Quote of the Week

“What this country needs is a drink.”

– FDR immediately after repealing prohibition with one stroke of his pen



Russian Easter bread is a delicious treat that I highly recommend.  It is made with saffron for crying out loud!  Written on top in frosted letters is often “XB”.  What does this mean?  This is an abbreviation of Христос воскрес (Christ is risen).  Notice that Christ is spelled in an ‘X’.  This comes from the Greek letter ‘chi’ as Χριστός is ‘Christ’ in Greek.  So contrary to the beliefs of many, ‘xmas’ is not an attempt at making Christmas secular.  Instead it is the original abbreviation for Christ dating back to the 16th century.  Other words that date back just as far are ‘Xtian’ and ‘Xtianity’. 


Morsel is a small bit of food.  In spanish ‘morder’ is to bite.  This word has it’s root in Latin just like ‘morsel’.  In fact these are just different apples on the same tree.  Latin morsus “biting, a bite” is the trunk of this tree.  


If something comes ‘to fruition’ it has produced fruit.  The current definition of the word is the point at which a project is realized.  But originally the word meant the act of enjoying.  In other words, ‘fruition’ once meant ‘the act of enjoying’ but because people heard the word ‘fruit’ in it, the definition changed to mean ‘to bear fruit’.

But why is the word fruit in fruition?  Coincidence?  Nope.  ‘Fruit’ has it’s origins in Latin and meant ‘enjoyment’.  So this circle is really a matter of the chicken and the egg.  ‘Fruit’ meant enjoyment and then ‘fruit’, and ‘fruition’ meant ‘fruit’ which meant ‘enjoyment’ but later turned back into ‘fruit’ without the enjoyment.  Does that make sense?

And as a side note, in some forms of Spanish a strawberry is a frutilla, which comes from this same Latin root.

Imperial Style Beer

It’s not uncommon to see an ‘imperial’ styled beer.  You have imperial stout, imperial pale ale and others.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from this blog, it is to not underestimate the history hidden in these food terms.  ‘Imperial’ comes to us from 1800’s.  British beer makers often exported their beers to the royal court in Russia.  To assure that the beer would arrive all the way to the “imperials” the brew master would increase the amount of alcohol and hops (both natural preservatives).  This strong tasting and higher alcohol beer was labeled ‘Imperial’. 

The story goes that Peter the Great enjoyed a stout beer on a trip to England and then requested a shipment of it.  But the first shipmen they sent arrived in poor form.  The next shipment was sent with the necessary alcohol and hops to keep the beer fresh.  This style became popular and was known as Russian Imperial Stout.  Other beer styles were soon altered in the same way and took on this same moniker. 

Quote of the Week

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

– Anonymous

Forbidden Rice

Forbidden rice is another name for black rice.  Yes, just like there is white and brown rice there is also a black rice.  This black rice turns a dark purple once cooked.  Black rice is much more nutritious form of rice, but also a much more difficult one to grow.  It is called forbidden rice because it was eaten only by the royals.  Others were ‘forbidden’ to eat it.  

When it rains, it pours.

Our story today comes from the marketing department.  In the early 1900’s Morton’s added magnesium carbonate to their salt.  This prevented the little granules from sticking together so that you didn’t end up with clumps in your salt shaker.  The sweet girl with the umbrella, yep, she is advertising chemicals added to your salt.  They now use calcium silicate.  

To illustrate the point of the free-flowing salt, the marketing department came up with the saying “When it rains, it pours”.  It had no intention of meaning that when things are going wrong, they are really going wrong – but it has adopted that meaning.




‘Spork’ is a portmanteau- a word made by taking two separate words and their definitions and combining them.  ‘Spork’ combines the purposes of the spoon and the fork, and their names.

Lewis Carroll invented the use of the word ‘portmanteau’ in this context.  Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the words in Jabberwocky such as “mimsy” is “flimsy and miserable”.

He used the word portmanteau, which is one of those old-time suite cases in which both halves open up to reveal equal compartments.  He tells Alice, ‘You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.’

English has quite a few food-related portmanteaus.  Brunch, tofurky, frappuccino, appletini, and so on.  But many other languages have food related portmanteaus also, including this VERY old one – pupusa.  A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran food.  Basically a thick, stuffed tortilla.

Pupusa is what the Spanish called the native food popotlax.  Popotlax is a portmanteau of the Nahuatl words popotl meaning large and bulky, and tlaxkalli which means tortilla.

Liquor vs. Liqueur

Just because both liquor and liqueur contain alcohol and both start with ‘L’ doesn’t mean they are the same things.  Most people think a liqueur contains less alcohol, but that actually is not a defining barrier.  Liqueurs can have alcohol contents ranging from 30 proof to 110 proof.  Liqueurs and sweetened spirits flavored with various extracts, cream, fruit, nuts or oils.

Liquors are things like vodka, gin, rum and the other liquors that are more basic.  These liquors can serve as the base for liqueurs.

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