Lexicon

Faggot

What on earth is the word ‘faggot’ doing in a website devoted to matters culinary, you may ask?  The modern derogatory slang word for a homosexual has now become so invasive that many people are probably unaware of its other meanings.

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Pounti

Pounti, a traditional dish baked in a rectangular bread tin or earthenware terrine, can still be found on sale today in most Auvergnat charcuteries. Its ingredients are as outlandish as its name is melodious…

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Clafoutis

In spring in the Châtaigneraie, before any leaves come out, banks of woodland seen from a distance are dotted with what seem to be sparkler-like explosions of tiny white specks: these are wild cherry trees coming into bloom.

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Jacques Manière

Jacques Manière (1923-1991) was a very different animal from today’s media darlings. A brilliant chef of the old school, he deliberately kept out of the limelight. As a leading French food writer, Jean-Claude Ribaut, has noted with regret, there is no plaque celebrating Manière’s achievements on the wall where his most famous restaurant, Le Pactole, once stood.

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Baloney

Etymology is a discipline where it is sometimes difficult to see the wood for the trees. A case in point is the word ‘baloney’. Its current meaning is straightforward enough: silly talk, rubbish, twaddle. But when it comes to identifying its origins, we are faced with a multitude of possibilities.

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Truie

The word truie may possibly derive from porcus troianus. But there is uncertainty...

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Spotted dick and other matters

I have often wondered why traditional English cookery is so fond of mock this and mock that (heart masquerading as goose, for example, or onion and potato as sole, or walnuts and breadcrumbs as chicken cutlets).

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Stockfish

My first encounter with stockfish (unsalted wind-dried cod) came in the mid-seventies, when I tasted that delicious Niçois speciality, estocaficada. It is a dish where the startlingly gamey flavour of stockfish is accentuated by garlic, tomatoes and black olives.

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Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is an upside-down apple tart that has become extremely well known all over the world. It is one of those dishes around which a whole set of myths and controversies have sprung up about both its origin and its composition.

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Hamburger

I have to confess from the start that I am in no way a hamburger fan, not out of culinary snobbery, but because to my mind the dish usually consists of a pointless hotchpotch of low-quality ingredients.

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Jerusalem artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is a knobbly root vegetable of the sunflower family which was cultivated as a food plant by indigenous North American peoples long before the arrival of European settlers. Some mystery surrounds its name in English as well as in several other languages.

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Andouille and Andouillette

Andouille and andouillette are two types of French sausage consisting largely of pig’s intestines. The word andouille  probably comes from the Low Latin inductilia, which itself derives from the verb inducere, meaning ‘to introduce’ or ‘put into’ – in this case the filling of the sausage.

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Oysters

When I was small, I was, like most boys of my age, more familiar with Lewis Carroll’s hilarious nonsense poem, The Walrus and the Carpenter, than I was with the grey-green slithery mollusc that I later came to appreciate on my plate.

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Ortolan

It is well-known that alleged eye-witness accounts can sometimes be unreliable. A case in point is the ‘last supper’ that the French President François Mitterrand organised for himself and a score of guests at his Paris home on December 31 (or was it December 24? – accounts vary), 1995, only a week before his death from cancer.

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Triggerfish

One day recently, at the street market in Maurs, I noticed the presence of an odd-looking snub-nosed, tiny-mouthed fish in the shape of a turbot, but with one eye on either side of its head (the turbot’s eyes are both on the same side, as in most flatfish).

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Plonk

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the two main meanings of ‘plonk’: 1) the verb ‘to plonk’ (often followed by ‘on to’), meaning to place energetically, as in ‘she plonked the bottle on to the table’. In other words, it is an onomatopoeic verb; and 2) a noun indicating ‘a cheap and usually inferior wine’.

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