Subscribe: Polyglot Vegetarian
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
book  english  food  history  made  much  new  online  pepper  potato  read  spaghetti  time  vegetarian  word  world 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Polyglot Vegetarian

Polyglot Vegetarian

Grazing through the world of words

Updated: 2018-03-06T05:09:50.866-05:00




Two years ago, in a comment at LanguageHat, AJP Crown wondered whether there was interest in writing about truffles here. Honestly, the challenge has not been material, but having time to put it into some kind of coherent form.These days, restaurants and frozen entrees offer dishes like mac-n-cheese that are truffled, that is, made with truffle oil. The LA food critic Jonathan Gold called truffle oil, “the ketchup of the middle class” and a judge on a recent Chopped proposed that it should be incinerated. In 2003, Jeffrey Steingarten wrote a piece for Vogue provocatively titled, “Does truffle oil have anything to do with truffles at all?” (I won't try to link to it online. A individual subscription to Vogue's online archive cost $1575 per year, so I doubt anyone who reads this blog has one. The public library where I read it still has all the print issues neatly shelved in cardboard boxes.) He methodically samples various truffle-derived or -named products. The best he can be say is that some are worse than others. Mostly, truffle oil is vegetable oil with 2,4 dithiapentane (or, if you prefer, bis(methylthio)methane) added. And since natural or naturale is not a controlled designation, saying that does not mean anything about how the oil was made.But what of real truffles?Read MoreSome classic European truffle dishes, meant to showcase Périgord black and Piedmont white truffles, are vegetarian. Such as an omelette aux truffes or fresh pasta al tartufo. Rossini's Salad from The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook is vegan: boiled potatoes, sliced truffles cooked in champagne, oil and vinegar dressing. (Dumas (fils)'s “better version of it,” Salade Francillon, is not. Toklas notes that, “Rossini was inordinately fond of truffles.” Indeed, he once claimed, «Je n'ai pleuré que trois fois en ma vie; la première, quand mon premier opéra tomba, à la première representation; la seconde, lorsque me trouvant en bateau, avec des amis, une dinde aux truffes, que nous devions manger, vint à tomber dans l'eau; et la troisième, lorsque j'entendis Paganini pour la première fois.» 'I have only cried three times in my life: first, when my first opera bombed on opening night; second, when finding myself in a boat with friends, a truffled turkey that we intended to eat fell into the water; and third when I heard Paganini for the first time.') Unfortunately, it seems that by the time truffles have been flown over from Europe and driven up from New York here to Boston, chefs feel obligated to only use them extravagantly as a garnish on some meat dish. Which is likewise how they always seem to show up on Iron Chef.Food writers are just as extravagant. Brillat-Savarin called the truffle, “le diamant de la cuisine” 'the diamond of the kitchen'. (If anything, truffles are rarer, but diamonds have a more effective cartel.) Curnonsky quotes Rodolphe Bringer updating this to the 20th Century, «La truffe participe du radium par sa précieuse variété et du diamant par les difficultés qu'impose sa recherche.» 'Truffles share with radium their precious varieties and with diamonds the difficulties in finding them.' Alexandre Dumas (père) proposed:Faire l'histoire des truffes serait entreprendre celle de la civilisation du monde, à laquelle, toutes muettes qu'elles sont, elles ont pris plus de part que les lois de Minos, que les tables de Solon à toutes les grandes époques des nations, à toutes les grandes lueurs que jetèrent les empires; elles affluaient à Rome, de la Grèce et de la Libye; les Barbares en passant sur elles les foulèrent aux pieds et les firent disparaître, et d'Augustule jusqu'à Louis XV elles s'effacent pour reparaître seulement au xviiie siècle et atteindre leur apogée sous le gouvernement parlementaire de 1820 à 1848.To relate the history of truffles would be to undertake that of world civilization, in which, though they are silent, they have had a greater part than the laws of Minos or the tablets of Solon, through all the great epochs of the nations, thr[...]

Green Bean


The supermarket was well stocked this week with fresh green beans. The side of the display had jars of gourmet fried onions — another postmodern reimagining of a boomer classic. In keeping with the holiday tradition of assigning a writer to write about the current holiday's traditions, informs us that the association is an accident: the dish was invented in 1955 by Campbell's Soup and just happened to be in an AP feature. A quick check of the Google News Archive finds that it was served with barbeque to the Shah of Iran and Empress Soraya that year in Florida. Since that visit was in January, it must have actually been invented at the start of the year and under other circumstances might have ended up a Nowruz standard. A slightly fancier version in Sylvia Lovegren's entertaining Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, adding sliced almonds, is from a 1961 Campbell's ad.I am not much of one for holidays: I use the quiet time to catch up on work. In my experience, Thanksgiving is the hardest day to find a restaurant open (and serving a regular menu). On Christmas, there is Halal or Kosher (when it isn't Saturday), or one can eat Chinese food with all the Jewish people.As it happens, our two favorite green bean dishes are Chinese.Read MoreGreen Beans with Chinese Cheese, that is, Long Beans with Fermented Bean Curd. I believe we had this at the House of Toy on Hudson Street, which was a popular destination for hackers. Here is what SAIL's YUMYUM file says:My favorite Chinese restaurant in Boston area, best sweet and sour in Boston area [ES-5/77]. Favorites are ginger and fish meat. Best vermicelli (bean thread) dishes in Boston [GLS-78].We also called them Fu-yi Green Beans, and that is what we still call the dish at home, where we like to make it with the jars of fermented bean curd that have chili added. It's possible that was the name on the menu, or something someone in our party knew from elsewhere. If so, the name in Cantonese would be something like 腐乳豆角 fu6 jyu5 dau6 gok3 as here. But memory is a tricky thing, and I would welcome corrections from Bostonians who might have saved a menu from back then. Due to changing demographics in Chinatown, I have not seen this dish around in some time, but perhaps I have just missed it. William Shurtleff, America's soy food evangelist, has a page on the history of fermented bean curd.You had to go across the river to Cambridge to get Kan Shao Green Beans at Joyce Chen's Small Eating Place (I have menus here from the larger place near Fresh Pond). Regular green beans are 四季豆 si4 ji4 dou4, 'four seasons beans', because they are available year round. Strictly speaking, there are two related ways of cooking possible, and at least in America, restaurants are not always careful to distinguish them. Mandarin 乾燒 (simplified 干烧) gan1 shao1 /  Cantonese 乾炒 gon1 caau2 is ordinary dry-cooked. 乾煸 gan1 bian3 involves first deep frying the food and then dry-frying it a second time with less oil. This produces Szechwan-style shriveled green beans. They are traditionally made with pork and/or dried shrimp, but those can be left out to make it vegan.This is where the nostalgia becomes relevant to this blog. 乾 has an ordinary simplified form 干. But what of 煸, a character only used in a regional style of cooking? Most printed menus here substitute just the phonetic bian part, 扁. (The full character has the fire radical ⽕, as expected of a cooking word.) I believe that is a limitation of the technology, that that is all that is available to the printer. (Though I would welcome suggestions of other reasons I may have overlooked.) In the case of Sichuan Garden in Brookline Village, the online menu has 干煸四季豆, but the printed one has 干扁四季豆.Here are some Boston-area menus in our files and an online collection showing this and the variety of Engl[...]



C. S. Lewis resolved his adolescent struggles with theodicy through the conservative Christianity of Chesterton, Belloc and so on. With a convert's zeal, he then promoted an unalloyed form, which Chesterton called Orthodoxy and Lewis Mere Christianity. He has his demon, Screwtape, write in letter #25: What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And'. You know — Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. The last two are within the purview of this blog and this short post (unfortunately time does not permit one of the longer, more standard, ones) will touch on their intersection. Religion is not within it, at least primarily, so they will be taken with or without, though more often without, the Christianity. Read More A few letters back, in #22, Screwtape, having turned himself into centipede, dictates through his amanuensis Toadpipe: A more modern writer — someone with a name like Pshaw — has, however, grasped the truth. Transformation proceeds from within and is a glorious manifestation of that Life Force which Our Father would worship if he worshipped anything but himself. This is an allusion to George Bernard Shaw's mystical version of Bergson's Creative Evolution. Clause 4 of Shaw's will begins: As my religious convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in Creative Evolution ... Due to a typo by a reporter or telegraph operator, contemporary accounts in Time and The New York Times (Nov. 24, 1950; Nov. 25) reported that Shaw believed in “Creative Revolution.” And someone has dutifully copied this into his Wikipedia entry! The Times issued a correction on Nov. 29: An error of transmission in a dispatch from London led to an error in an editorial on this page last Saturday commenting on a passage from the will of George Bernard Shaw. Shaw wrote: “My religious convictions and sci­entific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in creative evolution.” The final word came through the ether as “revolution” instead of the “evolution” made famous in the preface to “Back to Methuselah” and elsewhere. Lewis's Space Trilogy is influenced by Back to Methuselah while intended as a critique of Shaw's religion. (See, for instance, “Shaw and C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy.”) But what is a main concern here is Clause 35: I devise and bequeath all my real and personal estate not otherwise specifically disposed of by this my Will or any Codicial hereto and all property over which I have general power of appointment unto my Trustee Upon trust that my Trustee shall (subject to the power of postponing the sale and conversion thereof hereinafter contained) sell my real estate and sell call in or otherwise convert into money as much as may be needed of my personal estate (other than any copyrights which as provided by Clause 7 of this my Will are not to be sold) to increase the ready monies of which I may be possessed at my death to an amount sufficient to pay my funeral and testamentary expenses and debts estate duty legacy duty and all the duties payable on my death in respect of my estate or the bequests hereby made free of duty (other than testamentary expenses) and the legacies bequeathed by this my Will or any Codicil hereto or to make such other payments or investments or change of investments as in his opinion shall be advisable in the interest of my estate and shall invest the residue of such monies in manner hereinafter authorised And shall stand possessed of the said residuary trust moneys and the investments for the time being representing the same and all other [...]



Greater Boston has a couple new vegetarian restaurants. The Pulse Cafe in Somerville has classic vegetarian fare from fresh ingredients, food of the sort that those of middle-age might remember making from what they bought at the food coop or Erewhon on Newbury Street. The Red Lentil in Watertown has a similar base, but a bolder and more global spice profile. A favorable review by Robert Nadeau, Boston's veteran restaurant critic, proposes the Gobi Manchurian as their signature appetizer. I'm not sure I agree. The cauliflower was indeed cooked just right, but I think the Indo-Chinese spices need to be more like at Indian Dhaba or Mysore Veggie (one of two South Indian restaurants next to an ISSO Swaminarayan mandir in Lowell — the one in the picture here, though I believe the text on that page refers to this one) on its Thursday Indo-Chinese night (even if the color does sometimes reach outside nature). For my favorite of Red Lentil's appetizers, I would choose the Sesame Encrusted Seitan Strips with miso horseradish dressing. Of another seitan dish, that Phoenix review mistakes its source, “Seitan with teff crêpes ($14.50) takes the meatiest-textured soy product and wraps it in a series of earthy teff injeras, which are somehow stiffened to near-taco crunchability.”Read MoreSeitan is wheat gluten. (Update: The 4/30 print column included several readers' corrections and the online review linked to above now says “wheat gluten product.”) Broadly, it refers to chunks of gluten prepared in various ways. Specifically, to those that have been simmered in soy sauce.The word was coined by George Ohsawa, who brought the macrobiotic diet to America, and either invented seitan or worked closely with Kiyoshi Mokutani, president of Marushima Shoyu, who did, to bring it to market in the late 1960s. The tan is the first part of 蛋白 tanpaku 'protein'. The sei might be a suffix as in 植物製 'plant-made' or 植物性 'plant-like' shokubutsu-sei, although as the OED points out it is unusual for Japanese words to be invented that way. So it is also claimed to be from sei 'to be; become' (成?), with a resultant sense of 'right protein substitute' (see record 557 in William Shurtleff's Soyinfo Center here). In Japanese, the word is still used only in the macrobiotic context, and written as セイタン.The earliest quotation in the OED is from The Art of Just Cooking (1974) by George's wife Lima, in a recipe (p. 85) for making seitan by simmering wheat gluten in shoyu seasoned with ginger for a few hours. The chapter in which it appears is titled, “Kofu: Wheat Gluten.” 烤麩 kōfu (kaofu) is Shanghai-style wheat gluten. 麩 fu alone is the normal Japanese word for wheat gluten, the two main types being 生麩 nama-fu, raw gluten used in Buddhist temple cuisine (精進料理 shōjin ryōri: mentioned before in the Iron Chef post; or see Kajitsu, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York) and  焼き麩 yaki-fu, grilled or dried gluten used in soups or simmered dishes or on salads.飴 ame can refer to a traditional Japanese candy made from wheat-gluten, inflated like a balloon and formed into animal shapes (see here and here; illustrated here and here). Issa wrote a haiku:梅さくや飴の鶯口を明くume sake ya ame no uguisu kuchi wo akuplum blossoms--the candy nightingaleopens his mouth(I don't know a lot more about the tradition, but I wonder whether the 笛 fue 'flute; pipe' in some of his other candy poems might refer to the reed used to blow-up the gluten, rather than a musical instrument meant to attract customers.)In Chinese, prepared wheat gluten is 麵筋 mian4jin1 (Cantonese min6gan1; simplified 面筋; literally 'noodle tendon'), used, along with bean curd and bean curd skin[...]

Bhut Jolokia


It was recently time to order to some more Brother Bru-Bru's hot sauce, which is my preferred condiment for home fries and Röschti. Hot sauces are fairly shelf stable, so we like to stock up, which also saves on shipping. Furthermore, boutique sauces come and go: we are down to our last bottle of Satan's Revenge, an Indonesian-style sauce which I like on zucchini sticks, but which hasn't been produced in several years (it is still shown in the web site photo).And there is always something new to try. For a while, the new hotness (sorry) was Red Savina peppers. We still have a bottle of Melinda's version. Now it is Bhut Jolokia and we got the Melinda's, which is good on a grilled portabello mushroom, and the Dave's Gourmet, which I've yet to try, since I'm waiting for the bottle of Dave's Insanity, which I put on pumpkin kibbeh, to be finished. As one might imagine, these personal pairings help to justify a larder full of hot sauces.Read MoreThough that Wikipedia page has some dead news links, it does a reasonable job of summarizing the “new” world's hottest peppers: a group of related hybrids of mostly C. chinense with some C. frutescens genetic material, from the area around Assam, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Manipur and Nagaland. More comprehensive are Dave DeWitt's and Gernot Katzer's pages.Of particular interest are the names and their associated problems. Bhut-jolokia is sometimes glossed as 'ghost pepper', as though it were ভুত-জলকীয়া, when in fact it is 'Bhotiya (Bhutanese) pepper', that is, ভোট-জলকীয়া. Similarly, Naga-jolokia is claimed as 'serpent pepper' নাগ-, rather than 'Naga (that is, related to the Nagas or Nagalim) pepper' নগা-. In a stricter transliteration scheme, like the one used by the Library of Congress, the differences would be clearer: bhut-jalakīyā, vs. bhoṭ- and nāga- vs. nagā-. Though that may not be the whole story, since the other forms do occur in reliable sources like a user-contributed dictionary or an academic promotion. Nor are all the actual names benign: bih-jolokia is indeed 'poison pepper', বিহ-জলকীয়া. One of the names in Nagaland (though it isn't clear in what language(s) — perhaps Nagamese creole) is 'king of peppers', राज-मिरंच rāja-mirca.This recent favor in the West was picked up and encouraged by the Assam and Manipur news and television reporting from Nagaland (video starts playing right away). And so discussion in some blogs helps to confirm and clarify the identifications in Assamese or Naga cuisine. And to offer some additional names like Sap Hmarcha and Sap Malta. Or other related varieties like U Morok. (Hmarcha and morok মরোক / ꯃꯔꯣꯀ are clearly 'chili pepper' and so presumably is malta; sap might be 'snake', or perhaps that's a coincidence. U is apparently 'tree'; that variety is eaten with some kind of water lily seed.)Still, Katzer's spice page raises the interesting question of just how old this super-hot pepper is in its native land. Here again, transliteration inconsistencies make searching somewhat less efficient. A Victorian report uses jálika. But the most common in the early 20th century seems to be jalakia. A report from just after independence lists some specific hot varieties, Surjamukhi Jalakia (সূৰ্য্যমুখী-জলকীয়া 'sunflower pepper') and Kharika Jalakia (খৰিক-জলকীয়া 'long slender stick pepper', still known as Khorika Jolokia), but they don't seem to match. However, A Dictionary in Assamese and English (1867) , which Wikipedia (s.v.) says was the first Assam[...]



With all the students around, Boston's Allston Village is chock-full of reasonably-priced restaurants: Burmese (with a separate vegetarian menu), vegan Vietnamese, vegan pizza, Egyptian falafel, Indian Chinese; plus old standbys like Tex-Mex, Korean-Japanese and checked-tablecloth Chianti-in-a-basket red-sauce Italian.

One of last year's new additions was Zaps, Polish street food. A zapiekanka is a baguette sliced in half lengthwise, topped with shredded cheddar and mushrooms, melted / toasted, and finished off with ketchup. It's more interesting tasting than that might sound.

Read More

The name seems straightforward. zapiekać is the imperfective of zapiec 'to bake'. zapiekany is the passive participle; add the fairly productive -k(a) for resultative nouns and it's 'something baked'. There are, of course, various other forms of zapiekać in the only Polish cookbook I have. The za- prefix is a Slavic preposition with base meaning something like 'beyond'. piec is cognate with Russian печь 'oven' and so with PIE *pekʷ 'cook', whence also Greek πέσσω 'ripen; cook' and so peptic.

After we went there this weekend, I had another look around online and only then noticed that zapiekanka also means 'casserole'. There is a fairly clean split in English language sources between the two senses:

Street foodCasserole
  • Phrase books
  • Guide books
  • Dictionaries
  • Cookbooks

An Online Polish-English dictionary has both senses. An eponymous recipe collection seems to mostly be casseroles. But there are images and YouTube cooking videos of both sorts.

Not that this is all that surprising; both fit the base meaning perfectly. But now I am wondering whether there is a continuous semantic space (and what else is in it) and just how old this particular street food is. Hence this very short post. I would welcome informed comments.



Other demands on my time have made posting here rather spotty, but I have always tried to keep notes on possible posts for when some time appears. One of the 17th century sources cited for peanuts (with a small diversion on sharks) was Jean-Baptiste du Tertre. In the same work, Histoire generales des Antilles habitees par les Francais (1667), he has a chapter on “l'Ananas, le Roy des fruits” 'pineapple, the king of fruits'.Having recently finished The Pineapple: King of Fruits by Fran Beauman, I was reminded of this and of an analogy:orange ∶ orangery ∷ pineapple ∶ ______Read Moreorange ∶ orangery ∷ pineapple ∶ pineryBeauman's book is still in print, though I am not sure there is an American edition yet. It covers the history of pineapples from Christopher Columbus to James Drummond Dole. (Note how one of the Wikipedia editor's uses of ginaca machine isn't capitalized. Beauman only mentions the engineer by name, but it's used several times without even machine in Gary Y. Okihiro's Pineapple Culture, a book that uses pineapple as the common thread for the story of race and empire in the tropics and Hawaii in particular. That is, at least in an appropriate context, ginaca has become a common noun.)Beauman's book surveys pineapples in English literature from John Locke's taste of a pineapple to Wallace Stevens' academic piece “Someone Puts a Pineapple Together” (snippet only). (Though a quotation from the Wake cataloguing Shem's lowly preference for canned foods is somewhat turned around by leaving out the botulism part.)A major theme of the book is the role of pineapple in the emergent English (and to a lesser extent American) consumer culture. And the now mostly forgotten mania for growing pineapples in hothouses in Northern Europe.Beauman wrote shorter pieces on the pineapple for Petits Propos Culinaires (73) before and Cabinet (Fruits) after. The former covered the associations from the start as the finest of fruit and possible causes (including the Golden Mean and Fibonacci series) and the latter the Dunmore Pineapple and aristocratic cultivation efforts.Consequently, this post will more easily stay (mostly) to the main focus of this blog.The word for 'pineapple' in most languages is something like ananas. This comes from the Tupi-Guarani name for the fruit, na´na, which I have seen glossed variously as 'fragrant' and 'excellent'. (Some sources, such as Skeat, also claim that nana is the plant and anana the fruit.)The word is first reported by André Thevet, who writes (Singularitez de la France antarctique, 1558, pp. 89-90):Le fruit duquel plus cõmunemẽt ils vſent en leurs maladies, eſt nommé Nana, gros comme vne moyenne citrouille, fait tout autour cõme vne pomme de pin, anſi que pourrez voir par la preſente figure. Ce fruit deuient iaune en maturité, lequel eſt merueilleuſement excellent, tant pour ſa douceur que ſaueur, autant amoureuſe que fin ſucre, & plus.The fruit which they most commonly use for their illnesses is named nana, as big as a medium pumpkin, formed overall like a pinecone, as you can see from the present figure. This fruit turns yellow when ripe; it is marvelously excellent, as much for the sweetness as the taste, as lovely as fine sugar, and more so.And in the form ananas by Jean de Léry's Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Brésil:… Premierement la plante qui produit le fruict nommé par les Sauuages Ananas eſt de figure ſemblable aux glaieuls, & encores, ayant les fueilles vn peu courbees & canelees tout alentour, plus aprochãtes de celles d'Aloes. Elle croiſt auſsi non ſeulement emmoncelee comme vn grand Chardon, mais auſsi ſon fruict:, qui eſt de la groſſeur d'vn moyen Melõ, & de façon comme les Pommes de Pin, ſans pendre ny pa[...]



I apologize that posting here has been so light this year, but other demands on my time have taken priority. I have tried to adjust this post to the recent Google Books changes; please let me know if any of the links are misbehaving.The first post here was a footnote to the history of the word vegan, which was coined around 1944. Just about a century before that, the word vegetarian was coined. It really took hold with the formation of The Vegetarian Society in 1847, but is attested before that.Most authoritative etymologies form vegetarian irregularly from vegetable and -arian, somewhat along the lines of unitarian. So the OED, AHD and Skeat. Weekley says, “Currency of barbarously formed vegetarian dates from formation of Vegetarian Society at Ramsgate (1847).” Partridge has a slightly different take:From ML vegetāte comes the ML adj vegetālis, whence EF-F végétal, whence E vegetal, EF-F végétal has derivative végétarien, whence végétarianisme: whence E vegetarian, vegetarianism. (s.v. vigor)Though I am not sure on what evidence; most sources trace végétarien to English, not the other way around.An alternative derivation is directly from Latin vegetus 'vigorous' without any intermediate vegetable. For example, in a letter to “Ask Ms. Natural” in the 1981 Vegetarian Times. The Souvenir of the XVth World Vegetarian Congress, India, 1957 (pp. 104-106) excerpts Carlos (Charles) Brandt's The Vital Problem (a translation of El fundamento de la moral), where he traces vegetarianism through vegetus and its uses in Latin to other cognates. (In the version on the IVU site, the editor inserts a disclaimer about the starting assumption.) He credits Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon (6th edition, not 18th; s.v. Vegetarismus) for being the only reference source he consulted that got the etymology and meaning right. The masthead of The Vegetarian, the organ of the Society from the 1880's, has a scroll beneath the title that reads, “Vegetus — Vital, Healthful, Vigorous.” I have not been able to find an image of this online, but an advertisement promising the inaugural issue on 19th December (1881) says similarly, “Vegetus — Signifying all that is Vital, Healthful, and Vigorous.”One of the reasons for promoting this was that the name made mockery of vegetarians like that in Punch shortly after the Society's foundation easier. (Although there would certainly be something else in any case; a review of such satire in various places, languages and times might make for another post.)As the Wikipedia points out, this proposal is rather suspect. (For one thing, there are earlier uses than the society, like this.) In other words, it is a learned folk-etymology. But it does come with some interesting learned associations.Read MoreThirteen Satires of Juvenal (leaving out, as often happens, II, VI, and IX, though the work isn't really intended for younger students) is, or was, a minor monument of Victorian scholarship. Its author, John E. B. Mayor, was Professor of Latin at Cambridge University. The commentary is intended less as an aid to understanding and more as an exploration of the environment through a collection of references to related works. Gilbert Highet's Juvenal the Satirist says, “A text with very learned notes on all satires except 2, 6, and 9; the comments consist chiefly of parallel passages, and do not go deeply into problems of text and interpretation.”Mayor was a philologist and delighted in the details. He contributed five notes to the first volume of Notes and Queries, the Victorian group blog; and nine articles to the first volume of The Classical Review, which was edited by his brother, Joseph. He wrote an article on Latin lexicography for the Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology, in which he summed up his destiny, “there still rem[...]



I'm not much of one for annual events, such as national or religious holidays. I might manage a teetotaler's Bloomsday some years. There was a Hangul Day post last year, but that is more a commemoration than a celebration.But the gift-giving season is when retailers stock up, particularly on items aimed at children. So that is when I am the lookout for some of the things we collect.To keep posts here from becoming too formulaic, this will be another short and superficial picture post, covering one such collection. Plastic Alphabet Magnets.Read MoreUpon reflection, there seems to be an attraction to magnets in general, whether it is a specimen of magnetite, classic bar and ring magnets, stronger neodymium magnets, or those construction toys with magnetic rods and steel balls.For rare books, the library copy or a PDF is often enough. But we do happen to have a copy of Athanasius Kircher's Magnes, sive de arte magnetica. (The library with an online copy listed in the texts in that Wikipedia article actually has more of his works than just those listed.) As far as I know, this is the only book we own to ever be featured on the wonderful BibliOdyssey site.Here is a basic uppercase Roman set:I am certain that such sets exist with accents and umlauts, but I haven't found them around here. (Despite what people may claim, I haven't even seen one with an Ñ.)The Cyrillic set I found is made of foam rubber, not plastic, so the photo isn't as shiny:(I probably cheated making a Й from a И and one of the minus signs.)The Greek set has complete Greek and Roman alphabets, in both upper- and lower-case. Even the uppercase that are roughly the same shape are distinguished by choosing a somewhat different font for the two:The Devanagari only has the independent form of the vowels:It is actually designed here in Boston (see this article), suggesting that much of the market is expat parents and especially grandparents.I imagine the biggest seller through the grandparent channel would be the Hebrew:No vowel points, but extra matres lectionis.The Hangul consists of four complete sets of consonants and reorientable vowels, in four different colors:(With four ㅏㅓㅗㅜ pieces, but only three ㅑㅕㅛㅠ pieces.) The company that makes these has arithmetic and Roman, too, not surprisingly. (Note how the product name 한글 자석놀이 'Hangul magnet fun' is written out on the magnetic memo-board on that page.)For Arabic, a rather different approach is called for:The pieces are color-coded for letters with similar behaviors. When connected, the pieces attach; when not, a tail attaches instead. The kāf rotates around to its final form. The lām + ʼalif mandatory ligature is made by flipping the second letter from behind. Fortunately, I don't need to describe it all, because the product's site goes into details.I assume more of these exist, but I have not come across them yet. I should make this post even more relevant to the blog by including some photos of vegetable fridge magnets. But the issue is that our fridge has too much nickel in its stainless and isn't magnetic (I took the Frigits and Pendumonium into the office), so I have to locate them first and it seems best not to hold up a year-end post into late January. I will update when they show up.[...]



Boston still has a number of used book stores, surviving, though perhaps not thriving, despite the internet, in which browsing almost always uncovers something worthwhile. And, of course, those same online dealers, while offering less serendipity, can be used to track down a particular work referenced elsewhere.John Hill Burton, the Scottish historian, wrote in The Book-Hunter (p. 101):The possession, or, in some other shape, the access to a far larger collection of books than can be read through in a lifetime, is in fact an absolute condition of intellectual culture and expansion.And a couple pages on gives an image of classic works of compilation (p. 103):There are those terrible folios of the scholastic divines, the civilians, and the canonists, their majestic stream of central print overflowing into rivulets of marginal notes sedgy with citations.Nowadays, these are footnotes and end notes, or in a less formal medium like this, hyperlinks.A used book find ideally suited to the purpose of this blog is Ginger: A Loan-Word Study (snippet view), by Alan S. C. Ross.Read MoreAlan Strode Campbell Ross also wrote a book on Pitcairnese, the creole descending from the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives. He is best remembered for his study of U and non-U English: an essay with that title is included among the collection by Nancy Mitford in Noblesse Oblige: An Enquiry into the Identifiable Characteristics of the English Aristocracy. It is a condensed and simplified version (and not a reprint as Wikipedia implies) of the paper “Linguistic class-indicators in present-day English,” which appeared in 1954 in Neuphilologische Mitteilungen and is among those reprinted for the 120th anniversary issue last year, which are available online here. More recently, he has caused a lexicographic mystery by having referred to taboo words as mumfordish in a 1934 review of the OED that also appeared in that journal: the question being, who is Mumford? (See discussion at Language Log and Language Hat.)The framework of Ross's Ginger book begins with a passage from the 1414 Records of the Grocers' Company:Auxi tout le Gynger quest faux colore Columbyn et auxibien Maykyn il fuist colore en le color de Belendyn.Also all the ginger which is falsely coloured columbyn, and maykyn as well, was coloured the colour of belendyn.Then, following Heyd, a passage from Pegolotti (the text of which is apparently not online):Giengiovo si è di più maniere, cioè belledi e colombino et micchino, …Ginger is of several sorts, viz. belledi and colombino and micchino.Pegolotti explains that colombino comes from Colombo (Quilon / Kollam കൊല്ലം, perhaps 'high ground') and micchino from Mecca. (The Ménagier de Paris has gingembre de mesche et gingembre coulombin, though it offers the exact opposite conclusion as Pegolotti for which is easier to cut. Note also that Power's translation 'string ginger' is incorrect.)And a couplet from John Russell's Boke of Nurture:For good gynger colombyne / is best to drynke and ete;Gynger valadyne & maydelyn̄ ar not so holsom in mete.Which is explained by the OED, “ginger colombyne (quot. c1460), ginger from Quilon (L. Columbum); g. valadyne and g. maydelyn, mentioned in the same quot., have not been identified.”So, with two of the kinds identified, the etymological questions that remain are ginger itself and beledi.An old Language Hat post covered the outline of the ginger etymology, but none of the comments brought up Ross's book (also, one of the links given has moved to here). Another good place to start for ginger is the entry in Hobson-Jobson (which Ross cites in a footnote).Ginger originates in tropical Asia; the exact location is not known for certain, as it is generally not found wild. (Schumann — see[...]



We probably had the last fresh whole watermelon of the summer a few weeks ago. The crate of large globular produce at the supermarket is now full of pumpkins. But the Summer 2008 issue of Edible Boston, a franchised locavore magazine, just showed up there. Either that, or we just noticed it. It contains an article on watermelon by Elizabeth Gawthrop Riely, who edits the newsletter of the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe-Harvard, home to an important collection of vegetarian cookbooks and where CHB meets. She has also written for Gastronomica (e.g., here).The article makes the following observation directly relevant to this blog:The name for a plant can often point the way to its starting point, its root, but the words for watermelon in many languages do not relate to each other. In French (pastèque), Italian (cocomero), Spanish (sandia), and Portuguese (melancia). There is no etymological tie between these Romance words. Going further afield and back, the words for watermelon in ancient languages—Greek (karpouxzi), Hebrew (avatiah), Arabic (batfikh), Persian (hinduwana), and Tamil (palam)—have no cognates. This all shows the watermelon’s prehistoric dissemination.Read MoreI am not sure how much can be inferred from a lack of cognates. When several daughter languages have related forms, that can indicate that a reconstructed parent had one, too. When a word is borrowed, it suggests the possibility that the object was new. But existing words can also be repurposed, as with African peanut words. And cognates can diverge as different branches encounter different material.The diversity above is primarily in the greater Mediterranean. In contrast, most Germanic languages have words exactly equivalent to the transparent English watermelon: Dutch watermeloen, German Wassermelone, Swedish vattenmelon, Danish vandmeloner, Icelandic vatnsmelóna. This idea also extends to some neighbors, such as Czech vodní meloun.Finnish and Estonian likewise have vesimeloni and vesimelon, but also arbuusi and arbuus from their other neighbors: Russian арбуз, Lithuanian: arbūzas, Polish: arbuz. This is from Turkish karpuz, as are Greek καρπούζι (I'm not sure where the x comes from above) and Romany harbuz. This in turn is from Persian خربوزه xarbuza, literally 'donkey cucumber'. The modern Persian word هندوانه hinduwāna indicates that watermelon comes from India. But the Hindi तरबूज tarabūja (also तरबूज़ tarabūza), Sanskrit तरम्बुज tarambuja is borrowed from Persian تربوز tarbuz. And Sanskrit खर्बूज kharabūja is from that same خربوزه xarbuza.Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus — for a full name citation, see this note) appears to originate in southern Africa. Livingstone found them growing abundantly in the Kalahari:But the most surprising plant of the Desert is the “Kengwe or Kēme” (Cucumis caffer), the watermelon. In years when more than the usual quantity of rain falls, vast tracts of the country are literally covered with these melons; this was the case annually when the fall of rain was greater than it is now, and the Bakwains sent trading parties every year to the lake. It happens commonly once every ten or eleven years, and for the last three times its occurrence has coincided with an extraordinarily wet season. … These melons are not, however, all of them eatable; some are sweet, and others so bitter that the whole are named by the Boers the “bitter wate[...]

The Gilded Age


Over the holiday weekend, Tim Spalding of LibraryThing added a feature to Common Knowledge (the site's book-oriented wiki) to record a work's epigraphs. In the discussion leading up to this in Talk (the site's social network), Tim mentioned Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner's The Gilded Age and its satirizing polyglot epigraphs.From the authors' Preface:No apology is needed for following the learned custom of placing attractive scraps of literature at the heads of our chapters. It has been truly observed by Wagner that such headings, with their vague suggestions of the matter which is to follow them, pleasantly inflame the reader's interest without wholly satisfying his curiosity, and we will hope that it may be found to be so in the present case.Our quotations are set in a vast number of tongues; this is done for the reason that very few foreign nations among whom the book will circulate can read in any language but their own; whereas we do not write for a particular class or sect or nation, but to take in the whole world.I thought it would be fun to actually transcribe these mottoes, which appear at the head of each chapter, into LT. And, since so many 19th century books have been digitized, it is easy to find many of the sources and check them. A couple of the mottoes have enough to do with the admittedly loosely defined charter of this blog for me to post the results here.Read MoreThe chapter mottoes for The Gilded Age (1873) are the work of James Hammond Trumbull, friend and neighbor of Samuel Clemens. Trumbull featured in an earlier post here as an authority on the etymology of the word squash.A footnote in Paine's biography of Mark Twain, says:There was another co-worker on The Gilded Age before the book was finally completed. This was J. Hammond Trumbull, who prepared the variegated, marvelous cryptographic chapter headings. Trumbull was the most learned man that ever lived in Hartford. He was familiar with all literary and scientific data, and according to Clemens could swear in twenty-seven languages. It was thought to be a choice idea to get Trumbull to supply a lingual medley of quotations to precede the chapters in the new book, the purpose being to excite interest and possibly to amuse the reader—a purpose which to some extent appears to have miscarried.And so swearing in 27 languages has become a standard part of Trumbull's biography. I have not been able to locate anywhere where Clemens actually says this, though. He did write an obituary for Century Magazine (November, 1897, p. 154).Critical reaction was understandably varied, with some seeing it as another aspect of the satire and others being confused. For example, a review by F. B. Perkins in Old and New (Vol. IX, March 1874, p. 387: entire volume in the Internet Archive; preview of this and other contemporary reviews in Google Books) said:Nor must the grotesque parody on the motto business, at the chapter-heads, be overlooked. We strongly suspect that the writers may have purchased an assorted lot of spare mottoes from Mr. Trumbull, Prof. Whitney, or some of the other Connecticut linguists. There used to be, in “Horne's Introduction,” or some such book, a set of specimens of the type used in the various translations of the Bible, which we thought at first had been transcribed; but we missed the Burmese passage. But Old French, Anglo-Saxon, Ethiopic, Erse, Syriac, ancient Mexican, Basque, Russian, Armenian, Chinese, Sanscrit, and in particular Chinook and Kanaka (which Mr. Clemens could furnish), Natick Indian, and other kindred language (which Mr. Trumbull could furnish), and even English, occur to us. Still, if Messrs. Clemens and Warner, or either of them, do habitually study in these and all the other languages of their mottoes, we[...]

Sowing Cumin and Basil


The American edition of Uglier Than a Monkey’s Armpit, co-authored by Steve at LanguageHat, still isn't available, as far as I know. But being impatient, I went ahead and got the UK edition when I found a copy here in the States, even though it lacks LH's preface.A relevant topic within the scope of this blog takes a little bit of a stretch.Read MoreTheophrastus has this to say about cumin:Πάντα δὲ πολύκαρπα καὶ πολυβλαστῆ, πολυκαρπότατον δὲ τὸ κύμινον. ἴδιον δὲ καὶ ὂ λέγουσι κατὰ τούτο· φασὶ γὰρ δεῖν καταρᾶσθαί τε καὶ βλασφημεῖν σπείροντας, εἰ μέλλει καλὸν ἔσεσθαι καὶ πολύ. (HP, vii 3 3)All have numerous fruits and numerous shoots, but cummin has the most fruits of all. And there is another peculiarity told of this plant: they say that one must curse and abuse it, while sowing, if the crop is to be fair and abundant. (tr. Hort)Pliny says much the same thing about basil:nihil ocimo fecundius. cum maledictis ac probris serendum praecipiunt, ut laetius proveniat; sato pavitur terra. [et cuminum qui serunt,] precantur ne exeat. (NH, xix 36 = 7)There is no seed more prolific than that of ocimum [basil]; it is generally recommended to sow it with the utterance of curses and imprecations, the result being that it grows all the better for it; the earth, too, is rammed down when it is sown, and [when cumin is sown] prayers offered that the seed may never come up. (tr. after Bostock and Riley; some codices associate the last sentence with cumin, others do not)Cumin is native from the Eastern Mediterranean to India and was cultivated in ancient times. The scientific name, Cuminum cyminum, is as close to a tautonym as the rules for plants allow. The Semitic name occurs in Akkadian as kamûnu (written 𒌑𒁷𒌁𒊬 u2gamunsar), the כַּמֹּן kammon of Isaiah 28:27.Another source of various names for cumin shows up as, for instance, जीर jīra. Both the Wikipedia and this fun book of Persian proverbs mention ریره به کرمان می‌برد zire be kermān mibarad 'carry cumin to Kerman', that is, coals to Newcastle.Basil, Ocimum basilicum, though now considered the essential herb of Southern Italian cuisine, actually is native to India. It is the βασιλικόν 'royal' plant.Plutarch also mentions the belief about sowing cumin:Ἀλλ᾽ ἐὰν τοῦτ᾽, ἔφη, ζητῇς, ὁ Εὐθύδημος αὐτίκα δεήσει σε καὶ περὶ τοῦ σελίνου καὶ περὶ τοῦ κυμίνο [...]

Branded Meat Substitutes


I have mentioned before that I collect vegetarian cookbooks from different times and places and in different languages. A number of these are from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, mostly in English with a few in French. As well as physical books, this subset is augmented by books scanned into Google Books (though their subject categorization is as sloppy as the rest of their meta-data).The rise, at the end of the 19th century, of food faddism in general, and vegetarianism in particular, involved an interest in the scientific planning and production of food. It also coincided with modern production and brand marketing. This relationship is particularly clear in the early history of cold breakfast cereal.One result of this is that a number of these cookbooks include recipes calling for, and advertisements offering, processed vegetarian foods, particularly protein sources. Some of these are recognizable as brands in the modern sense, with patented processes and/or trademarked names. Others are just new names for a public domain process. For instance, Mrs. Kellogg's Healthful Cookery lists all the Battle Creek Sanitarium products that are called for in the recipes earlier in the book. The British Manual of Vegetarian Cookery has ads with similar lists.The natural question is, what exactly are these products?Read MoreG. K. Chesterton, for whom Orthodoxy was quite literally the basis of his creed, was always ready to apply his wit against middle-class non-conformists. His poem about “Higgins the Heathen” wonders why those without faith would display conventional morality. The coincidence of vegetarianism and teetotaling led him to wonder why a “Logical Vegetarian” would not drink these pure vegetable drinks. To be fair, Chesterton, an Anglican who converted to Roman Catholicism and Distributist, maintained a lifetime friendship with George Bernard Shaw, vegetarian, teetotaler, atheist turned follower of some mystical version of Bergson's Creative Evolution and Fabian Socialist. They engaged in a series of public debates with a civility rarely found today. Chesterton wrote a biography of Shaw, whose Introduction consists of this:Most people either say that they agree with Bernard Shaw or that they do not understand him. I am the only person who understands him, and I do not agree with him.Shaw himself reviewed the book in the Nation (reprinted in the Sep. 12, 1909 NYT), calling it, “the best work of literary art I have yet provoked,” but substantially disputing its accuracy.But this blog is not about religion or politics, so I will stick to the vegetarian angle. In the Dec. 4, 1909 Illustrated London News, Chesterton wrote an essay titled “Honesty in Vegetarianism” arguing generally against the idea, joking “I am a vegetarian between meals,” and specifically against vegetarian dishes modeled after meat ones:I will eat nuts with any man—or with any monkey. But they must be nuts—not nutton, or nutter, or nusco, or nutrogen, or nuttolene, or nuttose, or nutarian Cashew. (Collected Works, Vol. XXVIII, p. 437)Obviously, these are all foods made from nuts. The vegetarian meal that Bloom recalled, “Why do they call that thing they gave me nutsteak? Nutarians. Fruitarians.” (8.539 — on vegetarians in turn-of-the-century Dublin, see here) is more generic; nut-steak warrants an OED subentry. But these nut- terms are specific, even brand names.The September, 1904 issue of Sunset magazine included the following poem by Ruth Comfort Mitchell:To a Health-Food GirlHail to thee, Granola Maid!Kumyss cheek and silken braid,Flower blooming in the shade  Of the Protos[...]

Balinese Long Pepper


Something new appeared not too long ago in the spice aisle at the supermarket: Balinese Long Pepper.Is this the long pepper of ancients, as the box implies?Once hailed by Romans as the ultimate peppery spice, wild long peppers soon disappeared into culinary obscurity with the agricultural domestication of their cousin, the modern peppercorn.Read MoreThe product page gives more information on its source and confirms that these are Piper retrofractum. The genus Piper has been and continues to be of enormous economic importance, mostly for spices like black pepper, but also traditional drugs like betel and kava. Here is a review of almost 600 bioactive compounds, mostly medicines and pesticides, and which Piper species they were isolated from. The Wikipedia Piper page lists retrofractum and it gets a brief mention on the Long pepper page. As always, a better inventory of the scientific and common names is given by the M.M.P.N.D. and Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages.Theophrastus knew both black pepper and long pepper:Τὸ δὴ πέπερι καρπὸς μέν ἐστι διττὸν δὲ αὐτοῦ τὸ γένος· τὸ μὲν γὰρ στρογγύλον ὥσπερ ὄροβος, κέλυφος ἔχον καὶ σάρκα καθάπερ αἱ δαφνίδες, ὑπέρυθρον· τὸ δὲ πρόμηκες μέλαν σπερμάτια μηκωνικὰ ἔχον· ἰσχυρότερον δὲ πολὺ τοῦτο θατέρου· θερμαντικὰ δὲ ἄμφω· δ᾽ ὃ καὶ πρὸς τὸ κώνειον βοηθεῖ ταῦτά τε καὶ ὁ λιβανωτός. (HP Book IX, Chap. 20, 1)Pepper is a fruit, and there are two kinds: one is round like bitter vetch, having a case and flesh like the berries of bay, and it is reddish: the other is elongated and black and has seeds like those of poppy: and this kind is much stronger then the other. Both however are heating: wherefore these, as well as frankincense, are used as antidotes for poisoning by hemlock. (tr. Hort)Dioscorides additionally describes white pepper, and begins a confusion that would persist for some time that all three kinds come from the same plant:1. πέπερι δένδρον ἱστορεῖται φυόμενον ἐν Ἰνδίᾳ, καρπὸν δὲ ἀνίησι κατ᾽ ἀρχὰς μὲν προμήκη καθάπερ λοβούς, ὅπ[...]

Peanut, Continued


Continued from here, which had gotten as far as Linnaeus naming Arachis hypogaea.Peanuts did not gain much in Europe proper. Because they require a long growing period underground, they can only be grown about as far north as Austria. Even in the south, they were primarily used as a source of vegetable oil, specifically for cutting olive oil.Read MoreEuropean terms for 'peanut' predictably concentrate on the odd method of growth.The generic name (sometimes referring to the plant, rather than the nut): French arachide, Russian арахис.Direct Germanic cognates: English earth-nut, German Erdnuß, Dutch aardnoot, Swedish jordnöt, Norwegian jordnøtt, Danish jordnød, Icelandic jarðhneta, Faeroese jarðnøt.Note that earthnut can mean various geocarpic plants and that in particular the Old English eorþ-hnutu, which survived until much later as dialectical yar-nut, meant Conopodium majus, Shakespeare's “pig-nut.” Likewise, Erdnuß can mean Lathyrus tuberosus and jordnöt that or Ornithogalum umbellatum.Words meaning the same: English ground-nut, Finnish maapähkinä, Estonian maapähkel, Russian земляной орех, Polish orzech ziemny, Latvian zemesrieksts, Lithuanian zemesrieksts, Turkish yerfıstığı.Again note that groundnut can mean various plants and so when the Massachusetts colonists are subsisting in the winter of 1630-1631 on, “clams, muscles, and ground-nuts, and acorns,” Apios americana, “Indian potato,” is meant.Variants of specific kinds of nuts: English earth-almond, French pistache de terre 'earth pistachio', noisette de terre 'earth hazelnut', Italian pistacchio-di-terra 'earth pistachio', mandorla-di-terra 'earth almond', Hungarian földimogyoró 'earth hazelnut', German Erdeichel 'earth acorn'.Variants of legumes: English earth-pea, French pois de terre 'earth pea', Italian ceci di terra 'earth chickpea'.Slightly different are Czech burský oříšek, which I believe means 'Boer nut' and Slovak podzemnica olejná, which I believe means something like 'underground oil-seed'.The decidedly odd case is Croatian / Bosnian kikiriki, Serbian / Macedonian кикирики, Albanian kikirik.A discussion does not reach any definitive conclusion, with suggestions including:Turkish slang kikirik 'tall, skinny person'.Kikiriki (that is, quiquiriqui) is the sound Spanish roosters make.Italian chicchi ricchi 'rich grains' (but also the sound Italian roosters make).“Bratoljub Klaić … in his Dictionary of foreign words in Serbo-Croatian …: kikiriki - compare: "tò kíki - Egyptian name of a miraculous tree sillikýpria, called by other people also kiki", Senc, Greek-Croatian Dictionary”σιλλικύπριον (= σέσελι Κύπριον 'Cyprian hartwort') or κίκι is the castor-oil plant (Egyptian k3k3; the קיקיון of Jonah), but I'm not sure what the connection is or where the rest is supposed to come from.But Portuguese explorers and slavers also brought the peanut to Africa and Portuguese and Spanish to Asia.One of the reasons that the peanut was quickly adopted as a foodstuff in Africa was that it was a superior replacement for an existing plant, the Bambara ground-nut (and, in a more limited area, the Hausa ground-nut), whose pods also ripen underground. The Bambara ground-nut is described by Ibn Ba[...]



It used to be that all the local Indian markets had snack packages of Spicy Cashews, that is, cashews with chili powder, which make a nice appetizer or snack with a few drops of lemon juice. But lately we cannot seem to find them. It's not like they're hard to make at home, sprinkling some cayenne on roasted cashews, but nuts bought for that purpose never seem to last that long. Fortunately, the supermarket has taken to stocking some Hot & Spicy Peanuts.A number of fundamental foodstuffs originate in the Americas, such as chili peppers, squash, potato and maize. And a number of foods made their way into the American diet, and particularly the Southern American diet, from being originally the food of slaves from Africa, such as okra, black-eyed peas and, to some extent, sesame seeds. Peanuts are unusual, if not unique, for coming from the New World to North America by way of Africa.Read MoreThis post is one of two; it covers texts of European discovery and classification. The second post covers the spread around the world, including back to America.The peanut originated in South America, probably in what is now Bolivia. It was extensively cultivated in nearby Brazil and Peru, where a fossilized peanut hull dated 7,600 years ago was found. It is nutritious. It does well in otherwise marginal sandy soils, which its pegs need to penetrate, and is good for the soil because as a legume it fixes nitrogen. It had spread north to Mesoamerica before the arrival of Europeans.The first published European reference to peanuts was by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, a Spanish nobleman who traveled to Hispaniola and wrote its official history on his return, in his 1535 La historia general delas Indias: Del maní, que es çierto género de fructa é mantenimiento ordinario que tienen los indios en esta Isla Española é otras islas destas Indias.Una fructa tienen los indios en esta Isla Española, que llaman maní, la qual ellos siembran é cogen, é les es muy ordinaria planta en sus huertos y heredades, y es tamaña como piñones con cáscara, é tiénenla ellos por sana: los chripstianos poco caso haçen della, si no son algunos hombres baxos, ó muchachos, y esclavos, ó gente que no perdona su gusto á cosa alguna. Es de mediocre sabor é de poca substançia, é muy ordinaria legumbre á los indios, é hayla en gran cantidad. (Book. VII Chap. 5; p. 274 of the complete 1851 edition; similar, even more modernized text here)Concerning the maní (peanut), which is another fruit and ordinary food which the Indians have on Hispaniola and other islands of the Indies.Another fruit which the Indians have on Hispaniola is called maní. They sow it and harvest it. It is a very common crop in their gardens and fields. It is about the size of a pine (piñon) nut with the shell. They consider it a healthy food. However, the Christians do not use it unless they are unmarried males or children, or slaves and common people, who do not pamper their taste. It has a very mediocre taste and little substance. Its consumption among the Indians is very common. It is abundant on this and other islands. (tr. Latham in Hammons, “Early History and Origin of the Peanut,” in Peanuts : Culture and Uses, from what is probably closer to the original text, which does not seem to be online)Bartolomé de las Casas wrote an earlier account in his Historia de las Indias, a work which was not published until 1875.Otra fructa tenian, que sembraban y se criaba ó hacia debajo de la tierra, que no eran raíces sino lo mismo que el meollo de las avellanas de Castilla, digo que eran ni más ni ménos que las avellanas sin cáscara, y[...]

Potato Poems


There is one batch of leftovers remaining to be served before the new year. (I take John Cleese's Linkman in Episode 18 as a cautionary tale against letting that metaphor get out of hand. So that'll be all.)The potato post contained a couple of poems. In putting that together and subsequently, I have collected them in a low-key way. And come to the conclusion that there is pretty much an inexhaustible supply. I don't know how one would measure, really, but potato looks like it might well be the most popular vegetable for poetry.Read MoreTo keep the length of this post manageable and avoid copyright problems, I will not quote everything in its entirety. When it is readily available online, I will try to make it clear in the hyperlink that there is more there.Without too much effort, I acquired two book-length potato poetry anthologies, An Anthology of the Potato and Spud Songs.An Anthology of the Potato was published in 1961 for the Irish Potato Marketing Company, Ltd., Dublin in an edition of 500. It contains several centuries of Irish potato poems. All the poems are in English, or translated from Irish into English. The title page has this little ditty (apparently without attribution):We praise all the flowers that we fancy    Sip the nectar of fruit ere they're peeled,Ignoring  the common old tater    When, in fact, he's King of the Field.Let us show the old boy we esteem him,    Sort of dig him up out of the mud;Let us show him he shares our affections    And crown him with glory—Kind SpudThe opposite end has a list of proverbs, like “Mushrooms and potatoes—they go together.” Which probably means something profound, though I'm not clear what.The Introduction to the Anthology notes the first “reference in metre to potato” in “An Account of an Irish Quarter” from Songs and Poems of Love and Drollery (1654):And now for ſupper, the round board being ſpred;The Van a diſh of coddled Onions led,I'th' Body led a ſalted tail of SammonAnd in the Rear ſome rank Potatoes came in. (more)Earlier occurrences outside an Irish context (and so outside the Anthology) run into a problem outlined in the earlier post: the likelihood that the word refers to the sweet potato. Either because of how they are prepared, as in A Terrible Battell (1606?):Let them not want (I praie) Potato pies, (more)Or their supposed aphrodisiac properties, as in The Most Elegant and Witty Epigrams (1618):33 Against an old Lecher.Since thy third carriage of the French infection,Priapus hath in thee found no erection:Yet eat'ſt thou Ringoes, and Potato Rootes,And Caueare, but it little bootes. (more)One of the earlier longer poems in the Anthology is “A Lament for the Potatoes in the Year of the Big Frost 1739,” by Seaghan O Connaire (pp. 43-45), which begins:My great sorrow is that the nobles of the GaelAre now in great distress,Because all their means of livelihoodHave been destroyed by frost.In the winter of 1739-40, the temperature never rose above freezing and was frequently in the single digits Fahrenheit. In London, the Thames froze solid and carriages moved and fairs were held on it. This poem is a translation from the Irish, but I cannot find the source given (RIA MS 23 T 12) in the online Bibliography of Irish Linguistics and Literature. But there is one there on the same topic, “Poem on the Great Frost of 1740”, by Séamas Mac Coitir. It can be found in Éigse 27 (1993; pp. 120-121). And since there's a world-clas[...]

Shredded Wheat


My breakfast has been the same most every day for several decades: shredded wheat with soy milk.Shredded wheat, along with corn flakes and grape-nuts, is one of the staple American cold breakfast foods invented at the end of the 19th century by vegetarian food faddists. They have made contributions, sometimes major ones, to the development of consumer marketing, intellectual property law, and vocabulary.Read MoreIn addition to specific sources cited below, the following books cover the threads that intersect here in more depth:Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal presents that history from the point of view of popular culture and consumerism.Vegetarian America : A History is full of additional interesting characters with nothing to do with breakfast, like Emarel Sharpe Freshel, who lived not too far from here (where her home stood, there is now a BC dorm), where she regularly had high-society vegetarian get-togethers. She also organized an annual vegetarian Thanksgiving at the then new Copley Plaza. She knew Tolstoy and Shaw (who may have given her the nickname Emarel from her initials M. R. L.), and met Dharmapala when she attended the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions as a Christian Scientist. (The dedication of the somewhat biased The Incredible World's Parliament of Religions has her converting to Buddhism as a result of this, and it may well have been an eventual influence, but other sources indicate that she did not leave that church until 1917 over its stance on entry into WWI.) She designed her next-door neighbor's house and may have done the original sketches for the design of the highly prized Tiffany Wisteria lamp, as part of her instructions to Tiffany for decorating her home. This has been called into question by the discovery earlier this year of the letters of Clara Driscoll, where Driscoll takes credit for it. I am hardly an expert, but these two claims do not seem to actually be in conflict, if we assume that the sketches only gave a rough description of wisteria in leaded glass. Emarel's grand-niece has a blog, where bits of family history seem to show up occasionally.Listening to America : An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from our Lively and Splendid Past has a few pages (131-133) on breakfast food names, among similarly sized essays on many other topics.It all starts with Sylvester Graham, inventor of Graham flour, whole wheat flour made by adding back the bran and germ, but more coarsely ground than the base white flour, and the Graham cracker. Graham advocated abstinence from pretty much everything, including meat, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine (okay so far), sex and chocolate.James Caleb Jackson was a Grahamite who promoted hydrotherapy and a vegetarian diet as cure-alls. In 1863, he developed the first industrial dry cereal, made from granules of Graham flour, which he called Granula. He ran an institution in Dansville, NY, called Our Home on the Hillside and so formed a company to sell his cereal known as the Our Home Granula Company. They also made a grain-based coffee substitute known as Somo.Jackson's water cure and cereal found favor among Seventh-day Adventists, who have a strong vegetarian tradition. (There used to be a vegetarian restaurant in downtown Boston run by Adventists. It was a victim of the Big Dig, barely surviving during the endless construction and then unable to afford the jacked up rents once that was over.)John Harvey Kellogg was an Adventist doctor who ran their Sanitarium in Battle Creek, MI. Here he carried out experiments to develop an improv[...]

Garlic Origins


There were a couple of longer items left over from the garlic post. I am periodically reminded of this; most recently by a new frozen fusion item from the Super-88 Market, โรตีเมดิติวเรเซียน ตรา ฮิปโป roh-dtee may-dì-dtiw-ray-sian dtraa híp-bpoh 'Hippo Brand Mediteurasian Roti', รสเนยกระเทียม rót noie grà-tiam 'garlic-butter flavor'. A Mediterranean inspired Thai version of the Malaysian version of an Indian bread. It does manage the taste of garlic bread, but with a different texture, and is an excellent foundation for a salad wrap.In any case, one concerns the origin of garlic and the other an origin from garlic and both go beyond just etymology. They each take a little bit to set up.Read MoreIn his A History of Persia, Percy Sykes writes,There is little exaggeration in the statement that Alexander the Great as the most famous man ever born.His real life accomplishments were remarkable, conquering most of the known world in his brief career. After his real life, as Hamlet says (Act V Scene 1),Alexander died : Alexander was buried : Alexander returneth into duſt; the duſt is earth; of earth we make Lome; and why of that Lome (whereto he was conuerted) might they not ſtopp a Beere-barrell?But then his literary presence takes over. As Arrian says in the prologue to his Anabasis,ἄλλοι μὲν δὴ ἄλλα ὑπὲρ Ἀλεξάνδρου ἀνέγραψαν, οὐδ' ἔστιν ὑπὲρ ὅτου πλείονες ἤ ἀξυμφωνότερποι ἐς ἀλλήλους· (ed. Abicht)Different authors have given different accounts of Alexander's life; and there is no one about whom more have written, or more at variance with each other. (tr. Chinnock)Alexander appears prosaically in 1 Maccabees 1, just to establish the time period. More interesting are the ten questions posed by Alexandrus Mokdon (אלכסנדרוס מוקדון 'Alexander of Macedon') to the Ziknei ha'Negev (זקני הנגב 'Elders of the South') in the Babylonian Talmud (Tamid 31-32). For instance, the third question:אמר להן: אור נברא תחלה או חשךאמרו לו: מילתא דא - אין לה פתר (here)'amar lə-hen 'owr nibəra' təḥillah 'ow ḥošek'amaru lu milṯa' da' 'ayin paṯarHe then asked, “Was light created first or was darkness?”They replied, “This is an unanswerable question.” (tr. Harris)(Naturally some debate follows on whether this is the right answer. I have not been able to find a scan of the traditional typography of this section. But some web pages try to approximate it a little more in Hebrew and English.)Compar[...]

Hangul Day


October 9 is Hangul Day (한글날 Han'gŭllal), an annual commemoration of the 1446 proclamation of the invention of the Korean alphabet by King Sejong (세종) and / or his scholars. Hangul is the most sophisticated writing system actually in use for a real language. Geoffrey Sampson, in his Writing Systems : A Linguistic Introduction, at the end of a chapter on Hangul (p. 144), writes, “Whether or not it is ultimately the best of all conceivable scripts for Korean, Han'gul must unquestionably rank as one of the great intellectual achievements of humankind.”This year, we decided to go to the Korean market near MIT (after dinner at the Bengali restaurant, where the eggplant and potato dishes are made with generous amounts of mustard oil, a topic for another day), not just for the groceries, but also their typography.Read MoreWikipedia's article on Hangul is pretty thorough, but it is worth summarizing a few points.The letters of the Hangul script mostly represent the phonemes of Korean.Vowel length is not represented, though it is distinguished: for example, 말 mal 'horse' vs. māl 'language'. But the functional load of vowel length is not very great, like in Latin, and unlike in Finnish. Also, this distinction is disappearing from the modern language.The basic letter forms combine into clusters (single, double and triple) called chamo 자모, which are the building blocks of the script.Hangul can defensibly be called a featural script, in that like aspects of each phoneme are presented by like graphics in the chamo. This is the position taken by Sampson and in The World's Writing Systems. However, Young-Key Kim-Renaud in a paper in the collection The Korean Alphabet, which she also edited, does not accept this classification and considers that it actually diminishes the achievement.The proclamation was titled 訓民正音 Hunmin Chŏng'ŭm 'The Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People'. This was also the official name of the script. It was written in Classical Chinese, the language of scholars; it was also published in a form where each Chinese character had a smaller Hangul phonetic beside it. The Chinese text is in Wikisource. A scan of the annotated version is online on the Hangul Foundation site. It is also available as a Unicode text file, with the syllables that cannot be represented (since Unicode encodes Modern Korean) in a Private Use Area for which there is a New Batang font (Google for nbatang.ttf).In 1940, a second expository document from the time of King Sejong was discovered, titled 訓民正音解例 Hunmin Chŏng-ŭm Haerye '… Explanations and Examples'. It is written in Classical Chinese, with Hangul only used when it is explained. It is on the same Wikisource page and here (with a Japanese translation). A scan is here (with a partial German translation).The Haerye proves that the shapes of the consonants were chosen to represent the physical points of articulation and not as abstract designs. For instance,牙音ㄱ,象舌根閉喉之形。舌音ㄴ,象舌附上腭之形。 (p. 9)The tooth sound k has the shape of the back of the tongue closing the throat.The tongue sound n has the shape of the tongue attached to the roof of the mouth.Although it is generally assumed that the design was a group effort, th[...]



Some of the spare time allocated for posting here got used last month for gazpacho and shark over at LH.There used to be a falafel place in Brookline Village called King Tut (with just a bit of the cheesy decor that name implies). We didn't eat there much, since it was pretty much weekday lunch only. Not too long ago, the people who run the yoga studio nearby bought the place out and made it over into more of a coffee shop, redoing the interior to add some tables and extending the hours to Saturdays. They still have falafel, but they also added a signature dish from the new owner Ali's native Iran, kookoo sabzi. Kookoo also lends its name to the new café.Read MoreKookoo (کوکو kūkū) is a thick filled omelet, cut into squares, along the lines of Italian frittata or Spanish (not Mexican) tortilla. It is also compared to quiche or souffle, although the filling is more important and there isn't as much air. John Fryer, in A New Account of East India and Persia … 1672-1681 (published in 1698), writes (Letter V, Chap. XIV: EEBO; reprint preview):They have a Diſh they call Cookoo Challow, which is dry Rice and a Fritter of Eggs, Herbs, and Fiſhes.That is, کوکو چلاو (kūkū čalāv). The two main kinds of rice in Persian cuisine are chelow (چلو < older چلاو čalāv), plain boiled rice, and polow (پلو < older پیلاو pīlāv), rice with something (usually meat) already mixed in. There is also kateh (کته), sticky rice. The first two correspond to challow and pallow, the two kinds of rice in Afghani cuisine. And through Turkish pilav, English gets pilaf.Kookoo sabzi (کوکو سبزی kūkū sabzi) is a kookoo of greens. It is traditionally made with ones like scallions (پیازچه piyāzača), parsley (جعفری jaʿfarī), coriander (گشنیز gašnīz) and dill (شبت šibit); there are lots of recipes online in English and Persian (and vegan versions using tofu for eggs). It is one of the dishes served at the Nowruz Iranian New Year feast mentioned in the garlic post. You can even buy a mix in a can.The Kookoo Sabzee (to use their spelling) at Kookoo Cafe is predominantly spinach, still with a bit of parsley and coriander, plus the expected seasoning with fenugreek (شنبلیله šambalīla) and barberries (زرشک zerešk). So it is perhaps a cross with a recipe like the kukuye esfanaj in Jane Grigson's classic Vegetable Book (preview) or the کوکو اسفناج kūkū isfināj on this page. (To be absolutely clear, it is very good and I am not questioning the authenticity. I am not much persuaded by arguments on authenticity anyway. 1. Vegetarian adaptation often requires some changes. 2. With the possible exception of French cuisine, there are no canons. Such arguments tend to ignore the variability that exists within the authentic time / region. Furthermore, even if the food at Mary Chung does not correspond to that of any restaurant in Szechwan, it is no more different from them than they are from one another. 3. Globa[...]



Posting here was light in the second quarter because of structural changes at the day job. To make up for that a little bit, here is a post on what a spread from the August, 1949 National Geographic titled “Our Vegetable Travelers” (text online here) calls, The “World's No. 1 Vegetable.” In a meal from the mid-century suburban or later fast-food diet, potato might be the only vegetable. It is the state vegetable of Idaho. There are a number of international potato organizations. Belgium is quick to promote the origin of pommes frites. A box in the larder tells me that Röschti is the national dish of Switzerland.The Irish Famine of 1845-1847 was triggered by potato crop failure. This led, among other things, to a significant change in American demographics. There is a memorial here in Boston , now incongruously sited outside the Downtown Borders, and maybe not in the best taste.Potato's reach extends beyond just food, to such childhood classics as Mr. Potato Head and the Potato Battery.Even the word potato has a complex history.Read MoreI will use potato to refer to Solanum tuberosum, which is the same genus as tomatoes and eggplants. In some places, potato can also refer to Ipomoea batatas and Solanum needs to be qualified as Irish potato or something like that; in a few places in the Deep South, Ipomoea is even the default. In the Northeast, Ipomoea is sweet potato or yam, more or less interchangeably (some people may make size or color distinctions). I will use sweet potato consistently here.The potato chapter is the only one offered free online as a teaser for The Cambridge World History of Food. But the classic is Redcliffe Salaman's magisterial The History and Social Influence of the Potato, first published in 1949, revised a little in 1985 by J. G. Hawkes to account for some advances in archeology and history, and still in print. Larry Zuckerman's The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World tries to cover some of the same ground in a more contemporary style. Larger cookbooks on potatoes will usually have a suitable overview of the history, as will books on potato growing. And there are article-length social studies like this or this. But none of these match the depth and breadth of Salaman. Redcliffe Salaman was a physician whom ill health forced into early retirement. When he recovered, he found himself in need of a hobby. To quote from his witty Preface:Thirty-two years of age, happily married, free from financial cares, and devoted to hunting, one was unconsciously graduating for the part of a Jane Austen character. But I discovered, as I believe her men also would have done, had not their careers invariably terminated with their capture and mental sterilization at the altar, that ‘respectability’, even with a corresponding income, is not enough.Salaman was an amateur, when that might still have warranted italics. In some ways, his works resembled modern efforts like the Potato Museum, begun by an American schoolteacher in Belgium in the 70s and continuing on the web; or the Potato Chronology of a New York potato farmer, which details everything that ever happened related to potatoes in chronological order, one line per entry. Redcliffe Nathan Salaman and his wife Nina (née Pauline Ruth Davis) were also prominent English Zionists. Most of what I have to say here is touched on in some way somewhere in his book's 700 pages.Potatoes originate in the Andean Altiplano. The mos[...]

Spaghetti Squash


An earlier discussion of Portobello mushrooms revealed how food changes in the not too distant past, within living memory, can be surprisingly obscure. So it is with spaghetti squash.A Washington Post article on it from last summer, which opens with a complaint about pretend foods — and here I will admit that I enjoy some of the things it condemns, like Tofurky or soy burgers, more in their own right than as substitutes for things I don't even remember, and even more so the fascinating textures of the vegan mock meats I mentioned before — says:The spaghetti squash is a New World plant that originated somewhere in the Americas. No one knows how or why it evolved into an imitation of an Old World vehicle for red sauce.The Cambridge World History of Food (contents here) says (p. 1856):This relatively new squash variety - the origin of which is uncertain …The Food Chronology timeline mentions spaghetti squash under 1962 in a longish list of innovations by Frieda's, which began then. The online food timeline has Orangetti spaghetti squash for 1986. I believe in both cases the author felt this interesting vegetable warranted something, but didn't manage to find a full story. Surely with a little digging, there is more to be learned.Read MoreSpaghetti squash is a variety of Cucurbita pepo Linnaeus, the species that includes zucchini (courgettes), crookneck and summer squash, acorn squash, pattypans, vegetable marrow (in dialects and places that distinguish that from zucchini), and some kinds of pumpkins and gourds. It is also known as vegetable spaghetti: this is the more common name in Britain. It has nothing to do with the BBC's famous spaghetti harvest hoax, whose 50th anniversary is this month. The plant is monoecious and varieties easily hybridize, while hybrids with the other species of the genus that Linnaeus identified don't occur without more work and the seeds aren't fertile. It is sometimes grouped with the vegetable marrows and other times there is a separate Vegetable Spaghetti Group. According to this article, an analysis of allozyme frequencies puts spaghetti squash and the marrows away from the rest (like the ornamental gourds). The names already get a little confusing, since spaghetti squash is one of the less common names for an Italian edible gourd, Cucuzzi, a variety of Lagenaria siceraria, the bottle gourd. Though I have seen it explained that way, I think this might be called spaghetti gourd not because it resembles spaghetti, but because it is eaten with it, or perhaps like spaghetti western. All these squashes have a tendency to get stringy: usually this is something to be avoided in breeding, but spaghetti squash deliberately aims for a pasta-like texture.Since it is a recent introduction, most European languages follow the same sort of naming: French courge spaghetti or spaghetti végétal, Italian zucca spaghetti, German Spaghettikürbis, Spanish zapallo spaghetti, Portuguese: abóbora spaghetti, Dutch spaghettikalebas or spaghettipompoen, Russian тыква спагетти, Estonian spagetikõrvits.The word spaghetti is the Italian plural of spaghetto, the diminutive of spago 'cord'. One of the inmates of the fourth bolgia of the eighth circle of Dante's Inferno is a cobbler turned soothsayer, of whom it says (XX 118-120):Vedi Guido Bonatti; vedi Asdente,ch'avere inteso al cuoio e a lo spagoora vorreb[...]

Chili, Part I


Most of the posts here to date have been concerned with Old World vegetables. So it seems time for one of the New World edible Solanaceæ. Since they has been mentioned several times before, it will be chilies.The earliest quote in the OED for chilli is, “1662 H. Stubbe Ind. Nectar [The Indian nectar, or a discourse concerning chocolata] ii. 10 Some Pepper called Chille…was put in.” Hot food fans may find something unsatisfying about the first association being hot – cocoa. But mainly, isn't 1662 awfully late?Read MoreBetter start at the beginning. As every child knows,In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blueChristopher Columbus (aka Cristóbal Colón) was looking for spices, in particular for pepper. English still calls what he found (which had been grown there for millenia) hot peppers, or chili peppers, or cayenne pepper, or just peppers. By far the best natural history of these food plants is Jean Andrews' Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums. (This post will inevitably follow a similar track, in summary form, with a few diversions and a bit more attention to original texts.)The word pepper is from Latin piper 'black pepper', whence French poivre, borrowed into various Germanic languages, such as German Pfeffer, Old English pipor, Old Norse piparr, itself from some Indo-Iranian source like Sanskrit पिप्पली pippalī 'long pepper', somehow related to पिप्पल pipala 'peepal (Ficus religiosa)'; it is also borrowed into Greek as πέπερι, whence Hungarian paprika. The same source gives Persian then Arabic فلفل filfil 'pepper', plural فلافل falāfel. Spanish pimienta, Portuguese pimenta and English pimento are from Latin pigmentum 'painted; spice', with these words sometimes also meaning 'allspice'. French has both poivre and piment, but still does not separate the space the same way botanists do.A note on the quotes that follow: Orthography at this time was a free for all. I have not modernized the spelling or otherwise attempted to make it uniform. In cases where the source has a transcription, I have tended to follow it. I have expanded some shortcuts, like the mark for final m's, but left other contractions. I have kept the long s's, particularly in English, since they give an old fashioned feel. Typefaces and punctuation are also irregular by modern standards, and I have kept some of this without going overboard. To get Fraktur display, use this font. The end result is indeed not consistent, and while this may not be inevitable, it is intentional.Columbus wrote a letter back to Spain on 15 Febrary 1493, written in Spanish and translated several times into Latin for various recipients. Scans of facsimile editions of these letters are fairly widespread; the Internet Archive has the Spanish (p. 19 of the PDF line 19) and a different Latin translation (p. 19 of the PDF, 5 lines up from the bottom). He said:En estas islas donde ay montañas grandes, ahi tenia fuerça el frio este ynvierno ; mas ellos lo sufren por la costumbre con la ayuda de las viandas que comen con especias muchas y muy calientes en demasia.In those islands, where there are lofty mountains, the cold was very keen there this winter; but they endure it by being accustomed thereto, and by the help of the[...]