Tuesday 25 August 2009
The World and Wikipedia
... is on its way. Watch this page!
To be published by Siduri Books in September 2009
My 2003-2006 blog pages
of Recipes –
Bacchus Extra – Dangerous Tastes Extra – Dictionary of Languages Extra – Food in the Ancient World Extra – Guide to World Language Dictionaries Extra – Notes in the Margin Extra
Tuesday 07 March 2006
Rosie continued on the imaginary walkabout. Cutting out a palm-heart, and some lawyer cane, and boiling them up. Looking for eels by torchlight at night. Getting walnut and green ginger. Chopping grubs out of an acacia tree.
1984 R. M. W. Dixon, Searching for Aboriginal Languages, p. 81
Monday 06 March 2006
Here is a kitchen improvement, in return for Peacock. For roasting or basting a chicken, render down your fat or butter with cider: about a third cider. Let it come together slowly, till the smell of cider and the smell of fat are as one. This will enliven even a frozen chicken.
1967 Sylvia Townsend Warner, Letter to David Garnett, 21 December 1967 [ Sylvia and David: the Townsend Warner / Garnett letters. Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994, p. 134]
Sunday 05 March 2006
On the morning of the harvest home dinner everybody prepared themselves for a tremendous feast, some to the extent of going without breakfast, that the appetite might not be impaired. And what a feast it was! Such a bustling in the farmhouse kitchen for days beforehand; such a boiling of hams and roasting of sirloins; such a stacking of plum puddings made by the Christmas recipe; such a tapping of eighteen-gallon casks and baking of plum loaves would astonish those accustomed to the appetites of today. By noon the whole parish had assembled, the workers and their wives and children to feast and the sprinkling of the better-to-do to help with the serving. The only ones absent were the aged bedridden and their attendants, and to them, the next day, portions carefully graded in daintiness according to their social standing, were carried by the children from the remnants of the feast. A plum pudding was considered a delicate compliment to an equal of the farmer; slices of beef or ham went to the 'bettermost poor'; and a ham-bone with plenty of meat left upon it or part of a pudding or a can of soup to the commonalty.
Flora Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford [Penguin modern classics, 1975, p. 237]
Contributed by Anne Flavell. Posted at 14:50
Saturday 04 March 2006
The meal was already on the table when they entered the room. A dish of mince with tomato sauce spread over the top seemed to be the main dish; boiled potatoes and ‘greens’ were on the trolley. Mrs Sedge, who had come to England twenty years ago from Vienna, had apparently retained little knowledge of her country’s cuisine, if she had ever possessed it; Dulcie was always surprised at the thoroughness with which she had acquired all the worst traits of English cooking … The second course was stewed apple and semolina pudding, dishes which Mrs Sedge had mastered to perfection.
1961 Barbara Pym, No fond return of love [Grafton Books, 1987, pp. 107-109]
Friday 03 March 2006
I can take Katherine Whitehorn's remark a stage further: foods are fattening because they are nice. If one ate exclusively things one didn't like, one would be as thin as a rake. I have demonstrated this to my own satisfaction time and time again: were I to start the day with unfrozen pineapple juice, crispy ricicles, cod steaks and malted bread and margarine, together with very strong cheap Indian tea, and carry on the day in the same fashion, I should have no weight problems at all. Unfortunately the flesh is weak. Don't you find this?
1972 Philip Larkin, Letter to Charles Monteith, 13 January 1972 [ Selected letters of Philip Larkin 1940-1985, edited by Anthony Thwaite. Faber and Faber, 1992, p. 452]
Thursday 02 March 2006
The goose we retained until this morning, when there were signs that, in spite of the slight frost, it would be well that it should be eaten without delay. Its finder has carried it off therefore to fulfil the ultimate destiny of a goose.
1891 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 'The blue carbuncle'
Tuesday 28 February 2006
... till one of the clock, at which time we made an end; and I went home and took my wife and went to my Cosen Tho. Pepys's and found them just sat down to dinner, which was very good; only the venison pasty was palpable beef, which was not handsome.
1660 Samuel Pepys, Diary, 6 January 1660
But beef is rare within these oxless isles;
Goat's flesh there is, no doubt, and kid, and mutton;
And, when a holiday upon them smiles,
A joint upon their barbarous spits they put on.
1819 Byron, Don Juan 2.154
Monday 27 February 2006
Just then a man hailed us from the fire that breakfast was ready, and we were soon seated here and there about the sand over biscuit and fried junk.
1883 R. L. Stevenson, Treasure Island ch. 31
Saturday 25 February 2006
For the first time I was asked to have lunch with M. et Mme
Vinges, our nearest neighbours and closest friends in the village.
M. Vinges is a retired roadman of about my age, living on his
Bouillon de boeuf with vermicelli. Ending with the ceremony of the chabrot, i.e. pouring half a glass of red wine into the last few spoonfuls of soup, then tipping the soup-plate up and drinking it. Very good. Try it.
Hors d'oeuvres. Paté de Canard truffé (bought at vast expense)
Tomato salad, salami.
Green french beans boiled and fried in butter.
Roast poulet-de-grain with green olives in a delicious caper sauce.
Cheese. Cherry cake. Fruit salad of oranges and bananas. Coffee with brandy.
1967 David Garnett, Letter to Sylvia Townsend Warner, 24 October 1967 [ Sylvia and David: the Townsend Warner / Garnett letters. Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994, p. 127]
She set about preparing her supper. It would have to be one of those classically simple meals, the sort that French peasants are said to eat and that enlightened English people sometimes enjoy rather self-consciously – a crusty French loaf, cheese, and lettuce and tomatoes from the garden. Of course there should have been wine and a lovingly prepared dressing of oil and vinegar, but Dulcie drank orange squash and ate mayonnaise that came from a bottle.
1961 Barbara Pym, No fond return of love [Grafton Books, 1987, p. 56]
Friday 24 February 2006
One forgets that nobody stays in hotels these days except businessmen & American tourists: the food is geared to the business lunch or the steak-platter trade: portion-control is rampant, and the materials cheap anyway (or so I guess: three lamb chops I had were three uncuttable unchewable unanswerable arguments for entry into EEC if - as I suspect - they had made the frozen journey from New Zealand). The presence of the hotel in the Good Food Guide is nothing short of farce. Of course it's a Trust House, which guarantees a kind of depersonalised dullness. Never stay at a Trust House.
1971 Philip Larkin, Letter to Barbara Pym, 18 July 1971 [Selected letters of Philip Larkin 1940-1985, edited by Anthony Thwaite. Faber and Faber, 1992, p. 441]
Thursday 23 February 2006
Liber Liber, a rich Italian digital library
Downstairs, the table was laid with a 'visitor's tea'. There were
the best tea things with a fat pink rose on the side of each cup;
hearts of lettuce, thin bread and butter, and the crisp little cakes
that had been baked in readiness that morning. Edmund and Laura sat
very upright on their hard windsor chairs. Bread and butter first.
Always bread and butter first; they had been told that so many times
that it had the finality of a text of Scripture. But Mr Herring, who
was the eldest present and ought to have set a good example, began
with the little cakes, picking up and examining each one closely
before disposing of it in two bites. However, while there were still
a few left, Mrs Herring placed bread and butter on his plate and
handed him the lettuce meaningly; and when he twisted the tender
young hearts of lettuce into tight rolls and dipped them into the
salt-cellar she took the spoon and put the salt on the side of his
Mrs Herring ate very genteelly, crumbling her cake on her plate and picking out and putting aside the currants, because, she explained, they did not agree with her. She crooked the little finger of the hand which held her teacup and sipped its contents like a bird, with her eyes turned up to the ceiling.
Flora Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford [Penguin modern classics, 1975, p. 296]
Wednesday 22 February 2006
Speaking of manufactures reminds me of a talk upon that topic which I heard--which I overheard--on board the Cincinnati boat. I awoke out of a fretted sleep, with a dull confusion of voices in my ears. I listened-- two men were talking; subject, apparently, the great inundation. I looked out through the open transom. The two men were eating a late breakfast; sitting opposite each other; nobody else around. They closed up the inundation with a few words--having used it, evidently, as a mere ice-breaker and acquaintanceship-breeder--then they dropped into business. It soon transpired that they were drummers--one belonging in Cincinnati, the other in New Orleans. Brisk men, energetic of movement and speech; the dollar their god, how to get it their religion. 'Now as to this article,' said Cincinnati, slashing into the ostensible butter and holding forward a slab of it on his knife-blade, 'it's from our house; look at it--smell of it--taste it. Put any test on it you want to. Take your own time--no hurry--make it thorough. There now-- what do you say? butter, ain't it. Not by a thundering sight--it's oleomargarine! Yes, sir, that's what it is--oleomargarine. You can't tell it from butter; by George, an EXPERT can't. It's from our house. We supply most of the boats in the West; there's hardly a pound of butter on one of them. We are crawling right along--JUMPING right along is the word. We are going to have that entire trade. Yes, and the hotel trade, too. You are going to see the day, pretty soon, when you can't find an ounce of butter to bless yourself with, in any hotel in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, outside of the biggest cities. Why, we are turning out oleomargarine NOW by the thousands of tons. And we can sell it so dirt-cheap that the whole country has GOT to take it--can't get around it you see. Butter don't stand any show--there ain't any chance for competition. Butter's had its DAY--and from this out, butter goes to the wall. There's more money in oleomargarine than--why, you can't imagine the business we do. I've stopped in every town from Cincinnati to Natchez; and I've sent home big orders from every one of them.' And so-forth and so-on, for ten minutes longer, in the same fervid strain. Then New Orleans piped up and said-- Yes, it's a first-rate imitation, that's a certainty; but it ain't the only one around that's first-rate. For instance, they make olive-oil out of cotton-seed oil, nowadays, so that you can't tell them apart.' 'Yes, that's so,' responded Cincinnati, 'and it was a tip-top business for a while. They sent it over and brought it back from France and Italy, with the United States custom-house mark on it to indorse it for genuine, and there was no end of cash in it; but France and Italy broke up the game--of course they naturally would. Cracked on such a rattling impost that cotton-seed olive-oil couldn't stand the raise; had to hang up and quit.' 'Oh, it DID, did it? You wait here a minute.' Goes to his state-room, brings back a couple of long bottles, and takes out the corks--says: 'There now, smell them, taste them, examine the bottles, inspect the labels. One of 'm's from Europe, the other's never been out of this country. One's European olive-oil, the other's American cotton-seed olive-oil. Tell 'm apart? 'Course you can't. Nobody can. People that want to, can go to the expense and trouble of shipping their oils to Europe and back--it's their privilege; but our firm knows a trick worth six of that. We turn out the whole thing--clean from the word go--in our factory in New Orleans: labels, bottles, oil, everything. Well, no, not labels: been buying them abroad--get them dirt-cheap there. You see, there's just one little wee speck, essence, or whatever it is, in a gallon of cotton-seed oil, that give it a smell, or a flavor, or something--get that out, and you're all right--perfectly easy then to turn the oil into any kind of oil you want to, and there ain't anybody that can detect the true from the false. Well, we know how to get that one little particle out--and we're the only firm that does. And we turn out an olive-oil that is just simply perfect--undetectable! We are doing a ripping trade, too--as I could easily show you by my order-book for this trip. Maybe you'll butter everybody's bread pretty soon, but we'll cotton-seed his salad for him from the Gulf to Canada, and that's a dead-certain thing.' Cincinnati glowed and flashed with admiration. The two scoundrels exchanged business-cards, and rose. As they left the table, Cincinnati said-- 'But you have to have custom-house marks, don't you? How do you manage that?' I did not catch the answer.
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
Monday 20 February 2006
A couple have celebrated their golden anniversary by eating a tinned chicken given to them on their wedding day. Les Lailey, 73, a former soldier, and his wife, Beryl, of Denton, Greater Manchester, were given the Buxted chicken, part of a hamper, in 1956 but decided to keep what was regarded as a rare treat.
2006 The Times [London], Wednesday 8 February 2006, p. 2
[Zennor, Cornwall:] For the rest, what is there to say? — I have made wonderful gardens, where things grew by magic: fat marrows, on plants that seemed as if they were going to roam till they encircled the earth; long, flat beans in festoons among the red flowers, and a harvest of peas, myriads of rich full pods — and kohl rabi, and salsify, and scorzonera, and leeks, and spinach, — everything in the world it seems. But we have had massive storms that have smashed my pea-rows back into the earth. Sic transit.
1917 D. H. Lawrence, Letter to Lady Cynthia Asquith, 3 September 1917 [ Letters, vol. 3, pp 157–8]
Sunday 19 February 2006
A useful collection of links
Lucy took a single plain donut from the bag and held it for me to take a bite. Tender and light and still warm from the frying. Not too sugary.
1995 Robert Crais, Voodoo River ch. 30
Saturday 18 February 2006
Can you tell the difference between po-boys and subs (hint: both are sandwiches)? If not, read this thread on alphadictionary .
If you're not sure whether what Italians call polenta is the same as what Americans call grits (it is, according to the majority) read this thread on Chocolate & Zucchini
The eating regime on board went as follows: breakfast ... lunch ... happy hour ... and dinner (grilled red snapper with caramelised onions and Duchess potatoes , followed by glazed apple tartlets on vanilla cream).
2005 Travel puff in the Independent on Sunday [London], 16 December
Thursday 16 February 2006
Ten cooks' shops! ... and all within three minutes' driving! one would think that all the cooks in the world ... had said -- Come, let us all go live at Paris: the French love good eating -- they are all gourmands -- we shall rank high.
1765 Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy l. 7 ch. 17
I am off to Carmarthenshire next week to eat Crêpes Suzettes at the Red Lion in Llangattock, a hideous village where a mysterious M. Pierre has chosen to napkin his talent. (They are the best I have ever eaten).
1967 Sylvia Townsend Warner, Letter to David Garnett, 4 April [Sylvia and David: the Townsend Warner / Garnett letters (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994) p. 118]
Wednesday 15 February 2006
There was a little plate of hothouse nectarines on the table, and there was another of grapes, and another of sponge-cakes, and there was a bottle of light wine ... 'This is my frugal breakfast ... Give me my peach, my cup of coffee, and my claret.'
1853 Charles Dickens, Bleak House ch. 19
Monday 13 February 2006
Supper was at nine. There were cakes, buns, sandwiches, tea, and coffee, all free; but if you wanted mineral water you had to pay for it. Gallantry often led young men to offer the ladies ginger beer.
1915 W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage ch. 104
As a survey on this subject I have thus far used, and cited, J. R. Greig, 'Plant foods in the past: a review of evidence from northern Europe' in Journal of plant foods vol. 5 (1983) pp. 179-214.
I could have added a more recent survey by Philippa R. Tomlinson and Allan R. Hall, focusing on Britain and Ireland exclusively: 'A review of the archaeological evidence for food plants from the British Isles: an example of the use of the Archaeobotanical Computer Database'. This was published on line in 1996 in the first issue of Internet Archaeology.
Here's the full set of updates to Food in the Ancient World from A to Z.
Sunday 12 February 2006
From the greengrocer tree you get grapes and green pea,
cauliflower, pineapple, and cranberries,
While the pastrycook plant cherry brandy will grant, apple puffs, and three-corners, and Banburys.
1882 W. S. Gilbert, Iolanthe act 2
In Linguistica Brunensia, year 2005, there are two interesting papers on Indo-European philology. In one, Vaclav Blazek collaborates with Petra Novotna on a glottochronological study of the Slavic languages. The hundred-word table that they used is usefully set out in full, for all the languages, on pages 67 to 77. According to their calculations, North Slavic (Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian) split from the rest in AD 520/600, South Slavic (Slovene, Serbo-Croat, Macedonian and Bulgarian) in 720, Czech-Slovak in 900. The remaining three, Sorbian, Polabian and Polish, split in 1020. The split between Russian and the two other North Slavic languages came in 1070, between Macedonian and Bulgarian in 1220, between Slovene and Serbo-Croat in 1300, between Czech and Slovak also in 1300, between Ukrainian and Belorussian in 1630 and between North and South Sorbian also in 1630.
If you believe in glottochronology your faith will probably not be shaken by the enormous differences between this calculation and the one developed by the late S. Starostin at Santa Fe in 2004. Starostin found that the earliest split was between Bulgarian-Macedonian and all the rest, and this happened in 130 AD. North Slavic then separated off in 270, said Starostin, followed by Polabian-Sorbian in 420 and by Slovene-Serbo-Croat in 670. Polish split from Czech-Slovak in 780.
An appendix to this paper gives the glottochronological analysis of the whole Indo-European that emerged from the same research by Starostin, who calculated that Anatolian separated from the rest ofIndo-European in 4670 BC, Tocharian in 3810 BC, Celtic in 3350 BC, Armenian-Albanian-Recky in 3020 BC, Italic-Germanic in 2860 BC. Indo-Iranian separated from Balto-Slavic in 2710 BC. Armenian, Albanian and Recky split in 2590 BC, Italic and Germanic in 2500 BC, Iranian and Indic in 2000 BC, Baltic and Slavic in 1210 BC, Brythonic and Goidelic (the two branches of Celtic) in 1000 BC, and Tocharian A and Tocharian B in 20 BC.
Here's the full set of on-line additions to Notes in the Margin.