Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pensioner’s Stew, Cricketeer’s Venison and the Lamb in the Style of the Trombonist

Back when I had more time, I found a recipe on a friend’s food website. In the process of getting the ingredients, however, I realized that this so-called Hunter’s-Style Chicken was actually just chicken cacciatore. And then I realized that cacciatore is Italian for “hunter.” So there you go — a happy linguistic circle as complete as the one where we feed the chickens (on the farm) and then the chickens feed us (on the dinner table) and then we feed the chickens (when they revolt and become carnivorous), and so forth.


Delicious, right? (Mine did not look this pretty.)

Other dishes take names from professions, at least in the loose sense of the term. Pasta puttanesca, as I found out some time ago, means “whore’s pasta.” A dish alla carbonara is conjectured by some to mean “in the style of coal miners.” And sole meuniere means “sole in the style of the miller’s wife.” (I know, I know — it may not seem like being married to a miller would be a job, but let me ask you this: How many millers have you spend a weekend with?)

So what other “job” foods were there? I asked the Food52ers, and they gave me answers. Among the better ones:

  • the financier (a pastry named either because the mold looks like a brick of gold or because these sweets became popular in Paris’s financial district)
  • marinara sauce (named for mariners who supposedly either ate it on voyages or had it prepared for them by their wives upon their return)
  • heuvos rancheros (“rancher-style eggs”)
  • shepherd’s pie
  • cowboy stew
  • soupe de poisson (“fisherman’s soup”)
  • strozzapreti pasta (or “priest choker” pasta, so named allegedly for a number of reasons, none of which make Italian priests sound like pleasant people)
  • a la jardiniere (a descriptor indicating that a dish is prepared with many vegetables but which literally means “in the style of the gardener”)
  • a la forester (“in the style of the forester,” referring to a method of meat or poultry preparation involving sauteed mushrooms)
  • Bauernwurst (“farmer’s sausage,” which is also the name of a filthy German joke)
  • salla alla maitre d’hôtel (“maitre d’ sauce”)
  • a dessert called frozen diplomat, which sounds like something Betty Draper would make for a dinner party, then screw up and blame on Sally.
  • goulash, in general, comes from the Hungarian word gulyas, meaning “herdsman”
  • queen pudding (which was suggested even though I’ve always heard it called the much cooler sounding name Queen of Puddings, but which I don’t really count anyway, since it’s more a dish named in honor of an elevated position than it is one named for the people who actually ate it or made it)
  • the “nun’s puff” pastry (which is also known as pets de nonne, or “nun’s farts,” and no, I am not joking)
  • Imam bayildi, a Turkish dish whose name translates as “the imam was thrilled” or “the imam fainted,” which makes the dish sound both great and fatwah-inducing)
  • caipirinha (a stretch, as the Food52 poster notes, but it’s nonetheless interesting to know that the cocktail’s name in Brazil can also mean “diminutive female hillbilly,” or something thereabouts)
  • anything a la menagere is “in the style of the housekeeper”
  • caesar salad (which I’m willing to accept, I guess, since caesar was a title and a job and not a name, even though the salad itself was named for the restaurateur Caesar Cardini)
  • and finally coda alla vaccinate is “oxtail in the style of cow workers,” which is dangerously close to the less famous dish, “oxtail in the style of co-workers.”

I don’t doubt that a great many other professions have been tied to dishes and then rendered invisible when the cook doesn’t speak the language of the country the recipe came from. Oh, see? I just thought of one more: Girl Scout cookies. Very mysterious, that one.

One final thought: What kind of lazy ass hunter is bringing home chicken?

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