Archive for the ‘Language and food’ Category

A portmantriple

October 21, 2017

Tucked inside Reid Forgrave’s story in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about the Boundary Waters area of northern Minnesota was an admirable brand name, an off-color portmantriple (boldfaced below):

[Becky] Rom and her husband climbed out of the canoe. Back in [the town of Ely], they pointed out thriving enterprises. One family company makes outerwear, which nicely complements the family’s other business, a lodge that runs winter dogsledding trips. An outfit called Crapola makes cranberry-apple granola. An art gallery displayed prints from a nature photographer…

If you live in or near Ely (a town of three or four thousand people), or if you’re a serious granola maven, you’re probably familiar with Crapola, but otherwise the product isn’t widely known.

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A processed food flavor

October 20, 2017

That’s from the NYT on the 17th (on-line), Frank Bruni’s op-ed column “Will Pumpkin Spice Destroy Us All?”:

(#1) In the labyrinth of pumpkin spice

It’s invention run amok, marketing gone mad, the odoriferous emblem of commercialism without compunction or bounds. It’s the transformation of an illusion — there isn’t any spice called pumpkin, nor any pumpkin this spicy — into a reality.

Pumpkin on its own is bland. What to do, if you’re not fond of bland? Pumpkin pie can get some pizazz from spices — especially cinnamon and nutmeg, also used to flavor eggnog, for similar reasons.

Such spice mixtures have been around for centuries, but only in recent years has pumpkin (pie) spice achieved commercial superstardom. Leading to Bruni’s comic savaging above, and to a Kaamran Hafeez cartoon (yesterday’s daily cartoon for the New Yorker).

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Mahonia, Berberis, Ilex

October 17, 2017

An adventure in plants, their appearance, and their taxonomic status.

It starts with a recent visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, where I encountered this pretty small shrub, in bloom, labeled Mahonia ‘Sweet Caress’ (photo from the net):

(#1)

At first glance, not at all like the mahonia shrub my father grew in our garden when I was a teenager: this plant has bamboo-like foliage, but the mahonia in our Wyomissing Hills PA garden had leaves that looked like holly leaves, and my dad referred to it as an Oregon grape holly: grape for the blue berries on the plant during the winter, holly for the prickly Ilex-like leaves, and Oregon for its origin in the shady forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Now it turns out that the holly-leaved mahonia of my youth and the bamboo-leaved mahonia in Gamble Garden are shade-loving evergreen plants with similar yellow flowers and blue berries, and are in fact both in the genus Mahonia, very closely related to barberries (in the genus Berberis). Both Mahonia and Berberis are in the barberry family (Berberidaceae) — with nothing much taxonomically to do with either hollies (in their own plant family, Aquifoliaceae) or bamboos (in the grass family, Poaceae).

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Lilyturf, bronze pin heads, and ungrammatical yucca

October 15, 2017

All on a recent trip to Stanford Shopping Center, where I hadn’t been for several years. After massive reconstruction, it’s even more upscale than before, with a huge range of very high-end stores with designer facades and interiors (the older buildings, like Macy’s, now look like commercial architecture from a previous age), plus, in the mall’s ad copy, “breathtaking gardens, sculptures and fountains” and places to sit everywhere — the last important to me as I cope with shortness of breath under exertion. The effect is of world-class shopping streets located in the middle of extraordinary public parks (though it’s all very much private property).

A quick general tour, then three specific items: masses of lirope, or lilyturf, an amiable and modest plant, in the midst of extravagantly showy plantings; whimsical “pin head” bronze sculptures by Albert Guibara; and the oddly named fusion-Cantonese restaurant Yucca de Lac (with plenty of yuccas and a lot of dim sum, but, here in Palo Alto, no lake; lakelessness is not, however, the real problem with the name).

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Political wagyu

October 13, 2017

The gustatory-political text for today:

Rage against the media is political Wagyu for the president’s base. (NYT, “[REDACTED]’s Attacks on the Press: Telling Escalation From Empty Threats” by Michael M. Grynbaum on 10/12/17 on-line)

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Traveling around with Zippy

October 13, 2017

(Fun with names and language play, but mostly Zippyesque popular culture in many manifestations.)

In recent days, Zippy has gone to a psychic shop (offering “crystals, past lives, tarot cards”), to the Tropical Treat in Hanover PA, to Luna Park in Sydney (NSW), to the ghost of a  Mickey Rooney hotel in Downington PA, and to the ghost of the Justin Time diner in Meriden CT.

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The pizza boy as cultural figure

October 12, 2017

(Mostly cultural analysis, focused on gay porn. But plenty of very plain talk about men’s bodies and mansex, so this is not for kids or the sexually modest.)

(#1)

The pizza boy archetype, as depicted by young Melbourne artist Allain de Leon in DNA Magazine, April 2013

The figure is a package of symbolic content and associations, among them: the desirable youth; the delivery figure, someone who comes to your door bearing pleasurable goods for money; pizza as an American cultural emblem of warm informal social associations; and a cluster of associations of food with sex, some more general, others specific to pizza slices and whole pizza pies

The trigger for this posting is a recent ad for C1R/Catalina Video, with a sale on a new release — Pizza Boy 4 – Slice of Pie — and the three earlier films in the series, starting with Pizza Boy: He Delivers (William Higgins, 1986). The ads, which are way XXX-rated, are available in a posting on AZBlogX (“Another slice of pizza boy”). But here: a salacious image of pizza boy Steve Henson from the first film, a classic of gay porn:

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Focus on the dal

October 9, 2017

Today is my second lens day, my second cataract surgery (for the left eye), my second adventure with an AcrySof IQ Aspheric Natural IOL (intraocular lens), from Alcon Laboratories. Since this is a medical device, it comes with a user’s manual / product information booklet, which is printed in incredibly tiny print in a 3×5 booklet. But is not without linguistic interest.

That will take us to Texas and Switzerland. It will all end in food, specifically a type of dried, split legume seeds. Which will take us to South Asia.

Never complain that I don’t take you out.

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Noodling with formulaic language

October 6, 2017

Today is National Noodle Day. Yes, an event fabricated by people in the food indusry to showcase their products and sell them, on a date no doubt chosen only because it hadn’t already been claimed by any other food. But noodles are delicious, they’re multicultural, and they’re fun.

I celebrated the occasion at lunch with some porcini mushroom and truffle triangoli (stuffed ravioli, but triangular rather than square) from Trader Joe’s, with arrabiatta sauce (a spicy tomato sauce). Pasta in English food talk for Italian food, but  noodles in English food talk for Chinese (and other East Asian and Southeast Asian) food — so today they’re noodles to me. (I recommend a broadminded view on what counts as noodles.)

I also recommend that we adopt a symbolic figure for the occasion, something like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Halloween pumpkins and witches, Pilgrims for Thanksgiving, the New Year baby, and so on. I suggest the Flying Spaghetti Monster, with his noodly appendages.

But first let’s get down to some recent noodling with formulaic expressions in the comics: One Big Happy (an idiom), Rhymes With Orange (a frequent collocation or an idiom, depending on who you read), and Mother Goose and Grimm (a proverb):

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One-hit grinders

October 2, 2017

The Zippy from September 30th, featuring Mary’s Coffee Shop, which also offers grinders:

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Plays on several senses of grind, plus the idiom one-hit wonder (with its phonological play on /wʌn/).

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