Sardine

Sardines are little fish in the herring family.  You may have heard the expression “packed like sardines in a can” to refer to something confining.  Sardines were once plentiful around the Mediterranean island of Sardinia and this is were they got their name.  Exactly how the “packed like sardines” expression came to be is unknown. 

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Wiener

Let’s face it.  Wiener is a funny word to an English speaker.  But it is no laughing matter to a German.  That’s because in German ‘wiener’ actually means something from Vienna.  And if you remember that the Germans pronounce their ‘w’s like our ‘v’s then you can see the connection.

Wiener schnitzel is actually the official dish of Austria, but amazingly it has nothing to do with hot dogs like Americans might believe.  Wiener schnitzel is actually breaded and deep fried veal cutlet.  Our hot dog serving, fast food restaurant Wienerschnitzel is an affront to the German language.  The main problems being that by combining the two separate words Wiener and Schnitzel to make one word Wienerschnitzel you change the meaning from being ‘schnitzel in the style of Vienna’ to ‘people from Vienna served prepared in schnitzel’.

The second problem, of course, is that Wienerschnitzel does not actually serve Wiener Schnitzel at all.

Golf Sauce

If you are from Utah you know all about fry sauce…the delicious combination created from mixing mayo with ketchup.  But in South America this mixture is salsa golf.  Yes, golf as in the ‘birdie’, ‘eagle’, ‘putt’.  How did this come about?  Legend has it that the sauce was invented by Noble laureate Louis Federico Leloir during a visit to a golf club.  He wanted something flavorful to go well with the shrimp he was eating.  He was a physician and should have known better that to partake of this unhealthy sauce, but there you go.  That’s the story.  

Duncan Hines

We know that Betty Crocker is a made up person.  Is Duncan Hines a product of imagination too?  

Turns out that Duncan Hines was an actual person.  You probably know him because his name is on boxes of cake mixes.  He started out as a traveling sales man.  Before the information highway many people got sick eating at greasy spoons at the side of the actual highway.  Restaurants that catered to travelers weren’t too afraid of scaring away repeat business.  

Duncan Hines traveled all over for his job.  While out on the road he kept a travel log of the best restaurants.  For one Christmas he printed the list out and gave it to friends.  It was a hit.  Soon others were requesting it.  He was the first Zagat.  

Eventually restaurants would request permission to put out a signs bragging that they were a Duncan Hines approved restaurant.  His name was the golden touch.  Later he was tapped by processed food makers to add his name to their products.  He agreed and that is why we see his name on our grocery store shelves today. 

Quote of the Week

I like refried beans. That’s why I wanna try fried beans, because maybe they’re just as good and we’re just wasting time. You don’t have to fry them again after all.

Mitch Hedberg

Saffron Robes

Doughboy

A doughboy is old American slang for a US soldier.  The term dates back to the Mexican-American War and had been used with frequency through WWI, after which ‘GI’ was more commonly used.  Where does the term doughboy come from?  

No one knows for sure.  There are a few common folk etymologies, though.  One states that while the American troops were hiking through the deserts of Northern Mexico they would become caked with dust the color of dough.  Another hypothesis references the big buttons on their uniforms.  Apparently they looked like big biscuits that were called doughboys back then.  

The unfortunate truth is that no one knows the origin of the term doughboy.

Caesar

Ah the Caesar salad!  Who doesn’t love an authentic caesar salad made table side?  Anchovies, raw egg, garlic!  It’s all so delicious. Unless you have a fear of salmonella. 

Why is it called the Caesar salad?  Did Julius Caesar eat them?  Actually the Caesar salad was born in Tijuana, Mexico.  The father of the Caesar salad, Caesar Cardini, was an Italian immigrant to Mexico City.   He worked for a while in Mexico City with European gastronomy.  Then a move to Sacramento positioned him to run a restaurant.  Later he moved to San Diego and did the same.  So why leave the beautiful scenery of San Diego for Tijuana?  Prohibition!  It was there in Tijuana where he created that now famous dressing.  He opened up many of his own restaurants in both Mexico and the United States.  

Supper Vs. Dinner

I have always used the term ‘dinner’ to mean the evening time meal, so I was surprised to learn that many Americans use it to mean ‘lunch’.  In parts of the country where their dinner is my lunch the term supper is used to mean the evening meal.  This discrepancy comes from the idea that dinner is the biggest meal of the day.  In some places, especially rural ones, the largest meal of the day comes closer to noon.  This midday feast is meant to give hard workers sustenance to last until dusk.  Supper comes from the word ‘soup’.  It was common to put the scraps in a pot and boil them all day until there was soup at the end of the day.  

Dinner has an interesting etymology as well.  When the term dinner was invented there were only two meals of the day.  Here is what wikipedia says about the topic: The word is from the Old French (ca 1300) disner, meaning “breakfast”, from the stem of Gallo-Romancedesjunare (“to break one’s fast”), from Latin dis- (“undo”) + Late Latin ieiunare (“to fast”), from Latin ieiunus (“fasting, hungry”).

Today we eat breakfast, which is following the etymology of dinner.  The moral of the story is that what we eat and when we eat varies between region and era.   

Quote of the Week

People who love to eat are always the best people.

Julia Child

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