Jelly

Jelly is from French geler meaning to congeal.

Queso Menonita

You might see queso Chihuahua in the grocery store.  This soft, yellow cheese is named so because it comes to us from the Mexican state of Chihuahua.  But in Mexico this same cheese is called queso Menonita, meaning Menonite cheese.  

In Chihuahua are 90,000 of the 100,000 Mennonites living in Mexico.  These communities settled there in the twenties.  They left Manitoba when the attendance of public schools for children became mandatory.  Since the Mennonites at the time preferred their own private teaching they needed to find a place to call home.  They settled on northern Mexico.  Other Mennonites joined them from other parts of Canada and the United States.  

They are an agricultural community and are famous for many of their delicious foods, including the queso Menonita.  

Shot

In Polish, if you are having a ‘shot of vodka’ you would order po pięćdziesiątce meaning to take ‘by fifties‘.  This refers to the common size of a shot being 50 mL in Poland.  An American shot is about 44 mL or 1.5 ounces.  In Russia they say соtка for a double shot meaning 100 (mL).

Why do we call it a shot here in the States?  Contrary to some folk etymologies, there were no guns involved in the naming.  Rather, it uses shot to mean a small dose of something.

Gewürztraminer

What is with this name?!  If you have a hard time pronouncing it, think about the sentence “Girls are meaner.”  This helps you role this tongue twister out of your mouth a little more readily.  Gewurztraminer literally means “spice traminer”.  Traminer is a family of grape from Tramin, Italy (a German speaking providence). This Gewurztraminer is a more spicy and aromatic grape of this family.

Quote of the week

In water you see your own face; in wine the heart of another.

-Anonymous

Horchata

Horchata is a delicious sweetened drink made from rice, or at least that is the version that I know.  Apparently, it can also be made from sesame seeds, almonds or barley.  In fact, the original horchata was made of barley, and that is where its name derives from.  Hordeum is latin for barley and means ‘hairy’.  If you’ve ever seen a picture of barley you will notice its long awns.  So hordeum turned into horchata meaning made of barley.  Now, the ingredients have changed depending on where it is being made.

Raisin

The French idiom mi figue, mi raisin means half fig, half grape and refers to something that is neither entirely good nor entirely bad.  But wait! Shouldn’t mi figue, mi raisin mean half fig and half raisin?  Actually, raisin in French means grape and raisin sec means raisin.  If that’s not confusing enough the English once called the grape winberige “wine berry”, but then adopted grape which has German origins meaning hook (having to do with the process of harvesting the grapes).  Grappa and grapa are Italian and Spanish words for grape and also have German origins.  Our word grapple is related to grape.  Archaically, grapple meant seize or hold with a grapnel.  A grapnel once was meant to pluck grapes, but in modern times is shot from Batman’s grapnel gun which allows him to fling himself from building to building.

If you know why we say raisin in English instead of dry raisin like the French let me know!

Pecan

On this day when we commemorate arguably the finest civil rights leaders the United States has ever produced, we at Language and Table contemplate just how to pronounce one of his favorite foods.

Dr. Martin Luther King was reportedly a big fan of pecan pie, a heart stopping southern traditional concoction of corn syrup, butter, sugar, and a thin veneer of pecannuts just to serve as an excuse, a nod, really, to legitimate nutrition. Pecan pie is so fantastically rich that it’s a wonder anyone over 30 can recall eating it, since that the first bite taken as a youngster should probably have been enough.
But to the controversy: It’s not just a puh-TAY-toh/puh-TAH-toh brand of disagreement we’re dealing with here. There are, according to farmflavor.com, no fewer than four legitimate ways of pronouncing this nut: pee-KAHN, pick-AHN, PEE-can, and PEE-kahn. Two different pronunciations are common with our mother tongue (CAR-mel/CARE-uh-mel), to be sure. So are two different words to represent the same thing (soda/pop), but pecan takes home the prize on this one.
The mystery deepens when you look at map that breaks down who says what and where: The parts of the country that, by and large, don’t grow pecans, seem to have rallied around pee-KAHN, but the southern swath of the country that might actually come across a pecan tree on a neighborhood walk is all over the map. And lest you need yet another reason to make fun of the Northern Minnesota accent, the map shows that they have adopted a pronunciation that they share only with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, one of the most isolated spots in the lower 48.
So unfortunately we’re not going to solve this conundrum in a fleeting blog post. But on a day when we commemorate a famous preacher/spiritual leader, here’s a quick moral for everyone out there surfing the intertubes: Pecan pie, like most insanely rich foods, is great in small doses, but before you die (possibly from one of the ailments inflicted by too much sugar) find yourself a pecan grove and take a stroll through it on a gorgeous spring afternoon. Reach down and pick up a few pecans – you’ll find the shells pretty easy to crack, even with bare hands. The nuts themselves are at that point still somewhat hydrated, and the fat will rub off your hands, tasting fresher than you thought possible.
Sure, winter is coming, you think, but this is Georgia, so that means nothing at all. Then return to wherever you’re staying, eat a meal that specializes in fried foods, and I’ll bet you’ll have such a good time that you’ll stop caring just how the hell pecan is pronounced.

pecan pronunciation map

Quote of the week

God defend me from that Welsh fairy,
Lest he transform me to a piece of cheese!

Shakespeare

Buffalo Wings

French toast doesn’t originate in France, nor do French fries for that matter.  But Buffalo wings actually has it right! (What?  You thought they were from buffalos?)  Yes, Buffalo, New York is the proud home of ‘wings’ as they are apt to call it.  They would never say ‘Buffalo wing’.  This is one story that ends the way it is supposed to. 

 

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