The ‘moist’ controversy

If you have an aversion to the word ‘moist’ as a food descriptor (or just in general), you are far from alone. It comes with negative connotations that once learned are difficult to remove from one’s mind. But have you considered the alternatives? Emily Heil has, and she says that we should all learn to love moist because the words that would replace it are even worse.

A recent heated discussion on Twitter got Heil thinking about the word. The discussion arose from Nigella Lawson’s description of one of her cakes as “damp.” People started arguing about the word in the comments (surprise), with people jumping in both sides of the debate on which ‘moist’ alternatives were better or worse.

Heil asked several prominent food writers for their opinions on the ‘moist’ debate. Charlotte Druckmann was among those saying moist is perfectly acceptable: “You wouldn’t say ‘clammy’ or ‘sweaty’, and ‘damp’ scares me because I go to ‘soggy’, and ‘soggy’ is awful,” she says. “When you think about what your alternative might be, ‘moist’ suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.”

Photo of Victoria sponge with cardamom, marmalade, and crème fraîche from At My Table by Nigella Lawson

Post a comment


  • Indio32  on  January 21, 2021

    The food word that makes me cringe the most is ‘tender’

  • Prairiegirlbaking  on  January 22, 2021

    The word moist does make me cringe slightly but it’s an apt description for cakes. I would argue though that it’s not necessarily the proper description for a sponge cake like the Victoria sandwich as compared to North American cakes, it’s pretty dry.

  • averythingcooks  on  January 22, 2021

    I imagine that no Canadian can now hear the word “moist” without remembering Justin Trudeau asking us to avoid “speaking moistly” with other while trying to stop the spread of Covid -19.

  • runoutofshelves  on  January 23, 2021

    I don’t like the word Smear as a food description

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!