Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Square Meal.

Lets get it straight. The Internet has it wrong. The Internet does get things wrong sometimes, you know. The phrase ‘square meal’ has nothing at all to do with square trenchers (of bread, wood, pewter, gold, or any other suspected material) as used in the medieval era, nor has it anything at all to do with sailors in the early days of the Royal Navy being served their rations on square wooden plates. The phrase actually references the idea of something ‘square’ being something right – as in ‘fair and square’, and ‘a square deal.’

The OED has the first mention in 1868, with the supporting quotation “Roadside hotel-keepers … calling the miners' attention to their ‘square meals’: by which is meant full meals.” The OED however, is, by definition, English. And it appears that the OED has it wrong too. A‘square drinker’ was known in England in 1611, according to Cotgrove, but a ‘square meal’ seems to have been perpetrated by those pesky Americans over the big water, and there is certainly one reference from 1856, in a Californian newspaper (The Mountain Democrat).

Here is your recipe for the day - a nice treat made from squares of pastry.

Prepare a puff paste … roll it half an inch thick and divide it into square pieces about as large as a sheet of note paper. Mix half a pound of cream cheese with six eggs, a little salt, and two ounces of flour; beat the whole together; take a portion of it about as large as an apple, and lay it upon a corner of the sheets of paste, not too near the edges; cover it with the other corner and make the edges stick together with a little water; turn the edges up, egg the cake over and set it in the oven. Half an hour's baking is sufficient.
Of course you do what is indicated above until no paste remains and you serve the cakes together
Cookery for English households, by a French lady, 1864

Quotation for the Day.

There is only one difference between a long life and a good dinner: that, in the dinner, the sweets come last.
Robert Louis Stevenson.

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