Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Kind (of Wheat) You Don’t Take Home to Mother

Can wheat be sexy? No, wait — don’t stop reading my blog. Allow me to rephrase: Wheat can be sexy — and exotic! … You know, if you’re American.
freekeh (FREE-kah) — noun: wheat harvested when still green and then roasted.

I feel like it makes me sound obnoxious if I say that I enjoy a menu more when it teaches me new words. Regardless, I have to admit that I feel no shame in bringing my iPhone to the table and using it to make sense of what’s been laid out before me. And I especially like seeing how the dictionary definition differs from how the server explains it. For example, soubise. Says the internet: “A béchamel variant whose velvety texture benefits from the pungency of onions.” Says the server: “It’s white sauce.” And I really like catching the restaurant dressing up simple fare in fancy terms. — haricots verts used for plain old green beans, for example.

Freekeh, as a word, manages to make wheat more interesting — a little lusty, a bit weird, sort of scary, a skosh threatening. I can’t comment on the taste, because my life has so far been freekeh-free, but my superfreak friend Kristen’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal tells me that freekeh offers either a smokier or grassier flavor than that gutterwheat you’ve been eating all this time. I trust Kristen — a sort of culinary guinea pig over at Food52 who consequently has a lot of guilt about eating guinea pigs now — and now I feel bad for not knowing about freekeh sooner. You know who has known about freekeh even longer than Kristen? Arabs. Culinary up-and-comer though freekeh may be in the Western world, it’s not a new dish the cuisines of Egypt, the Levant or the Arab Peninsula, according to Wikipedia. It can also be known by the name farik — literally “rubbed” in Arabic, as a result of the thrashing process it undergoes — which seems like an alternate transliteration of the original Arabic. That one’s only sexy if you interpret it as an extremely affected pronunciation of freak. And I do. Mostly because I know it actually means “rubbed.”


Previous words of the week after the jump.
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