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July 07, 2023


In this part of Northern California, June was relatively cool. Indeed, the warmest time this year that comes immediately to mind was when we were in the upper 80s in February. It's been hotter occasionally since, of course. But not so far above normal.

After a couple of weeks in the low 70s, the first couple of days of July managed to be summery: highs in tripple digits. By midweek we are back to highs in the low 70s. Or high 60s. Leaving the obvious question: are we "back to spring"? Or have we "moved on to fall"?

In short, while weather in other parts of the country is industriously making global warming denial an unsupportable position, we have climate change of a different sort here. But then, we weren't in so much need of the universe administering a smack upside the head on the topic.

P.S. that's one gorgeous flower!

Some flower talk
I do a walking app called Pikmin bloom, and you collect nectar, grow flowers collect petals, plant petals to get more flowers, which is part of a reward system for walking. It was taken from a nintendo franchise, Pikmin

Anyway, the flower for this month is a frangipani or plumeria. The fact it has two names is interesting. Not mentioned in the Wikipedia is that the British and US pronunciations are quite different


That's my flower related comment

I adore frangipanis! One of my favourite things from childhood, unseen (and unsmelt, worse luck) lo these many years ...

"Not mentioned in the Wikipedia is that the British and US pronunciations are quite different"

Well of COURSE they are!
Just like how the word "trunk" (referring to a car part) is pronounced "boot" in the UK!

Or is it Throatwarbler-Mangrove? I always get those two mixed up.

you collect nectar, grow flowers collect petals, plant petals to get more flowers

I can see getting flowers from nectar. It would, after all, likely include some pollen/seeds. But from just petals?

Learn something new every day. Today: stem cells in flower petals.

Just like how the word "trunk" (referring to a car part) is pronounced "boot" in the UK!

Or how "petrol" is pronounced "gas" in the US.

I used to work a few weeks a year in the US, on a trading floor with breakfast on offer. It took me a while to learn, with the help of daily blank looks from the serving staff, that one needs to pronounce "porridge" as "oatmeal".

It took me most of my adult life and many many English novels to realize that porridge wasn't some kind of stew. ;-)

The high temperature here in Fort Collins, CO on July 5 was 62 °F. We got three times the normal amount of rain in June. We're most of the way to the usual annual total already, and haven't got to monsoon season yet.

The unusual cool wet weather is the consequence of circulation around big heat domes farther east.

Yeah and what on earth are Cilantro (Spanish) and eggplant? But then the English use (the French) courgette, rather than the of course much more reasonable (Italian) zucchini.

Over this way we distinguish leaves vs seeds by different names. Cilantro is the leaves, coriander is the seeds.

Chickpeas and garbanzo beans are interchangeable names for the same thing in the US, and sometimes you see them called ceci beans (ceci being the Italian word as far as I know).


Other transatlantic mystifications: when I was with my Irish girlfriend, we got crossed up on plans once because she used "call" (as in "I'll call tomorrow") to mean visit, or go to someone's house, whereas for me it strictly meant a phone call. If she had said "I'll call on Alice tomorrow," I would have known what she meant.

Eggplant in Italian is melanzana. My grandma, who was born in Italy, called it something that might be spelled out as "moo-lin-yons" -- I'm sure a dialect form coupled with the fact that she often applied the English plural form to Italian words. She also said "yous" as the plural of "you," though in general her English was fine and she could read and write both languages.

Cavatelli: "cuh-vuh-dills"

"Muh-NEST" -- a soup of greens, maybe beans, and garlic. Probably related to the word minestrone, but very different from what seems to be commonly called minestrone, which is a thicker soup. (Dialect again, and regional dishes, I suppose.)

Nice memories.

I guess I can't threadjack an open thread, and my own at that, but I have veered off from the two cultures separated by a common language, so I will stop now.

And then, an etymology quest for another time: how did the same vegetable get to be called aubergine, eggplant, and melanzana?

But then the English use (the French) courgette, rather than the of course much more reasonable (Italian) zucchini.

Summer squash.

But I guess "courgette" implies it's a smaller version of a "courg". Maybe that's what you get when you forget to pick them soon enough, and they turn into "baseball bat" size.
Done that. Amazing how the fnckers can hide under the leaves until "crap, how did THAT get there?!?"

That is the right size for zucchini lasagna, and you'll never find that ginormous size in a store.

Amazing how the fnckers can hide under the leaves

Speaking of hiding under the leaves, my son was about five years old when I went outside and found him in the garden cutting the leaves off the pumpkin plants, because the leaves were shading the pumpkins and he thought the pumpkins needed more sunshine. ;-)

And speaking of gardening, home-grown vegetables are a wonderful thing, but far more beautiful to look at than anything else I ever grew was a perfect, shiny, unblemished eggplant.

(Stopped gardening long ago. Bad knees, skin subject to difficulties from the sun, etc.)

Amazing how the fnckers can hide under the leaves.

How to double your crop of green beans. (Also work pretty well for tomatoes.) Go thru the garden, picking every ripe one you can find. Then send your spouse** out, which will produce at least 75% of you original haul. Then go thru again yourself, to bring your haul up to double.

Works with marvelous consistency.

** Lacking a spouse, or at least one willing to play, you can merely restart yourself at the same end of the planting for a second time. Nowhere near as productive, but still will get you at least 1/3 more than a single pass.

That is the right size for zucchini lasagna, and you'll never find that ginormous size in a store.

We call them marrows when they are big. There has been a lot of controversy about whether courgettes are just small, or adolescent, marrows. I believe the answer is that they are, but I am prepared to be contradicted by any lurking botanists.

Things we don't seem to have here, except in maybe very expensive specialty stores: broccoli rabe, ramps, garlic scapes. I have read that ramps are what we call wild garlic, but I have also read that they are some kind of wild leek. It's a mystery.

A perfect aubergine is indeed a beautiful thing, but I have a great weakness for the look (and taste!) of globe artichokes. They are rather expensive here; I think wistfully of when I lived briefly in California, and could buy great nets of them so that I could use them just for the hearts. (I also think of how, in Italy or Turkey, you can see market traders sitting and trimming the raw artichokes down to the hearts, it is astonishing how fast they can do it, and how sharp their knives have to be.) I have seen individual artichokes for sale here for £5 each, and even in Marks and Spencer I pay over £2.

Oh, another US v UK name: we call sunchokes Jerusalem artichokes (because of their membership of the sunflower family - the Jerusalem is a corruption of "girasole").

Coincidentally, I made garlic scapes for the first time tonight -- bought some at the farmstand of my state senator yesterday, along with eggs. They were okay -- not all that special, but then I didn't put much special effort into the cooking.

I love artichokes. When I was a kid, my grandma and aunts used to make stuffed artichokes on special occasions -- the stuffing was based on bread crumbs spiced with (probably) oregano, parsley, parmesan cheese ... Stuffing was placed inside each leaf (?) -- then the artichokes were boiled IIRC. We loved scraping the bit of "meat" off each leaf with our teeth -- after dipping in butter, of course. I have never had the patience to make that dish.

Janie, I boil them (no stuffing), and then scrape each leaf with my teeth as you describe, but after dipping into vinaigrette (our kind - oil, vinegar, mustard) not butter. They may be my favourite vegetable, only rivalled by just-cut asparagus. Italian ways of cooking them are wonderful. Have you ever had the Roman dish, carciofi alla giudia?

GftNC -- no, I had to look that up, and it looks delicious, but I'm sure I haven't had it.

My grandparents were peasants from near Naples. I'm sure their dishes and dialect were all local to that area, and I haven't eaten other Italian food very much in my adult life. (One notable exception: a dish that was made especially for me and my Irish girlfriend in a high-end restaurant in Dublin -- long story, but the name of the dish is very like my last name. My girlfriend's friend was the dessert chef in that restaurant.)

Have never been to Italy.....not a very high likelihood that I'll ever go now, given my age and finances and the state of the world.

Artichokes are a wonder. Albeit a lot of work to eat, and a lot of fodder for the compost heap for each one.

Not sure how often I would be willing to shell out for some. But happily we have one plant in the back yard which is a determined perennial. It thrives on benign neglect, and provide a steady supply.

On a vaguely related note, this symptom of Israel going down the crazy rabbit hole.

In 2018, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared that artichokes are not kosher, since the dense leaves could conceal non-kosher insects. This sowed consternation among Roman Jews, who resisted the declaration, argued that the artichokes used for this signature dish [carciofi alla giudia] have leaves so tight that insects cannot enter, and emphasized the importance and deep cultural roots of the dish for the Italian Jewish community.
But perhaps they are hoping to eject all non-Israeli Jews (i.e. those not readily under their control) from the fold.

Would that be veggie mamzerization?

I have never heard anything about the Chief Rabbinate that did not fortify my opinion that they are a bunch of racist nazis-in-all-but-name.

My grandparents were peasants from near Naples. I'm sure their dishes and dialect were all local to that area

According to current thinking (and mine!), this probably means that (to the extent they cooked for you) you probably ate more deliciously, and more healthily, than most of your American (and British) generation. I particularly love the sound of your grandmother's minestra, which sounds very close to something I cook often (minestra is what an Italian friend used to call it). It is more brothy than most soups which seem to be called minestrone, and does not have tomato in it either. I think tomato is used too indiscriminately in most American and British "Italian" cooking.

GftNC -- you will keep me going all day at this rate.

Grandma pretty much had a pot of greens on the stove at all times. My dad didn't like them, so we didn't have that soup at home (my mom learned a lot of the Italian recipes from Grandma so she could cook what Dad liked). I sometimes ruefully wonder if the greens made the difference between Grandma living into her nineties and my dad dying at 71.

I think you're right about the food we ate -- it was very tasty, and healthy too. Both my grandmas had gardens, and my non-Italian grandma canned -- when my mom was a child, Grandma even canned meat that she was given by neighboring farmers (long story; she was widowed at 25...). There were none of the artificial foods that became so common during my childhood, like instant mashed potatoes.

On the other hand, my uncle (one of the Italian ones) told me that during *his* childhood, when they were very very poor, sometimes they ate rice with sugar on it because they didn't have anything else.

My closest cousin was half a year older than me, and we spent a lot of time at each other's houses. Her mom, also the aunt I was closest too, cooked "sauce" (tomato sauce) and meatballs for the week (probably several meals' worth) on Saturdays. Eventually they all made sauce with some of the components coming out of cans (Contadina brand). As to brands, a big metal can of Philipo Berio olive oil sat beside each stove.

"Sauce" was a generic word meaning tomato sauce. "Cheese" was a generic word meaning parmesan. For any other kind of cheese, you had to specify. No one dreamed of pre-grated parmesan -- you grated it yourself off the chunk, and as kids we stood around ready to grab the slightly bigger pieces as a treat. (Along with raw meatball mix....)

I have often wondered in later years about the economics of buying parmesan in those days -- good cheese isn't cheap now, and these people were not well off. But I suppose 1) it was possibly proportionally cheaper then; and 2) it was a staple of life, so you didn't stint if you could possibly afford it.

The cooks in my (Catholic) schools for 12 years were mostly Italian moms -- we ate well at school too, even if not expensively.

Some households had a spread of food out at all times in case company came.

“Yous eat!” – my grandma would say, with a certain hand gesture. I miss her.

I think tomato is used too indiscriminately in most American and British "Italian" cooking.

Whether it's pasta or pizza, it's way better with pesto instead.

I'm sure I have told these stories before, but what the heck, it's a dank, gray Sunday morning and I need entertainment.

Pizza was made with thinnish crust, not deep dish by any means, baked in a cookie sheet (so not round). Tomato sauce, then oregano, parsley, and parmesan (which were also used in making the sauce, along with garlic). Nothing else!

You should hear my brother (and before they died, some of my aunts and uncles) go on about the stuff that people eat on pizza nowadays -- not just, say, pineapple, but onions! "That ain't pizza," my brother will say. It loses a lot without the tone of voice..... ;-)

Personally, back when I used to make pizza-like food for myself, my favorite topping was broccoli and walnuts. I'm not a purist. ;-)

Grandma also made what we thought of as "pizza without the sauce" -- kind of like foccaccia, which I never heard of in my childhood. I don't know what that was called in her tradition.

Not long ago something reminded me of a hard, twice-baked ring bread that we had only very occasionally -- so occasionally that although I loved it, I couldn't remember what it was called.

Good old Google: friselle. That was eaten olive oil + vinegar + herbs and garlic spooned onto it, like you (GftNC) described for dipping artichoke leaves.

Last story for now, which I also think I've told before but which I love for what it implies about cultural clues.

I went "home" (to Ohio) once when I was in my thirties. When I went to see that favorite aunt, the one who made sauce on Saturdays, I asked how her wrist was doing. She had bad rheumatoid arthritis and she had recently had surgery on her wrist. She said, "Eh, it's coming along, but I can't make meatballs yet."

Later I went to my brother and sister-in-law's house. My sister-in-law had also had wrist surgery, for a different reason. I asked how the recovery was doing and she said, "Eh, it's moving better now, but I can't make meatballs yet."

Oh, as to tomato: "sauce" was a staple, as I implied above. But we ate plenty of foods without tomato, or tomato sauce. At big holiday meals, spaghetti (with sauce, of course) was just one of the minor preliminary dishes. On a random weeknight it might be the main dish, with meatballs, of course. And a green salad.

Italian wedding soup..... now there's a treasure. But a nuisance to make -- so many moving parts. In my grandma's version, anyhow, there was no tomato.

Per wj: I love pesto, though I don't remember that we had it as kids. And now, almost every ingredient in it is a migraine trigger for me if the timing is wrong, so I only eat it in small amounts as a treat now and then.

I still use Filippo Berio evoo as my main olive oil! But I have recently started using more cold-pressed rapeseed oil (which I believe you call canola), since I have various friends with heart conditions, and I believe it is even more heart healthy than evoo. I also prefer it when making mayonnaise, which I do very frequently in the summer since I discovered the magical immersion-blender method, which takes approximately 30 seconds, via Serious Eats. I do tweak the recipe a bit for slightly more umami, I include some garlic (not as much as for ailoli), and a squeeze of anchovy paste - this is for a general use house mayo.

Yes, I have read about the phenomenon of "sauce". And since your family came from the south of Italy, they came by it honestly! But I find the takeover of Italian food by tomato regrettable - I like when regional differences are retained in food. I do get through phenomenal amounts of parmesan, though, in the piece of course!

I use Filippo Berio evoo as my everyday oil too -- usually have some other brand on hand as well, for variety's sake. Yummmmmmmmm!

Parmesan is one of those migraine triggers for me. Sad...... Although it gets tangled up with other triggers, like certain weathers, or whatevr. Not an exact science.

Extra Virginity -- fascinating book about the millennia-long history of olive oil, cheating, certifying, etc.

You should hear my brother (and before they died, some of my aunts and uncles) go on about the stuff that people eat on pizza nowadays -- not just, say, pineapple, but onions! "That ain't pizza," my brother will say. It loses a lot without the tone of voice..... ;-)

Straight people...

When it comes to pizza, I'm kinda pan-sexual. I think of it as the pizza/flatbread continuum and I am up for a wide range of it.

In fairness to my brother, he's saying it jokingly. More or less.

I'm kinda pansexual about it too, in a general way. But keep the pineapple away from me.... I don't like pineapple in any form, and I also don't like much in the way of sweets except chocolate. So really, I'm with my brother on pineapple pizza. It sounds awful. :-)

My favorite incarnation of pineapple on pizza was one we did with pineapple, black olives, smoked salmon, asiago, and rosemary. Hit it with some crushed red pepper to add a kick.

I like pineapple as long as you have contrasting flavors strong enough to compete with it and keep it from getting too sweet.

Salt, fat, acid, heat.

Janie, have you tried pecorino, or really hard, aged gouda, to sub for parmesan? Or do all hard cheeses trigger your migraine? If so, poor you! I was thinking of you when I made polenta earlier, so that it sets before I broil it tomorrow to give to a friend with an intense lamb shoulder ragu. Good polenta can certainly absorb a lot of parmesan (and butter!).

My migraines and ocular migraines (visual weirdness that sometimes precedes a headache, and sometimes isn't followed by one) are irregular and unpredictable. I know some of the reliable triggers; on the other hand, some things that are triggers for other people aren't for me, or aren't very readily (e.g. chocolate). The most thorough and believable list I have of common triggers includes all hard cheeses, in fact most cheeses, but I can eat a lot of cheeses without a problem.

It's complicated, and the reading I've done suggests that people differ a lot in how migraines are triggered and how they manifest. Weather seems to play a role. Seasonal allergies can be a pile-on. Etc. I had headaches my whole life and stubbornly believed they were sinus headaches, until in my late fifties I started having the ocular migraines as well.

I'm careful enough with my diet that I keep them pretty well at bay. Sometimes I throw caution to the winds, and then I usually pay a price. A friend of mind takes medication for her migraines, but the meds make her woozy. Another friend takes large doses of I think riboflavin, and it helps her; I tried it for a few months and it didn't seem to make any difference for me.

Long answer to a short question, sorry, but I find such phenomena interesting.... This is the tip of the iceberg of what I've read, tried, and been told, so news of miracle treatments will fall on jaded ears. Er, eyes.

I get ocular migraines too, but very luckily indeed no headaches. I had one "normal" migraine 25 years ago, when under unbearable stress, and it was so bad I thought I was having a stroke. The ambulance guys insisted on taking me to hospital, and I was there all night. No stroke - diagnosis: migraine. Thank all the gods, nothing like it ever since, but the infrequent ocular ones started about 10 years ago. They're easy to live with, and generally don't last more than about 20 minutes.

Since language is an often touched-on subject here I thought this might be of interest.

"Take ancient Akkadian. This early Semitic language is one of the best attested from the ancient world. Hundreds of thousands, by some accounts more than a million, Akkadian texts have been discovered and today lie in museums and universities. Many have even been digitized online. Each one has the potential to teach us about the life, politics, and beliefs of the first civilizations, yet this knowledge remains locked behind the time and manpower necessary to translate them."
New AI translates 5,000-year-old cuneiform tablets instantly: It's like combining Google Translate with a time machine.

Thanks, Charles. That is way cool!

From CharlesWT's article:

As difficult as that process is, it’s nothing compared to the challenge of translating an ancient language into a modern tongue. These translators must not only resurrect extinct languages from written sources but also have intimate knowledge of how the cultures that produced those sources evolved over centuries. If that weren’t enough, their sources are often fragmented, leaving crucial context lost to the ages.

The AI translations are going to provide an easier starting point for translation by giving a rough idea of what is in the texts. It will help scholars sort through the archive to select interesting documents on which to focus their efforts, but AI is not going to relieve the context problem. We still need translatiors to get at that knowledge about life, politics, and beliefs.

When I attended St. John's College in Santa Fé, every student spent their first three semesters learning Ancient Greek and doing some translation work to give us insight into the process for all the classic Greek and Roman texts we were reading in the first two years.

I did not give it the diligence it required to ever feel comfortable with the language. We did not have a learning program that was built around creating functional language learning. We had grammar and lexica, and some familiarity with good English translations of the texts. What we were doing resembles, I think , the work that AI is doing on these texts.

And what that produced in tutorials was a fertile ground for people who knew very little contextual knowledge about Ancient Greece (less than what a classics scholar has, but more than the average person who had not read any primary texts has) to bend the texts to fit whatever hobby horse they brought with them. The conversations were engaging and often fascinating (when they weren't frustrating and hopelessly derailed by trolling - much like the internet) but no one really had the critical perspective to say which of the translations we came up with best fit what we can know of the intentions and understanding of the original writers and readers.

Oh shit, are we back at that discussion of Originalism again? Have I created a thread singularity? Sorry.

TLDR - the AI mechanical translations, to provide any real insight, will necessitate that we have even more qualified Akkadian translators than we have now, else fancy and misinterpretation will start to overwhelm a well grounded understanding of the time and culture.

...translating Akkadian is a two-step process. First, scholars must transliterate the cuneiform signs. That is, they take the cuneiform and rewrite it using the similar-sounding phonetics of the target language...Scholars then take their transliteration of the text and translate it into a modern language.

Really? If I read Russian (not well) I don't transliterate it first. I'm sure that Hebrew and Greek scholars read the language as written. Why would Akkadian be different?

A friend originally from New Jersey (I added the New because the need to clarify I'm not talking about the Channel island, but when asked where he's from Frankie will say "Jersey"), and now back living there, is of Italian-American heritage and a pretty good cook. When he lived in Atlanta he took a stab for a bit with catering under the name The Cranky Yankee. In his family/region, what folks are calling "sauce" here is called "gravy".

I've heard of that "gravy" usage. Gravy in my world was that brown stuff made from meat juices thickened with flour to put on mashed potatoes. (And maybe other stuff, like turkey on T-Day.)

But now that you've brought it up, I'm not sure if my Italian people ever made it. The other side of my heritage is "old American" (English origins, people who came over here 400 years ago) -- obviously a whole different food tradition.

If I read Russian (not well) I don't transliterate it first. I'm sure that Hebrew and Greek scholars read the language as written. Why would Akkadian be different?

As an uninformed guess, it might have something to do with just how different the letters involved are. Yes, people learning Japanese or Chinese can learn to read equally exotic writing. But I think it might make a difference to be able to actually talk with others in a new language. Just a matter of wrapping one's head around what is happening in the language.

Yup, gravy is indeed the brown stuff over here, usually but these days not necessarily thickened with flour (although we only got the "jus" usage comparatively recently, apart from classic French menus). Further to the earlier porridge discussion, I didn't know for many, many years that gruel (a mainstay in much literature, usually for invalids, valetudinarians like Mr Woodhouse, or the extremely poor) was just very, very thin porridge.

The difficulty of reading Akkadian cuneiform, according to the people working on Natural Language Processing for the texts ("Reading Akkadian cuneiform using natural language processing" at PLOS One):

The translation of cuneiform texts into modern languages requires three steps: (1) a sign-by-sign transliteration; (2) word segmentation, i.e. joining the individual sign readings into words which are expressed by a hyphen (-) or a dot (.); (3) translation into a modern language. The first stage is vital because of the polyvalent nature of the cuneiform script, i.e. almost every sign has different possible readings.

Generally speaking, cuneiform sign-values can be divided into three categories: (1) logographic, one sign (or a combination of signs) representing one word, and usually written in capital letters in modern transliterations; (2) phonetic, one sign representing one syllable, and usually written in italics in transliterations; and (3) determinatives, which are semantic classifiers whose purpose is to aid the correct reading of the word which either follows or precedes them. In transliterations, they are written in superscript. Thus, while modern scholarly convention differentiates between logograms, phonetic readings, and determinatives, the cuneiform signs are exactly the same for all three. For example, the sign can be read as the logogram DINGIR, meaning “god”; it can be read syllabically an, as part of a word; and it can be a determinative d, appearing before divine names. For example, the name of Sîn, the Babylonian moon god, will be written and it will appear in transliteration as d30 (the moon god was written logographically with the sign for the number 30; the number of days in a lunar month).

Additionally, each of these categories can contain more than one value for any given period or genre of the Akkadian language. Thus, the same sign can be read logographically DINGIR, “god”, but also AN, “sky”. In addition to the most common phonetic reading an, which is found in texts from all periods, the sign has nine more phonetic readings, some of which are only found in particular periods, regions or genres (for example, ilu in Nuzi, le4 in El-Amarna, or šubul in scholarly texts).


Appears to be open access. I did not see any "access provided..." notifications when I looked over the page.

although we only got the "jus" usage comparatively recently, apart from classic French menus

What do you mean by "the 'jus' usage"? I suppose usage differs with that word, too, but to me "jus" is meat juices, perhaps reduced but without any thickener added. Google is very confusing about jus vs gravy....although I did find my otions confirmed in at least one place.

I had a roast beef sandwich au jus for the first time (and the only time until I was an adult) when my aunt and grandma took me to the open air market in Hollywood when I was 11. I thought it was awfullly sophisticated and exotic!

Language fun over here: the prevalence on diner menus of "roast beef sandwith with au jus."

Kinda like "Please prepay in advance," which I saw on some gas pumps a while back.

"Gas" = the word that is pronounced "petrol" over there, if I'm not mistaken.

spelling..... diners actually do spell sandwich right; i sometimes don't ;-)

French Dip is the common term in my dining out experience.

Language fun over here: the prevalence on diner menus of "roast beef sandwith with au jus."

Kinda like "Please prepay in advance," which I saw on some gas pumps a while back.

My local favorite is people giving an address on one of the roads here as nnnn "the el camino" [emphasis added].

Beyond the issues with script, for modern languages, you have a large corpus to train yourself on to be able to read the script. For something like Akkadian, even though there is a large number of texts, access and ability isn't really there in the same way as Russian, Hebrew, or Greek.

The el camino is like the hoi polloi, although I guess more people know Spanish than ancient Greek. And yes, I've seen "with au jus". What I meant before was that we would once have called the unthickened meat juices gravy, because jus was not in common usage until fairly recently, except in high end French cuisine. And actually, jus may not be in particularly common usage even now, except among foodies. How about gruel, was my ignorance widespread hereabouts?

As with porridge, until recently I thought gruel was a soup-like concoction, not cereal -- would probably have said thinner than porridge, but I'm not sure.

The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The master, in his cook's uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long grace was said over the short commons. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

'Please, sir, I want some more.'


The Oliver scene reminds me that to me, oatmeal is strictly a breakfast food, so to see porridge and gruel connected with other meals must have contributed to my misunderstanding of what the words mean.

to me, oatmeal is strictly a breakfast food,

The only good reason to eat oatmeal at any other time would be in oatmeal raisin cookies. (Soooo superior to chocolate chip!)

The Alhambra, the alcohol - normal
The hoi polloi - frowned upon
The kremlin, the vodka - normal
The magna carta - frowned upon

It's as if the grammarians who came up with these rules knew only Greek and Latin (and some English).

Oh, and nothing is a 'jus' outside french cuisine.

When I was in grade school, the cafeteria made chocolate oatmeal cookies. The ingredients were blended together and brought to a boil in a large pot. Then spooned onto cookie sheets where it would spread into a cookie about a quarter inch thick. If done right the cookies would harden without crystallizing.

Oh, and nothing is a 'jus' outside french cuisine.

What are you, some kind of purist? You might as well try to stop people from calling bread-like stuff with pineapple on it "pizza." ;-)

As I said, I had my first taste of something called "au jus" in Hollywood 1961, so it's not like it's some newfangled thing to serve something with that label over here. I've been told that that market was quite upscale, plus you know, Hollywood -- it was probably full of well-traveled people who looked for things like that. The crusty bread was really good too.

The only good reason to eat oatmeal at any other time would be in oatmeal raisin cookies. (Soooo superior to chocolate chip!)

Oh, wj, now I despair of you completely. Being a Republican is one thing, but preferring oatmeal raisin to oatmeal chocolate chip? Irredeemable.

I used to get into the food line in high school and look eagerly to the other end, wondering if the cookies I saw in the distance would turn out to be chocolate chip (yay!) or oatmeal with raisin (blech).

We make porridge oats (oatmeal) into flapjacks, often including raisins. (I'm told that 'flapjack' means 'pancake' in the US, as I dare say it ought to.)

Calling bread-like stuff with pineapple on it "pizza" is OK. Which doesn't keep it from being an abomination.

Janie, it's fortunate that I don't much care for chocolate. Since I'm married to a chocoholic, and she's disinclined to share. Think about it. Would you rather have a spouse who loves chocolate, too? Or one who will let you keep it all for yourself?

Heh. It's hard for me to imagine a household without sufficient chocolate laid in for anyone who wants it. I come from a family of chocolate-lovers and my best friends are chocolate-lovers and I guess it's great good fortune that we are all able to feed our habits unreservedly.

More seriously, I'm definitely "addicted" to chocolate, but I don't require great quantities. I keep a good stash of Alter Eco Burnt Caramel bars around, and a sprinkling of other good brands/flavors, but I only eat a couple of squares a day. Which I don't consider immoderate.

Lately I've been worried that my local stores are going to stop carrying Alter Eco -- which will be a bummer if it comes true.

If you ever want to get your wife an "exotic" chocolate treat (i.e. all the way from Maine), have a look at Wilbur's of Maine -- even in this era of readily available, very high quality, very expensive chocolate, Wilbur's is a solid keeper.

(We're not Brussels yet, however.....)

We did an extended family zoom a while back and my nephew said he was getting like his grandma, my mother, in that every time he ate, he had to eat something chocolate afterwards. We all laughed, recognizing the phenomenon.

Related to Pineapple Pizza: the interesting history of the "Toast Hawaii" in Germany (apparently a variant of the "Grilled Spamwich" introduced by American GIs).

Hawaiian toast brought a touch of the exotic into everyday life and was thus part of the conspicuous consumption of the post-war period in Germany. According to the journalist Gudrun Rothaug, the dish bundled the desires of an entire generation onto a few square centimeters of wheat bread


Some people around here call tomato sauce gravy, particularly if they or their families are from South Philly, even if they aren't of Italian descent. My wife is one of those people. My Italian cousins from Ohio (Youngstown area) never have called it gravy.

One distinction I have heard is that it's only gravy if it has meat in it. So if there are meatballs or sausage in it or if it's a meat sauce like bolognese, it's gravy. If it's marinara with no meat in it, then it's sauce. I'm not sure that I've actually met anyone who makes that distinction, but it's something I believe I read somewhere.

I've probably mentioned it before, but it's sort of like the sprinkles-versus-jimmies debate. The multi-colored ones are sprinkles (i.e. rainbow sprinkles) and the chocolate ones are jimmies (or chocolate jimmies). But most people call them one or the other regardless of what color/flavor they are. And they want to punch the people who call them the other name.

hsh -- A conversation in the Harvard Square Brigham's (a Boston area ice cream store chain long ago) in 1968:

Me: "I want a chocolate cone..."

Kid behind the counter: "With or without?" (Except said with such a thick Boston accent, and so incomprehensible as to content, that I had to ask him to repeat it.)

Me: Oh. With or without what?

Kid: Jimmies.

Me: What are jimmies?

Kid: Sprinkles...

I don't think a distinction was made between chocolate and multi-colored; they were all called jimmies there/then. Plus, it was automatic that jimmies were offered; that had not been true back home, although some ice cream places had chocolate sprinkles if you asked for them. (IIRC. It's a long time ago.)

I also had to learn that drinking fountains were called bubblers. and pop was called soda or tonic. (Also said with a particularly noticeable Boston pronunciation.) I have lived in New England for so long that when I hear my Ohio relatives say "pop" I feel like they must have gotten lost in a time warp.

One big challenge I have with food names is remembering that, if I ask for a milk shake, I have to explicitly say "No whipped cream". Why the default is an adulterated shake is beyond my comprehension.

Here's something:


Some of the distinctions included are completely foreign to me. I guess I never thought about the doughnut thing, but that one works where I live.

I am laughing about the "jimmies/sprinkes are spherical, jimmies/sprinkles are elongated" in hsh's link. Before I got to those entries, I wanted to point out that non-pareils are spherical, and jimmies/sprinkles are not. ;-)

hsh -- I saw that survey, or something like it, a long time ago and didn't know how to find it again. So thanks!!!

fascinating...where I grew up (the Inland Empire of eastern WA), nobody ever called sprinkles "jimmies" and putting whipped cream on a milkshake was fairly rare (also, beating to death soft serve ice cream was not a "milkshake" either).

Rounding out my prejudices....I find pineapple on pizza to be anathama. Tomato sauce is simply not in any way to be confused with gravy...and I still don't quite know what "grits" are, but hey, I grew up in a time when vegetables only came from a can.

Grits are a type of porridge? What the hell?


where I grew up (the Inland Empire of eastern WA), nobody ever called sprinkles "jimmies" and putting whipped cream on a milkshake was fairly rare (also, beating to death soft serve ice cream was not a "milkshake" either).

Rounding out my prejudices....I find pineapple on pizza to be anathama. Tomato sauce is simply not in any way to be confused with gravy...and I still don't quite know what "grits" are

I find myself in complete agreement.

The whipped cream on mild shakes seems to have arisen in the intervening decades. Cue the ritual complaint about how the world has gone downhill since we were kids.

Groundhog/Woodchuck/Whistlepig/"WTF is that thing"?

Pretty sure that a half-dozen "vocabulary terms" could narrow down where someone grew up in the US, with zero reference to accent.

Milkshakes at the venerable Zesto (generally called Zesto's) have never had whipped cream added.


However when I lived in Austin in late 80s/early 90s there was a (now long gone) joint called Mad Dog and Bean's which did put whipped cream on their shakes. They were so thick you had to work on them with a spoon, I didn't mind the novelty of digging through the cream to get to the shake. It never occurred to me to ask for no cream, but I can't imagine that would have been a problem.

I have never heard of a milk shake with whipped cream. Then again, milk shakes were never my preferred treat, hot fudge sundaes were; it was my mom who got the milk shakes. When I was a kid, we'd go to the Dairy Queen, Mom and Dad and 4 kids, and I'd get the biggest hot fudge sundae they sold, inhale it before we got out of the parking lot, and wait for my mom not to finish her chocolate milk shake, so I could have the rest.

I also used to inhale the fisherman's platter at the No-Name restaurant on the wharf in Boston, *after* inhaling a bowl (not a cup) of their almost-solid-fish fish chowder. I did this while barely clearing 100 pounds... Then, in my mid-twenties, the fun stopped, and I couldn't eat like that anymore without gaining weight. Now a kiddie-size ice cream cone is almost more than I can tolerate.

A tiny taster of burnt caramel ice cream with hot fudge on it at Toscanini's in Cambridge....heaven. The burnt caramel is so strong they warn you in case you haven't had it before. (Google says they're still there.... Maybe someday I will be too.)


Okay, this has been niggling at me ever since wj mentioned whipped cream on top of milk shakes. It's another vocabulary mystery one had to learn in Boston 50+ years ago: a "milk shake" was flavored milk. If you wanted what sensible people called a milk shake, you had to pronounce it "frappe" (one syllable).

I have never knowingly eaten jimmies/sprinkles, but here they are called "hundreds and thousands" as I see they are in one small part of the US.

My impression is that grits in their savoury incarnation are almost identical to polenta, although I guess with different cheese added.

I have never had, or been offered, a milkshake with whipped cream on top. Weirdly, although I am not that keen on chocolate, on the rare occasions when I have a milkshake I like it to be as chocolatey as possible.

I'm not an ice cream fanatic either, although the extremely strongly flavoured ones at the River Cafe, like Espresso or Burnt Caramel, are pretty delicious. I will certainly remember the name Toscanini's in case I ever go back to Cambridge Mass (unlikely, since both sets of friends who used to live there have moved away).

I may be one of the few people in the world who is not very keen on pizza (even in Naples). If I have one every few years, that's quite enough. The idea of pineapple on a pizza is horrible to me.

Finally, the only foodstuff I have ever heard called nonpareils are particularly good, small capers.

Never a dull moment.

Controversy about the term "jimmies," and a mention of Brigham's Ice Cream. And nostalgia about living in the Boston area.

This is what the term "nonpareils" really brings to my mind.

more....I agree with Erik Loomis about ketchup.

The only type of grits I have ever encountered are hominy grits

Grits and polenta have some similarities but are definitely not identical. Then there's the wide variety of grits based on the source. The grits one might get at a Waffle House will be very different (usually not in a good way) for what you would get at a gastropub or semi-upscale restaurant serving shrimp & grits as an entree.

Agree with Priest. The grits you get for grits and gravy are thicker and coarser than what you usually get at a more trendy eatery (say, in Sriracha Shrimp & Grits with a Red Ale Reduction). And both tend to be less firm in my experience than polenta.

Another good substitute or alternative would be couscous - the smaller kind, not the pearl couscous, which is itself quite wonderful.

[JanieM] This is what the term "nonpareils" really brings to my mind.
Just so.

Aha, I have just seen from looking it up after nous's and Priest's comments that polenta and grits are made from different kinds of corn. But, as a matter of interest, on the firm or less firm question, I can tell you as someone who cooks polenta quite often (and the proper stuff, not the pre-treated kind) that the firmness depends entirely on how much fluid you cook them in (I use the Serious Eats suggestion of 5 parts water:1 part polenta, and soak them overnight for quicker cooking), and whether you are eating them "wet" or "dry". The former are served hot after adding butter and parmesan, while still flowing, while the latter are allowed to set (which they do no matter how runny they were) and can then be fried or broiled in slices.

Those nonpareils are not for me! Unlike the capers. But you live and learn....

I meant to respond to lj's comment up top where he mentioned "frangipani or plumeria."

Oddly, I would pronounce frangipani the British way. I'm pretty sure I've never heard it pronounced out loud, but the British way is the way I imagine it when I encounter it in writing.

I checked with Google and it seems that the pronunciation of peony, the flower in the picture up top, is more or less the same in the UK and here. Oddly, I had a college friend from Baltimore who pronounced it "pee-OH-nee," which I have never heard anywhere else.

I make vegetarian gravy for the vegetarians at Sunday roast dinners, so the meat thing isn't a thing as far as I'm concerned - even if the definition defines it as a sauce made with the juices from meat.

This is the sum total of my grits knowledge.
...Now if I don't love you baby, I tell you
Grits ain't grocery, eggs ain't poultry
And Mona Lisa was a man..

What are you, some kind of purist?

Purist me wants to rant against these children's foods and drinks you all consume, whatever names you give them.

Liberal me says you should have what you like.

Purist me wants to rant against these children's foods and drinks you all consume,

Enlighten us, do, as to what you would consider "adult food". (And do "adult drinks" extend beyond those including ethanol?)

I guess I've never heard peony pronounced in conversation, or if I did I didn't know what the person was talking about, since in my head I've always pronounced it like Janie's Baltimore friend.

Peony is a not uncommon girl's name in HK (I think peonies are one of the frequent symbols in traditional Chinese art), and they too pronounce it Pee-OH-nee.

Mostly, in my head I've pronounced it PEE-oh-nee.

The world is full of words I've read frequently, but never heard aloud.

For me it's "PEE-uh-nee," with a schwa in the middle rather than a hard "O." I live less than 100 miles from Baltimore and have never heard "pee-OH-nee."

English pronunciation of it is pretty much hsh's. I love peonies.

Yeah, I've always wondered if pee-OH-nee was maybe an archaic pronunciation, or a survival from some narrow familial/regional context. I don't think it's that it was a word she had read but never heard pronounced out loud, because she was an avid gardener.

I could get going on the word "tinnitus," but I don't have time right now. It's an example, though, of my theory that language changes because some "cool kid" does something a certain way, and everyone wants to be like the cool kids......... lj can comment on my theory from a professional POV. ;-)

In German that flower (Päonie) is either Pä-OH-nje or Pä-OH-ni-je, i.e. as either 3 or 4 syllables but always with the emphasis on the second syllable.

@Hartmut -- it's not impossible that my friend's surname was originally German. So that might account for her pronunciation -- family tradition carried over from what my grandma would have called "the old country."

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