Huffington Post peppers its news website with catchy little attention-grabber titles featuring ‘numbers of things’ you should be dying to know (‘7 Worrisome Facts About Caffeine,’ ‘11 Habits of People Who Never Worry,’ ‘19 Reasons You’re Still Single,’ . . .). These are off to the side and I rarely open them, but the phrase food hacks caught my eye.<2014 “10 Food Hacks for Workplace Wellness (Photos)”—Huffington Post.com, 11 April>
Their article lists recommendation by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in partnership with the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity for “healthier substitutions for the meals, drinks, and snacks typically made available at workplace meetings and conferences.” So, my guess was that this ‘hack’ meant something like ‘substitute’ or ‘stand-in.’ But I didn’t find this among the two dozen or so slang and standard definitions I came up with in the dictionaries
However, one dictionary definition did make sense with ‘food’ but it was the wrong one – it referred to hack, the person: “One who exploits, for money, his or her creative ability or training in the production of dull, unimaginative, and trite work.” Thus, the tongue-in-cheek reference → food hack = chef/cook.
My Google search for food hack produced 174,000 hits, while food hacks produced 1,230,000 hits at my space-time coordinates (ours is not to reason why) and with some ‘chef/cook’ hits mixed in. And, once again, I get the feeling that I’m falling behind with my with-it lingo. And, worse yet, I stumbled upon the phrase life hack, which produced 2,460,000 Google hits (AMSTC). Where have I been? (>:)
Since the dictionaries let me down, I struck out on my own and after a bit of searching came up with the following two articles that address the question at hand:
To say the least, this meaning of hack(s) is extremely broad and I found, for example, that even our beloved ‘apps’ is a subset of ‘hack(s)’ (see 2011 quote below)!<2013 “The word ‘hack’ has become monstrously overused of late, breaking out of its natural technological habitat and forging itself a new life beyond. It has come to mean any activity that represents an improvement upon the old way of doing things, and ‘hack’ now bestows upon that activity a degree of hipster cool.
The other day I saw something described as a ‘food hack’ that was just a recipe. Gazing into the future, you can imagine rail operators describing essential engineering works as ‘track hacks’, to couch the inevitable journey disruption within a more palatable term. . .” (see here) —TheIndependent.com (London), 27 November>
<2014 “7 Life Hacks For Retirement: In case you’re unfamiliar with a life hack, it’s best defined as a trick, shortcut, or skill [[or ‘recipe’]] that solves a problem in a clever or not-so obvious way. Here are seven life hacks that current and future retirees can use to make retirement more fun, interesting and less expensive.” (see here) —Forbes.com, 15 April>
In fact, there is almost no end to the different types of ‘hack(s)’: Reddit.com has FoodHacks, HouseHacks, and OutdoorHacks pages. And there are websites like HomemakingHacks.com, KitchenHacks.com, FengShui-hacks.com[/i], . . . And, this is hard to believe, but I’m getting 271,000,000 Google hits for *****hacks.com and 551,000,000 for *****hack.com (AMSTC) [with much hack/hacks overlap noted and not all the right kind].
The fact that I couldn’t find a hack quote with a date on it earlier than 2011, either attests to the fact that the attack of the hacks is that recent or, more probably, that I didn’t look hard enough.
Here are a handful of quotes from my Google searches:
_____________________<2011 “Apps that pointed to the multimedia future for journalism emerged as the winners of the Guardian/Google hack weekend [[at SXSW – South by Southwest festival]]. It was a weekend that saw 82 developers create 27 different hacks. Some were ambitious bordering on the bizarre.”—TheGuardian.com, 14 February>
<2013 “11 Life Hacks -- For Your Wallet”—Forbes.com, 21 October>
<2014 “No-Meeting Fridays and Other Hacks to Improve Your Work Life”—Linkedin.com, 28 January>
<2014 “Easy Layered Boston Cream Pie Cake Recipe”—HomemakingHacks.com, 15 April>
<2014 “Here are 11 rainy day hacks to survive even the worst spring showers.”—BusinessInsider.com, 15 April>
Ken G – April 15, 2014