June 11 ...
A dish is pleasant beyond your expectations. What is there beyond mere delicious or yummy (see previous posts) to describe it? A modern phrase that thankfully seems to be declining is ‘to die for’. I don’t like the phrase, I think it is silly, but I am interested in its origins.
The Roman poet Horace wrote the line Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori , meaning ‘It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country’. The line has been used ever since in a military sense to glorify past or future deaths, but it has not to my knowledge ever been seriously used in a food context until recent times. I don’t intend to get into any sort of existential debate over this, but I will say that I dont think any piece of chocolate cake is worth dying for. You may disagree.
There are many ways to die food related deaths of course, and I don’t just mean by poisoning. They are not sweet deaths however. The seventeenth century chef known as Vatel ran himself through with his sword in 1661 – ashamed when insufficient fish was delivered for the King’s dinner (he was impatient, the fishmonger was running a little late). A
If you yourself do like the phrase ‘to die for’, may I caution you in respect of its written use. I have seen it used in the form of an acronym. Be advised that the acronym TDF can also mean ‘Total Dietary Fibre’ (and it is highly unlikely that the food under discussion fits this category), but even more alarmingly, it can also mean Testis-Determining Factor (the context is purely scientific.)
It is perfectly possible that a food could shock you to death. The cost of the truffles in this recipe, for example.
Take a fat turkey, cleanse and singe it; if you should chance to burst the gall-bladder or intestines, wash the inside of the body very carefully. Then peel three or four pounds of truffles; chop up a handful of the worst with some fat bacon, and put them, into a saucepan, together with the whole truffles, salt, pepper, spices, and a bay leaf; let these ingredients cook over a slow fire for three quarters of an hour ; then take them off, stir, and leave them to cool ; when quite cold, put them in the body of the turkey, sew up the opening, and let the bird imbibe the flavour of the truffles, by their remaining in for several days, if the season permit. When you wish to dress the turkey, cover it with thin broad slices of bacon, and over that, strong paper, and roast it two hours: when nearly done, take off the paper that the bird may brown a few minutes, and serve.
[French domestic cookery, by an English physician. 1825]
Tomorrow’s Story …
Quotation for the Day …
A nuclear power plant is infinently safer than eating, because 300 people choke to death on food every year. Dixy Lee Ray.