MA, A SMALL BIRD.

Another entry from Davidson I had to share:

Gallimaufrey (gallimaufry, and other variant spellings), an obsolete culinary term, corresponding to the French word gallimaufré [actually galimafrée—LH], meaning a dish of odds and ends of food, a hodge-podge.
The obscurity surrounding the origin of this word, whether in the French or English version, prompted Dallas (1877) in Kettner’s Book of the Table to compose one of the most elaborate and far-reaching essays in culinary etymology which has ever been written. He devoted over 14 pages to the matter, treating also several other words (galimatias, salmagundi, salmi, etc. — even Hamlet’s ‘miching malicho’ and the Anglo-Indian mulligatawny) which he perceived to be connected by the root ‘ma’, meaning in his opinion a small bird or chicken and serving as an important piece of evidence for the previous existence of a language, possibly older than Sanskrit, which had already been lost in medieval times but which was the source of numerous words used in the kitchen.
Although the term itself is of little consequence, the fact that it engendered this towering edifice of etymological speculation is more than enough to warrant giving it an entry.

Lest I leave you with the impression that Dallas was simply an idiot, I’ll also quote his robust explanation (found at the Food Timeline) of the history of the Chateaubriand steak:

Take another example of mystification, and it must be added, of exceeding folly—to use no stronger epithet. It is connected with the illustrious name of Chateaubriand. One of the foremost clubs in London one day changed its cook; and its members were astonished to find that the steak which had formerly been served to them under the name filet de boeuf was now always announced as a Chateaubriand. The cook was called to account. What was the meaning of the new name? Why should plain Englishmen be puzzled with a new name—the slang of the kitchen? Why should they not, as of old, get the fillet [to which they] were accustomed? The cook had really nothing to say. He could only tell that a Chateaubriand was the fashionable name in Paris for a steak cut from the ordinary fillet-steaks—nearly two inches. The members of the club were not satisfied with this explanation; and to the great disgust of the chef, who felt the sublimity of the name of Chateaubriand, the order was given that henceforth a steak from the fillet should be announced as before on other bills under the time-honoured name of filet de boeuf.
They were quite right; and even if the cook, better informed, had been able to give them the true history and meaning of a Chateaubriand, there can be little doubt that they would have still arrived at the same decision. He was correct in stating that a Chateaubriand is cut from the best part of the fillet, and is nearly twice the ordinary thickness of steak: but is this all? The thickness of the steak involves a peculiar method of cooking it. It is so thick that by the ordinary method it might be burnt on the surface when quite raw inside; and therefore—though the new method is neglected and is even forgotten very much—it was put upon the fire between two other slices of beef, which, if burnt upon the grill, could have been thrown away. It may still be asked, what has this to do with Chateaubriand, that his name should be attached to a steak so prepared? Here we come into a region of culpable levity. Chateaubriand published his most famous work under the name of Le Génie du Christianisme. The profane wits of the kitchen thought that a good steak sent to the fire between two malefactor steaks was a fair parody of the Génie du Christianisme. If I remember rightly it was at Champeaux‘ in the Place de la Bourse that this eccentric idea took form and burst upon Paris. As to the name, it is needless to say a word; as to the good sense of the mode of cooking the steak, judgement is pronounced in the fact that, though the Chateaubriand still remains as thick as ever, it is rare now to see it grilled between two other steaks—that being too extravagant. Indeed, in Gouffé‘s great work on cookery, which must always be mentioned with respect for the good sense and taste which pervade it, there is not a hint given that the Chateaubriand is to be cooked, or was ever cooked, between the two robber steaks. Most cookery books say not one word of the Chateaubriand, which ranks now as the prime steak of the French table, and which appears in Parisian dinner bills to bewilder the benighted Englishman with a magnificent but unintelligble name.

Update. Jim of Uncle Jazzbeau’s Gallimaufrey, who has an understandable interest in the subject, has posted a German etymology of galimafrée („geröstete Fleischreste‟). No pre-Sanskritic culinary syllables, I’m afraid.

Comments

  1. Once I tried to collect various etymologies of Russian word galimatya, presumably akin to gallimaufrey: 1, 2, 3, 4.

  2. Folquerto says:

    How delightful this history of the Chateaubriand! It makes the saliva run! Tomorrow I’ll fetch me two nice steaks, double thick, to prepare two Chateaubriands. Thank you for the (unintended?) suggestion. A kiss for the kitchenwise cultured!

  3. scarabaeus stercus says:

    All this time I be thinking it be a soup, which came in a can veddy waterery and a smidgeon of broth..”the Anglo-Indian mulligatawny”

  4. In fact, the french word is “galimafrée”
    cf. : http://atilf.atilf.fr/Dendien/scripts/tlfiv5/advanced.exe?8;s=2256129585;
    NB : my remark is not a “contumélie”…

  5. Thanks, I corrected the book!

  6. Tatyana says:

    From the uninitiated: so, if 2 robber steakes are not used if contemporary kitchens, how would you prepare Chateaubriand steak without burning the surface and getting the inside cooked?
    Can I use batter instead, to be thrown away after grilled?

  7. Well, here‘s one recipe (with mouthwatering picture).

  8. Noetica says:

    All this culinary talk prompts a certain question of pronunciation. How is culinary to be pronounced? OED current gives these options for the first syllable, in this order:
    /kju:/
    /kʌ/
    SOED gives only /kʌ/. Standard current usage in Australia, and Britain too, I think, is /kʌ/. My learned correspondent in Rhode Island (yes, you know who you are) says only /kju:/, as do many or most Americans, it seems. Myself, I say only /kju:/, despite my Ozzicity. I am not confident of being able to defend this practice.
    We should note that the u in Latin culīna and derivatives is short.
    Which pronunciation is preferable, and why? And then, how about the arguably parallel case of cumin (Latin being cumīnum, for what that’s worth; note the short first u)?

  9. In the US, I’ve almost never heard anything but /kʌ/ for the first syllable in “culinary” (if I heard /kju:/, I’d assume it was British). Of course, the second syllable has /ɛ/ rather than the greatly reduced schwa of what I assume is the British pronunciation you’re referring to.
    For “cumin”, on the other hand, I hear almost nothing but /kju:/.

  10. My experience parallels KCinDC’s. Personally, I say /kʌ/ for both, but I’ve been looking up words in dictionaries since I learned how to read and I probably first came across both words in writing, so my pronunciation reflects American Dictionary Standard rather than my immediate speech community. My wife says culinary with /kʌ/ but cumin usually with /ku/ but sometimes with /kʌ/ — it seems to be one of those words people are often unsure about.

  11. Er, in my second sentence I meant the third syllable, not the second. I was distinguishing between /ˈkʌləˌnɛri/ (or maybe /ˈkʊləˌnɛri/, for some people, who tend to change ʌ to ʊ before l) and /ˈkʌlənəri/ or even /ˈkʌlənri/.
    LH reminds me that for “cumin” I actually have heard in the US a fair amount of /ku/ as well as the more common /kju/ (but very little /kʌ/).

  12. I bet that a lot of, especially younger, Americans would be afraid of pronouncing ‘cumin’ /kʌmin/, as they’d think it sounds ‘dirty’. . .
    i’ve always thought that ‘culinary’ pronounced with /kju/ sounded odd, and preferred /kʌ/. (I’m from Michigan, outside Detroit.)

  13. Which pronunciation is preferable, and why? And then, how about the arguably parallel case of cumin (Latin being cumīnum, for what that’s worth; note the short first u)?

  14. There’s no meaning to “preferable” in this context other than “used by most native speakers” (for which the dictionary is our best approximation); Latin quantity is irrelevant to English. Fowler has an acerbic article on “false quantity” which starts “The phrase should be banished from the language” and goes on to give a long list of forms where the normal English pronunciation “violates the rules” — if we take quantity into account, we should be saying protaGOEnist, verTIEgo, MINnor (for minor), MYtigate (for mitigate), and so on.

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