Grapefruit

Why is it called a grapefruit?  There is no immediate resemblance between a grape and a grapefruit.  The most common theory is that it in allusion to the way the fruit grows in clusters on the tree, resembling grapes.  This is not what seems like the most likely theory to me.  Another, less popular, but my favored theory is that the name comes from its scientific moniker.  Citrus grandis translates to great citrus or great fruit.  So perhaps, the grapefruit was called the greatfruit.  This indeed would be a good name for this giant breakfast orange.  

But we all know that language is formed between the constraints of the lazy tongue and the strained ears so perhaps we started calling it grapefruit for the of ease of the tongue and the misinterpretation of the ears.  

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

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.

The greatest thing since sliced bread

“The greatest thing since sliced bread” is often said as a joke.  Sliced bread seems mundane and obvious to us.  But although the concept of sliced bread is simple, the machine that slices it is an engineering feat.  Thirteen years in the making, it finally came to be used commercially in 1928.  Sliced bread (obviously) was a huge hit.  And the phrase “greatest thing since sliced bread” was once used as a sincere marketing catch phrase.  In 1943 the government actually banned sliced bread to conserve metal for the war effort. There was such an uproar that the ban was discontinued shortly thereafter.  

Ganado

I was surprised to learn the word for cattle in Spanish is ‘ganado’.  The other meanings of this word are ‘won’ or ‘earned’.   According to a Spanish website about etymology, the word ‘ganado’ to mean cattle is an extremely old word – a holdover from feudalism in Europe.  ‘Ganado’ used to mean any sort of riches that were not inherited.  Cattle were one of these types of riches.  Another Spanish word for cattle is ‘vacuno’ which shares the Latin root ‘vacca’ with our word ‘vaccine’.  Vaccines were originally a shot of cowpox that would safe guard against smallpox.    

 

XB

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’. 

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. 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.