Can you follow this outrageous history? Tatars are an ethnic group of people who live in the modern day Volga region of Russia and the surrounding areas. They are considered a sect of the Turks. They were once followers of Genghis Khan. Needless to say, in those days, surrounding territories disliked them. Instead of calling them Tatars, a name given by the Tatars themselves, Europeans began to call them Tartars, influenced by the word for hell in Medieval Latin, tartarus. “In the present danger of the Tartars either we shall push them back into the Tartarus whence they are come, or they will bring us all into heaven” read a 1270 letter from St. Louis of France.
Tartar sauce refers to the Tatars, but like French fries, the Tatars didn’t have anything to do with the invention of this sauce. Steak tartare (tartare being French for tartar) is a raw meat dish to be served with tartar sauce.
Cream of tartar is a powder made up of ‘tartaron’,which is Greek for the sediment inside wine casks, a white mineral known scientifically as Potassium bitartrate. The white build up on teeth, tartar, is named after this. Catch that?
Pictured above is the current Miss Russia who is, you guessed it, Tatar.