Friday, November 27, 2009

A Kind Word for Hash.

Turkey hash is likely to be on the menu in many post-Thanksgiving households in America over the next few days – which realisation caused me to ponder on the word ‘hash.’

To make a hash of something is to make a mess, isnt it? Yet the word originally derived from the French verb hacher, which simply means ‘to chop’ – not to chop messily. ‘Hash’ when applied in a culinary sense certainly refers to chopped or minced food (generally meat), but over and above this the idea is loaded with implications of lukewarm frugality and is totally devoid of any suggestion of deliciousness, is it not?

Who would have thought that hash could preserve domestic harmony? The prolific nineteenth century American cookery book author Thomas Jefferson Murrey had some interesting things to say on the subject of hash, in his book Luncheon, published in New York in 1888. But first, let us reflect upon his remarks on luncheon.

Remarks on Luncheon.
The midday meal of the household is too often an indifferent affair, or consists of ingedients which upset the system instead of benefiting it. … The utilization of the culinary odds and ends, which accumulate in the ice-box and pantry, deserves the highest consideration; for without this it would be impossible to please the palates of the “men-folks”, who, if fed on a continual diet of fresh meats which were but once cooked, would become unbearable. Their nerves would be shattered; and happiness, under such a condition of things, would be impossible.”

There is a lesson here, ladies. Should your men-folk become nervy on account of not being served enough leftovers – give them hash! Our author speaks highly of it, and of course gives several recipes.

HASH: A Kind Word for it.
The paragraph writer who has not penned a slur at the homely fare known as hash is a rara avis, and the poet whose first attempt at doggerel was not a denunciation of boarding-house hash is yet to be found. Slangy men of the world call a hotel or restaurant a “hashery,” signifying that the resort is a place to avoid, it being cheap and not nice. Yet, with all the censure heaped upon it by an unappreciative public, hash is, from a hygienic standpoint, the very best mode of serving food. This statement may seem incredible, but when we consider it a moment we realize the truthfulness of it. Statistics are not wanting to prove that minced food digests almost as soon without being chewed at all as if it had been thoroughly masticated. People who habitually“bolt” their food suffer no inconvenience from the practice when their food is cut very fine.
Most of us eat too rapidly, either from forgetfulness, bad teeth, or in case of hurry ; and the result is derangement of the stomach which in time ends in an almost incurable case of dyspepsia. Hash, then, is the proper food to order in such cases. It need not necessarily be the well-known compound so famihar to all; but served in the form of croquettes, forcemeats, patties, cromisquis, souffles, etc., it is always ac-
ceptable, and may be offered to the most fastidious; for while those various names sound more poetical, they all mean the same thing, simply — hash.

Corned-Beef Hash. — This homely American dish, when- properly prepared, is very acceptable. The brisket part of the beef is the best for this purpose. The rump or very lean meat does not make good hash. Chop up the meat very fine the night before it is wanted; add to it an equal quantity of warm boiled potatoes, moisten them a little with clear soup strongly impregnated with onion flavor. Mix meat and potatoes together, and place in ice box until wanted. The next morning it should be warmed
in a frying pan. A little onion may be added if not objected to. Moisten the hash with hot water or clear soup, and, when quite hot, serve. Some like the hash browned; this is accomplished by using a small quantity of butter, and frying the hash a delicate brown. The pan should be raised to an angle of thirty degrees, and the hash shaped like an omelet, then turned deftly out on a hot dish.

Minced Lamb on Toast. — The cold lamb left from the preceding day is quite accept
able when served in this manner. All fat should be removed, and the meat chopped quite fine, warmed in the pan, moistened with a little stock or hot water, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then arrange on slices of buttered toast. Poached eggs are appreciated by many with this dish. Arrange each egg neatly on top of the meat without breaking it.


We have not ignored hash in the past; one way or another it has featured in a number of stories:
Morton Stanley and Mutton Hash.

Elizabeth (Barrett) and Robert Browning and Saturday Hash.

Hash’d Capons, Pullets, Turkeys, Pheasants, Partridges, or Rabbits.

Corned-Beef Hash, New-England Style. [1885]

To Hash Beef
To Make a Dunelm.

Brisbane Pish-pash

Seven Days with a Leg of Mutton.

Quotation for the Day.

HASH: There is no definition for this word -- nobody knows what hash is.
Ambrose Bierce; Devil’s Dictionary.

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