The Labor Day weekend is a traditional time for the end-of-summer picnic and perhaps one last dip in the pool before it is buttoned up for the winter. School begins, and even the nature of the food we eat changes as we head into fall. Looking ahead we have football parties and tailgates, Octoberfest events, and, of course, Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts on the horizon.
This seasonal transition in culinary habits seemed like a good time to think about the things we eat. And how we talk about food.
Eat Your Words: A Fascinating Look at the Language of Food (1999) by Charlotte Foltz Jones was just the recipe for a short, delightful romp through the world of language and food. “Because food is necessary for survival,” writes Jones, “our entire culture is based on it. It’s in our laws, our money, our superstitions, our celebrations, and especially our language.” Calling on her favorite anecdotes, Jones has created a fun-filled and informative book about the history of food-related words and phrases.
It’s not about nutrition, cooking, recipes, or kitchen safety. It’s a shopping list of curious food etymology, and a menu of the origins of funny-sounding food.
The whimsical illustrations by John O’Brien are aptly described as the dessert.
In seven chapters that satisfy your craving for history, geography, biography, and wordplay, Jones provides her readers with fun-filled-fact after fun-filled-fact. Here’s a smattering to whet your appetite. Did you know that…
- Caesar salad was originally called aviator salad, because the restaurant where it was first created was near an airfield in Tijuana, Mexico. Later the salad’s creator changed the name to Caesar salad after his brother, who owned the restaurant.
- Melba toast and Peach Melba were both named in honor of Dame Nellie Melba, an opera singer from Australia.
- In Gary, Indiana, it is against the law to ride a bus or attend a theatre within four hours after eating garlic.
- There’s plenty of food on the map: Bacon, Georgia; Cherry, Nebraska; Rice, Minnesota; Hominy, Oklahoma, and more Oranges (Florida, Indiana, and Texas) than you can shake off a tree.
- Bread and butter pickles are not actually made from bread and butter. These sweet pickles were first created around 1900, and the homemaker who created them sold them at a roadside stand to get money to provide her family with bread and butter.
- A peanut is not a pea and it’s not a nut. It’s a legume — a bean.
Near the end of the book, Jones has a chapter entitled Talking Turkey, which looks at the origins of our favorite terms and sayings and begins with this delightful introduction:
Friends usually get along like two peas in a pod, making life a bowl of cherries. They’re as sweet as honey and act nuttier than a fruitcake. Then one goes bananas and drops the other like a hot potato. They both walk on eggshells and act as cool as a cucumber as long as one has a bone to pick. But once they sit down to chew the fat or talk turkey, things are keen as mustard once again.
While most of these terms came into the language gradually, that’s not always the case. Consider “couch potato” — a person who spends a lot of time watching television — for example. According to Jones, Tom Iacino from California coined the term in 1976. “Couch potato” was then trademarked. “A club was formed, a newsletter was published, and merchandise (such as T-shirts and dolls) was sold.”
As you think of the feasts on your schedule this fall, be sure to “put your money where your mouth is.” Should you be moving to a new home, carry in salt first to ensure wealth. Eating bread crusts will make your hair curly.
As your head hits the pillow tonight and you want to dream in color, eat three almonds before you go to sleep. Should you want those dreams to be of your future spouse, sleep with a piece of wedding cake under your pillow. (Just don’t call on me to clean up your mess.)
And, of course, take all of this with a grain of salt.
More to come…
One more reason not to go to Gary!
Flying back home after our our month away – fear we have bloated way too many pounds on so many great meals!
Looking forward to lunch later in the month. Need also to see a LOTof baseball games – will keep you posted on the schedule …
Sent from my iPad
Safe flight home, Tom. As for the Gary reference, I was just looking for other planned communities to fill out the other answers. I actually didn’t know that about Gary’s past. Will look forward to catching up later this month. Take care. DJB
Tom, I realized I was referencing the wrong thing for Gary in my earlier response. It turns out I reference it again in tomorrow’s post!!
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