A Culinary Compendium of Cooking Cant, Part 1.

A Culinary Compendium of Cooking Cant, Part 1.

  Welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes. I’m your lexicon-loving author Jon O’Guin. Let’s talk linguistics for a minute. As noted in our last post, I’m a fan of cool words, whether incredibly specific (“Petrichor” is the smell of rain soaking into dry earth.) anomalous (“bolt” is one or over 50 autonyms (also called contranyms), which are words that are their own opposites. As in “I bolted the chair down before bolting away.”) or etymologically interesting. (The word “adder” is the result of us screwing up saying “a nadder” as “an adder” a lot. “Panache” is a French word that was so crucial to the character of Cyrano de Bergerac that the playwright just used it as if it was an English word, and we all went “yeah, okay.” “Quarantine” literally translates as “forty-ish”, which is the number of days sick ships weren’t allowed on the shore.)  In other words, I’m a huge word nerd, though it might seem absurd, and I wish that words got the attention they deserved.

I also start rhyming for no discernible reason from time to time. Doctors say it’s benign. (Slant rhyme!)

I thought to myself, “how best to convey my lyrical dexterity, and the deep self-respect I have in a single picture?” The answer was obvious. Oh past me, how many brave choices you made.

However, while writing “Cauliflower Steaks”, I got a text from my editor, wondering what the heck one of the words I used meant in a culinary sense, as it’s more commonly used in police investigations, civic engineering, and Magic the Gathering. (That word is “dredge”, not to be confused with ‘dregs’.) As such, I thought it would be a good idea to take some time and talk about a slew of normal and not-so-normal cooking terms, and what they mean. This will be a multi-part series, but it won’t go down sequentially, instead being a thing I turn to maybe once every few months, if I think I’m getting jargon heavy, or our posts are getting dense, as a sort of literary amuse-bouche. (Shit. Now I have to define THAT.) Alright, let’s begin.

Meals and Plates

Let’s first confront the confusing world of meal times and courses.

Amuse bouche (n): a small hors d’œuvre (yes, I know how to spell that), meant to provide insight into a chef’s style or preferred flavor. Often a free single serving served at very high-class restaurants. Pronounced like “a used douche”, so clearly not all too fancy.

On the other hand, tiny BLTs, so it’s not all bad.

Hors d’œuvre (n): from the French for “outside the work”, an appetizer or small plate before the established ‘courses’ of a meal. Also spelled hors d’oeuvre, because no one knows how to get that weird little oe symbol.

Breakfast(n): The first, and “most important” meal of the day (that claim’s going to get messy in a  second). From the idea of “breaking one’s fast”, meaning “to start eating again”. The idea/joke being “Man, all that sleeping must have made you hungry!”

Second Breakfast(n): Not just a joke in the Hobbit, it’s an actual thing in several Eastern European  countries and regions such as Bavaria, Poland, and Hungary. Typically a snack or  small meal of pastries or bread products and sausage.

Elevenses (n): seriously, all those meals Pippin lists? Real things. In The Netherlands, this is considered the proper time to visit people. Show up a little before lunch, chat a bit, have something small, so that you can use the need to get lunch as an excuse to end it early, or offer to go to lunch to extend the visit. A wily people, the Dutch. Meanwhile, America in the 1800’s also had elevenses: it was the mid-morning whiskey break. A drunken people, Americans.

Lunch (n): the second meal of the day, assuming you didn’t have the other ones. Also comes from luncheon, a word meaning “a small meal or snack”, with used to have absolutely no regard to time. So of course, now it means “The meal you eat around noon” despite that frequently being my breakfast time.   And things are going to get even more confusing in a second.

Tea (n): 1. A drink made by putting dried things in hot water and drinking the resulting brown mixture.

Doesn’t sound so good my way, eh, China?

  1. Any of a series of breaks or meals held in the afternoon in former UK constituents. The father to the “coffee break” and one of the forms of “elevenses”. “Afternoon Tea” was a small social meal taken between 4 and 6 in England, now seen as a sort of parallel to the American Happy Hour, where drinks and small dishes are cheaper at the times just after work. (Once again, America took a thing, and said “This is nice. It’d be nicer with Alcohol.”) Usually indulged in by friends infrequently. Note that in Australia, “Afternoon Tea” is typically just a 10-15 minute break in the afternoon from work to have a cup of tea. Which I’m going to need after explaining

Dinner (n): 1. The last meal of the day, and the largest, taken in the later evening.

  1. See also lunch, because many rural communities refer to the midday meal as “dinner”, from Ireland to the American South.
  2. A large, formal meal, taken anywhere from midday onward. Such as Thanksgiving Dinner, or Easter Dinner, both of which are known to start in my household around 3-4.

Supper (n): 1. The largest meal of the day, taken in the evening. Typically found in communities that use “dinner” for the midday meal. (see dinner)

  1. An informal evening meal, often taken with family. Antonym of dinner definition 3, in that the meal is informal rather than formal.
  2. Any snack taken in the early or mid-evening.

Snack (n): 1. Any amount of food considered too small to constitute a full meal.

  1. An American serving size sufficient to feed a grown man in Europe. (see Lunch)

Snack serving for 2 Jons.

See, wasn’t that simple? All it took was a thousand words to explain the 3 square…5 main… To talk about meals. Next time on this series, we’ll cover cooking methods, but that may be some time. For now, let’s see what Alan’s up-to…He told me to “sod off”. I don’t know what that means.