Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nammet and Nunchin.

Today we are going to try to squeeze in nammet and nunchin. Nunchin (nuncheon) was the subject of a previous post, so I don’t need to repeat the whole story, but will help you schedule it in your day by reminding you that the word is not related to ‘noon’ but to ‘nones’ meaning the ninth hour after sunrise, therefore about three in the afternoon – meaning it competes with afternoon tea rather than luncheon.

‘Nammet’ (or nummit), if you remember as far back as Monday, was one of the meals claimed by Dorsetshire harvest workers in times past. Fitting in our nammet is made frustratingly difficult, or perhaps delightfully flexible by the variety of definitions it has attracted over the years.
According to the OED, it is (or was) ‘ A light meal, esp. one taken in the middle of the day’ – in other words, it is luncheon. An eighteenth century source however refers to it as ‘A short intermeal between Breakfast &; Dinner, or between Dinner & Supper’, which give us great latitude. Mr. Grosse, in one of his linguistic works, intriguingly says it is ‘a luncheon before dinner.’ Novelists have opinions on nammit too. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, ‘nammet time’ is ‘around three o’clock’. To add to the confusion (or the flexibility), the novelist John Galsworthy in his book Bit O’Love (1915), has a character say “I give 'im a nummit afore 'e gets up; an' 'e 'as 'is brekjus reg'lar at nine”, making it similar to dewbit, or maybe first breakfast.

I have no idea of the origin of the word ‘nammit’, but I do prefer the explanation that it is the same as, or related to ‘nemmen’ and ‘nemnen’ which are are forms of usage of ‘remnant’ in Middle English. Whenever it is, one carries one’s nammit in a nammit-bag, of which I have read, and of which I wish I was in possession.

For the recipe for the day I give you a nice breakfast cake or currant bun – quite suitable for anything from dewbit to afternoon tea. It is from English Housewifry, by Elizabeth Moxon ( 1764).

To make Breakfast Cakes.
Take a pound of currans well washed, (rub them in a cloth till dry) a pound of flour dried before a fire, take three eggs, leave out one of the whites, four spoonfuls of new yeast, and four spoonfuls of sack or two of brandy, beat the yeast and eggs well together; then take a jill of cream, and something above a quarter of a pound of butter, set them on a fire, and stir them till the butter be melted, (but do not let them boil) grate a large nutmeg into the flour, with currans and five spoonfuls of sugar; mix all together, beat it with your hands till it leave the bowl, and then flour the tins you put the paste in, and let them stand a little to rise, and bake them an hour and a quarter.

Quotation for the Day.
Christopher Robin was home by this time, because it was the afternoon, and he was so glad to see them that they stayed there until very nearly tea-time, and then they had a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards, and hurried on to Pooh Corner, so as to see Eeyore before it was too late to have a Proper Tea with Owl. .. A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.
A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner


SRA said...

I absolutely loved this post! I Have to admit that sometimes my life feels like a "Nearly Tea" instead of "Proper Tea." Ill have to do something about that...perhaps through the slowing down and enjoying some of your deliciously posted recipes! I do believe you to be my favorite blogger of all times! Thank you for sharing such a pethoria of edible wisdom.

May you always live a well nourished life!

Anonymous said...

After spending many years on the Isle of Wight I have been lead to believe that the origin of the word nammit stems from here. All of the older Caulkheads(born and bred Isle of Wighters) use it in everyday language. The meaning of nammit is "no meat" and refers to a meal that farm workers consumed while working in the fields consisting normally of bread and cheese.