Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Food for thought

It's time for the promised piece on metaphors in the kitchen. Examples came thick and fast when I first started collecting them, but now they're stagnating. I'm sure more will come to me. But here's a start.

A big source of metaphor in the kitchen is names, either of the dedicatee (Peach Melba, Melba Toast, Strawberry Pavlova, Boeuf Stroganoff) or of the original chef or restaurant or event (Caesar Salad, Waldorf Salad, Chicken á la King, Coronation Chicken).

Then there are animals or parts of animals: such as spotted dog – of which the origins are uncertain
<digression theme="dick">
as are the many other meanings of 'dick'. I had a transAtlantic superManager called 'Dick'. But one day – suspiciously shortly after the imposition of mandatory Sensitivity to Diversity Training – his name changed to 'Rich'; and some intern had done a really good job of rewriting history, as all old documents seemed to have been exposed to the same Diversity Sensitizer.
According to Wikipedia, Spotted Dick is like Spotted Dog, but with different fruit. The version I learnt at my mother's knee (and supply your own 'low joint' joke if you must) was that Spotted Dick was just a sanitized version of Spotted Dog, for use in the nursery – rather like my nephew who refused to eat Brussels (there's another one, by the way) Sprouts until they were called 'baby cabbages'

The Dog could be a corruption of dough. This doesn't look too likely on the face of it, but when you consider the many other pronunciations of '-ough' (7 or 8 in all, see When Vowels Get Together)
it becomes more plausible: think of chough, rough, slough, and tough. If 'dough' was once /dʌf/ (as is suggested by 'up the duff' and 'a bun in the oven' as dysphemisms for 'pregnant') corruption to dog seems more plausible.

Other animals are toad in the hole, devils/angels on horseback (and their Spanish cousin steak a caballo
<digression theme="What's on horseback?>
 a misnomer, I always thought, for a slab of meat with a fried egg on top – it's the egg that looks as if it were on horseback [a caballo]
And while we're on the subject of eggs, there's soldiers of course.

, pigs in blankets, suprême de volaille (I'm not sure about that one; perhaps suprême is (now) just a name for a cut of meat, but I'd be surprised if it didn't get that name because the bird's breast was 'the best bit')....

French is a fertile source, particularly of the decorative sort (as in that great Cézanne work, from his époque culinaire, 'Les Grands Beignets' ) îles flottantes, croque Monsieur/Madame, chasseur (with its Italian cousin cacciatore (hmmm – I wonder whether that's as crude....
<potential_digression theme="crude" />
<digression theme="crude">
Oh all right. Our 'crude' means raw (think of crudités). That's another food-based metaphor, woven into the language.
.... a metaphor as it sounds, with the sauce representing blood....
<explanation type-"PPS">
That "blood" must have been a bit of a surprise for people who know little of French or Italian. Both chasseur and cacciatore mean "hunter".
Eclair is another graphic one. The choux bun (there's another one) with its streak of chocolate is a cumulo-nimbus cloud, and the cream filling is a flash of lightning (éclair).

And, winding up French for now, there's baguette [=drumstick]. And there we have a clash of metaphors (a 'metaclysm'?), as a 'drumstick' in English, is a metaphor not for bread but for a chicken leg. Oh, and croîssant (which I said something about here).

Then there's Italian. But that very fertile ground must wait for an update; as must a shortish piece on metaphors returning the compliment (coming back out of the kitchen to do service in the... erm... 'extra-culinary'?---- world).


Update 2014.10.25.17:40 – Italian

The names for different sorts of pasta are often (if not usually?)  metaphorical.* Some of them are pretty obvious (tortellini  [which is probably itself a metaphor] are sometimes called ombelico [=belly-button]...
<digression theme=navel date_range =1971-2>
My first Spanish exam (really threw you in  at the deep-end in  my day, kids today don't know they're nacidos] involved translation of a passage entitled (and if you're looking for 'titled' there, read the red-letter rant here) 'Did Adam have a navel?' And I didn't know the Spanish for navel. Long words are a doddle though – 
When I first landed in Spain to pick up the language I tried to make sense of the newspapers and found I could, with some effort, decipher the world/financial/political/economic news but with sports I couldn't get past the first line.
so I blagged my way through by talking about Adam's cuerda umbilical. Anyway, that umbilical is a pointer to the derivation of  the Italian ombelico</digression>
 ... Then there's gnocchi , which Etymonline says is
from nocchio "a knot in wood," perhaps from a Germanic source akin to knuckle. So called for their shape.'  
and conchiglie. [='shells']..more will no doubt come to me. Oh yes   spago is the Italian for string or twine. Add an h to keep the g hard after an e, and you see what spaghetti means.

Leaving pasta aside,, there's ciabatta [='slipper']
A slipper in France is un chausson (which, in the kitchen, is what is in English a tunover</digression>

And, one of my favourites, cappuccino. A cappuccio is a hood. What, you may ask, is hooded about frothy coffee? The 'capuchin' (I think that's the English) monks are the target of the 'hood' idea. Their habit is dark brown, and their cappuccii are a lighter brown  – cappuccino, geddit?

In another update I'll deal with the returning of the compliment foodstuffs having a metaphorical life away from the kitchen. But, before I go, I'll make a start with pasta again. Astrophysicists commonly refer to the fate of a person falling into a black hole as spaghettification. I wondered what would happen to a packet of spaghetti falling into a black hole. But at a birthday dinner the other day I saw the answer: spaghettini.

Update 2015.02.26.13:05 – Added PS

Just a quick update. In my trawl through -al words I've reached "schmaltz". We all know that it refers to a sort of sickly sentimentality; connoisseurs of sch- words may also suspect that its roots are Yiddish. What I didn't know until today was that it's related to our "smelt". Its Yiddish root, schmalts, is "melted fat" which is indeed sickly when used too lavishly. (For the full story, start here).

I think there's probably the makings of a full-length Yiddish supplement to this post (along the lines of the Italian one I did last October). But this tidbit (another food metaphor) will have to be enough for starters (yet another, possibly).

Update 2015.02.26.16:25 – Added explanatory note in the colour of blood.

Update 2015.03.13.16:55 – Added this note:

PPS Another pasta-based one has just occurrred to me – a speculation about penne.
I don‘t know for sure,  but suspect that it‘s related to our pen. This depends on   an understanding of pen that doesn‘t leap immediately to the 21st century mind; think of a quill pen. Here‘s what etymonline says:

Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
well over 46,000 views  and over 6,800 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,500 views and over 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment