20th New Yorker:


(#1) “Would you like to sample something from the nacho cart?”

An office cart conveying a gigantic heap of nachos, with hot cheese dripping over the side. Underneath are who knows what astounding toppings for the taco chips, your choice.

A demented dessert cart, transporting horror-movie foodstuffs. The fanciest of high-end dining  juxtaposed with low-end cheap thrills and street food, smelling of Mexican food trucks.

Do I have to mention that I think this is hysterically funny? (Though, as always, you have to get the references.)

Dessert cart doesn’t seem to be listed in dictionaries, presumably because it’s semantically transparent: subsective (a dessert cart is a cart) and conveying one of the standard semantic relationships beween the referents of the head element N2 and the modifying element N1 — a Use compound, ‘N2 for (Ving) N1’, here ‘cart for conveying dessert(s)’. But it’s significantly specialized, making reference to a particular set of cultural customs having to do with the practices of fancy restaurants. An office cart used to bring cake to an office birthday party would literally be a dessert cart, but it would not be, um, a dessert cart dessert cart. For that, you’d need to go to a restaurant with pretensions, like a Robuchon outpost:


(#2) Dessert cart, Robuchon; photo by Rosemary Nickel, Motivating Other Moms

As it happens, Robuchon died earlier this month. From his NYT obit, “Joël Robuchon, a French Chef Festooned With Stars, Is Dead at 73” on August 8th by Wiilliam Grimes:

Joël Robuchon, an endlessly inventive French chef who earned a record number of Michelin stars by recasting French haute cuisine in a personal style that emphasized intense flavors and precise technique, died on Monday in Geneva. He was 73.

The French government announced his death.

(The third sentence is especially wonderful.)

Meanwhile, there are nachos. Basic nachos here:


(#3) From my 7/26/18 posting “Nacho flies are back”, #2 there: basic nachos — tortilla chips with melted cheese or a cheese sauce on top of them — with (optional) sliced jalapeño peppers

From that posting:

Your basic nachos can be amended almost without end, though there are some standard additions, especially beef … And on with other Mexican-congenial ingredients — tomatoes, avocados, corn kernels, black olives, green onions

The invention nacho cart, on the basis of dessert cart, invites us to imagine a nacho cornucopia like the dessert display in #2, only decidedly down-market, and with intimations of “It’s Alive!”.

Meanwhile, nacho cart suggests, through form and meaning, taco truck — another N + N compound that, like dessert cart, is semantically transparent, but is nevertheless semantically specialized: it’s subsective (a taco truck is a truck) and conveys one of the standard semantic relationships beween the referents of the head element N2 and the modifying element N1 — a Use compound, ‘N2 for (Ving) N1’, here ‘truck for selling tacos’. But it’s significantly specialized, making reference to a particular set of cultural customs having to do with the practices of ethnic food distribution in America cities:


(#4) The Los Carnalitos food truck in Redwood City CA

[Added 8/14. It seems that the age of dessert carts is passing. There are reports from several American cities that in one class of high-end restaurants — the male-oriented premium steak and seafood establishment — dessert carts have been abandoned in favor of the simple dessert menu.]

2 Responses to “The nacho cart”

  1. julianne taaffe Says:

    Still learning stuff from you every day.

  2. chrishansenhome Says:

    I don’t see dessert carts everywhere, but at the restaurant in London where one of my Masonic units has its Festive Board we get the full treatment after the main has been consumed. Three waitresses wheel in a cart with various delicacies on it (most of which I shouldn’t be eating but…) and take our orders.

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