Off to England, I am soon. So pip, pip, cheerio and all that rot...
Rot? Hope I don't stumble onto too much of that. Cheerios? Breakfast cereal?
It's funny how words related to food seep into everyday language and everyday language creeps into our food vernacular, some of the references ironic - trifle, that delightful dessert, being nothing to be trifled with. And others, like clotted cream, are steeped in all things repugnant and Gothic, as in clotted blood. (I've never met anything clotted I've liked).
There's absolutely nothing like English in England, where mother tongue meets motherland, and one can only hope that they don't slip a little sliced tongue into that deli sandwich you've just ordered. Best to remain stalwartly polite if they do.
I've just dusted off my trusty Oxford English Dictionary in anticipation of said trip. Admittedly, it is only the compact version, not the full-on 20-volume edition, but still at just over 4,000 pages it's nothing to be trifled with in terms of sussing out word etymologies. It also never fails to remind me how barren the average Canadian vocabulary is and that isn't even considering French, nor how plain our naming can sometimes be.
"Trifle," by the way, in the context of dessert, was first used in 1598 in a poem: "a kinde of clouted creme called a foole or a trifle in English." And that explains that other funny word for the English dessert that's perfect for a hot summer's day, a fruit fool. Kids love it when you serve fools - take that meaning either way you like - just so they can say the name, which likely originated from the French word "fouler" which means to press or crush.
You make fools - see? Even adults can't resist playing with the name - by whipping up some good cream and blending it with pureed tart fruits like raspberries, rhubarb or gooseberries. The latter grow like stinkweed in England and likely were so-named for their association with geese. But you don't have to go to England to enjoy gooseberries, for they grow right in the Fraser Valley.
And if you really want to get your kids howling with delight, whip them up that perennial British oddity, or at least odd to we Canucks - spotted dick. This simple bread-like pudding dotted with raisins or currants belies its crazy name. We bought a tinned spotted dick once at a British import store for far too much money (try to keep a straight face writing a line like that) and it was so terrible that I recommend you getting a recipe and making your own. But then you won't have the empty tin on hand to endlessly amuse your pals.