Archive for the ‘Language and food’ Category

Canned cranjellyfish

November 27, 2015

On the op-ed page of the NYT yesterday, an Op-Art feature by graphic designer Mark Pernice, “Parade Balloons That Didn’t Get Off the Ground” (in print) or “Rejected Thanksgiving Balloons” (on-line), with (for example) The Turkey’s Head, A Dead Leaf, Booze & Bukowski, Drunk Texting Exes, Black Friday Doorbuster Ad. And Canned Cranjellyfish:


The creature is a hybrid of a can of cranberry jelly (on top) and a jellyfish (with its “arms” at the bottom). The name is also a hybrid, a phrasal overlap portmanteau (POP) of canned cranberry jelly + jellyfish.

Two things here: cranberry sauce / jelly / relish for Thanksgiving; and Mark Pernice and his work.


stuffing, dressing, filling

November 26, 2015

The centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving meal:

A roasted turkey, with its body cavity filled with a mixture of ingredients that were inside it during the roasting. There is some dispute — well, variation in local usage, about which some people feel proprietary — as to what this mixture is called: stuffing (which is pretty transparent semantically) and dressing (which is puzzling) are the most common alternatives, but some Pennsylvania Dutch folk favor filling (pretty semantically transparent again). But matters are more complicated, since some things called stuffing are used as side dishes, not stuffed into anything.

Then there’s the puzzle of dressing, which turns out to have a surprising etymology, one that connects it to the piece of women’s clothing the dress.


A non-traditional Thanksgiving dessert

November 26, 2015

These days, alternatives to classic American Thanksgiving foods are available from any number of ethic and national traditions; people recover the beloved foods of their childhood and incorporate them into their holiday food. In a 11/24/11 posting on “Thanksgiving meals” I surveyed a few alternatives from my own history: a tradition of posole (a Mexican hominy stew — in my cooking, made with chunks of pork and no beans, though there are lots of variants), and more recently dim sum at a Palo Alto Hong Kong-style Chinese restaurant, and today, back to Mexico at Reposado. (And then there’s Calvin Trillin advocating spaghetti carbonara.)

The classic dessert for Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie, which I have no enthusiasm for. After that, pecan pie, which I adore. And then, I suppose, apple pie, though in this case I prefer elegant French versions over sturdy American ones.

Now for something completely different: dried fruit compôte, intense and easy to cook. Here I’ll reproduce instructions I posted in the newsgroup soc.motss back in 1993; well, the instructions are written in the tone of my smart-ass alter ego, Alex Adams.


Crunch Berries time

November 20, 2015

Today’s Zits, with Jeremy appreciating his job at Pipkin’s Fruit Market:


Well, Crunch Berries, but they’re still not actual berries (instead, balls of high-fructose corn syrup) — technically, food, but faux berries.


Foodnited States

November 20, 2015

Through Facebook friends, this entertaining Mental Floss piece, “All 50 States Reimagined as Food Puns” by Rebecca OConnell:


If you had to assign one piece of food to represent each state, which item would you pick? For the good people at Foodiggity [which can be followed on Instagram], the answer is whatever is punniest.

Armed with a set of state-shaped cookie cutters and a love of wordplay, the team set out to make each state out of a food. The series, called The Foodnited States of America, features all 50 states.

The project came about when Foodiggity founder Chris Durso’s young son suggested they make states out of food. Durso almost dismissed the idea, until his son added, “But what if they like had funny names like New Pork or New Jerky?” Durso understood the value of a good pun and took on the task of shoving mashed potatoes into metal shapes.


cioppino, sopa de mariscos

November 14, 2015

Yesterday’s lunch special at the Mexican restaurant Reposado was billed as cioppino, though it was recognizably a Mexican-style sopa de mariscos ‘seafood soup’. Meanwhile, cioppino is standardly described as a fish stew (as in the Wikipedia article on the dish), though it too is a seafood soup, essentially a clear tomato soup with a whole lot of seafood (ncluding fish) in it. Exactly what Reposado was serving yesterday, with some significant differences in details: the basic soup at Reposado had no wine in it; the Reposado dish had a lot of vegetables in it (not just the sauteed onions in the basic sauce, but also potatoes, carrots, poblanos, and zucchini); and the Reposado dish had some Mexican ingredients (fresh chiles, cilantro, and lime) rather than the Mediterranean ingredients of classic cioppino (shallots and bay leaves, in particular; the two soups share basil, oregano, and an anise-flavored ingredient, either aniseed or fennel).

Cioppino is a San Francisco dish (so it’s no surprise that sopa de mariscos would be billed as cioppino in a Bay Area restaurant), but its roots lie in Italy; the sopas / estofados / caldos de mariscos of Latin America, Mexico included, have their roots in Spain; so both originate in the fish soups and stews of the maritime Mediterranean, from Greece and Italy to France and Spain, which vary locally but share a family resemblance.

After a celebration of cioppino and sopa de mariscos, I’ll go to a linguistic question, namely the soup vs. stew question.


cold cuts

November 12, 2015

Recently I wondered about the story of cold cuts ‘lunch meat’, an Adj + N composite that is not particularly transparent semantically (in fact, lunch meat isn’t fully transparent either). There’s some interesting linguistic history here. But there’s clearly also some substantial cultural history to be uncovered, and for this I don’t have the resources.


Adventures in food: vintage Betty Crocker, fun with hot dogs

November 7, 2015

In last Sunday’s NYT Magazine, a hilarious piece by Tamar Adler, “Betty Crocker’s Absurd, Gorgeous Atomic-Age Creations: The iconic brand’s midcentury recipes evoke the era’s peculiar optimism, encased in gelatin and smothered in mayonnaise”, with eye-popping food photos by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. Adler begins:

It is a dish hard to make sense of: a shimmering vermilion ring of canned tomato sauce, held motionless by gelatin, concealing a coeur caché of canned asparagus and artichoke hearts, the hole at its middle filled to bulging with mayonnaise and sour cream. Called ‘‘Tangy Tomato Aspic,’’ the dish dates from the atomic age, the decades after the bomb was dropped, the war won and a clean, bright American outlook born. It was the age of technocratic make-believe and the early days of the anthropocene. Gastronomically, it was an age that today — from a perspective admiring of the natural and authentic — looks shockingly artificial.

Nowhere is the era’s ethos and aesthetic better represented than in the 1971 Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library. On 648 cards, everything I’ve ever found intriguing about this segment of American culinary life is on display. There is a card for Fonduloha (pineapple, turkey, mayonnaise, curry, peanuts, coconut and canned mandarins, put back into a pineapple shell) and another for Cherry Pineapple Bologna (instant mashed potatoes, bologna glazed with crushed pineapple and maraschino cherry, dyed extra red with food coloring). There is Chicken Caruso, Round Steak ’n Ravioli, Crusty Salmon Shortcakes. There is the enigmatic Party Sandwich Loaf and the even more enigmatic Green Bean Bunwiches.


Born out of breadlock

November 4, 2015

Today’s Rhymes With Orange, with a pun:

The cronut, a hybrid food with a portmanteau name. See section 1 (on the cronut) of my 5/30/13 posting about portmanteaus.

The New Yorker food issue

November 2, 2015

The November 2nd issue of the New Yorker is the food issue; there are three pieces in it I’d especially like to recommend: Calvin Trillin on pork barbecue in North Carolina, Dana Goodyear on making seaweed palatable, and Nicola Twilley on how the packaging of food can affect (our perceptions of) its flavor. The first has special meaning for me, since it features my friend John Shelton Reed, and this is the second time Trillin has devoted a New Yorker food piece to covering  a friend of mine (the earlier occasion was a 1983 piece on the great linguist Jim McCawley on cooking and eating in Chinese).



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