Mace.

My wife is making Norwegian meatballs today, as she does around this time every year, and as I walked through the kitchen my eye fell on a container of mace. “Hmm,” thought I, “where does that word come from?” So I went to the OED (entry updated March 2000) and found this:

Etymology: < Old French macis (although only attested slightly later than in Middle English) or its etymon post-classical Latin macis aril surrounding the nutmeg (12th cent.). The form macis was taken as a plural in Middle English and a new singular mace was formed from it.
Compare Old Occitan macis (14th cent.), Italian macis, †mace (14th cent.), Spanish macis (1525), Portuguese macis (14th cent.). It is uncertain whether there is any connection with classical Latin macir resin of an Indian tree (Pliny), Hellenistic Greek μάκιρ. There is no probable connection with classical Latin maccis, the name of an imaginary spice in Plautus.

So mace is from a singular reanalyzed as plural, like pea. Who knew?

If you’re wondering about aril (“aril surrounding the nutmeg”), it’s (OED again) “< modern Latin arillus (also in use; compare modern French arille), < medieval Latin arilli, Spanish arillos, raisins.” And mace reminds me of John Collier’s unforgettable short story “The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It”; it’s the first story in this collection, if you want to experience it.

Comments

  1. According to the etymological dictionary in the link below, Dutch is the only European language that doesn’t use a word related to macis for the spice. It’s called foelie in Dutch and is related to French feuille.
    http://www.etymologiebank.nl/trefwoord/foelie1

    In football (soccer), a nutmeg is the trick in which you kick the ball between the other player’s legs and retain possession after that. In Dutch, we use the word panna for this, which comes from Sranan Tongo.

  2. In Russian it’s apparently мацис, though I wonder how many Russians know the word.

  3. Trond Engen says

    Norw. muskat(nøtt) “nutmeg” and muskatblomme “mace”. I thought muskat was named for the town on the Hormuz Strait.

    I use nutmeg or mace in fish gratin, mashed potatoes and bechameliorated fishballs.

  4. Lars Mathiesen says

    Danish only has muskatblomme and Swedish muskotblomma, and last I checked we were in Europe. But if I decode the article right, they actually say that most European languages (other than Dutch) possess a word related to macis, but French for instance also has fleur de muscade.

    It is usually hard to find because it’s mandatory only in a few old recipes. The nutmegs themselves are all over.

  5. Trond Engen says

    I’ve never heard nutmeg in the football sense. That’s slå tunnel “strike a tunnel” in Norwegian.

    Jeg slo tunnel på’n. Det var så enkelt at jeg måtte snu og ta en til.

    (One famous Norw. footballer about an even more famous one after winning the national cup final.)

  6. John Collier’s The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It, my favorite creepy short story about nutmeg and (shudder) mace.

  7. As mentioned at the end of the post, but I’m glad to see someone else has the same association.

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    Statisticians are capable of anything.

  9. David Marjanović says

    No idea if Macis (which I’d pronounce à la française) or Muskatblüte is more common, because the spice itself has become rare; Muskatnuss (initial stress) is essential in mashed potatoes and good in a lot of other things, like rice, vegetable soups and cocoa.

  10. Oops! Sorry about that. I went too fast.

  11. which I’d pronounce à la française

    Silent final -s, then.

  12. David Marjanović says

    Yes, and final stress, and c as [s] unlike in the apparent Russian version.

  13. Norw. muskatblomme is also something I only knew from classic litterature and old recipes, but I actually happen to have a parcel of it in the kitchen now. I bought it a couple of months ago in a supermarket almost by accident, since I was looking for regular muskat for a sauce, and that was the closest I could find. I didn’t use it since the regular stuff turned up from the deep end of the drawer while I was making room for the newcomer. This discussion makes me want to try it for turkey stuffing.

  14. How many short stories about nutmeg are there?

    When I was young, my father had an anthology of literature about alcoholic beverages. One story concerned a man who had a family punch recipe. It was always good, but on a very few occasions it was truly sublime, and those occasions were connected to his daughter. We find him making up the recipe for his daughter’s wedding, musing about her life, and her hair, the colour of nutmeg. He absent-mindedly reaches for the nutmeg and adds it, even though it’s not in the recipe …

    I looked for the book after my father died, but it was not to be found.

    That makes two.

  15. In Dutch, we use the word panna for this, which comes from Sranan Tongo.

    I couldn’t immediately find an etymology for the Sranan Tongo word anywhere online. I wonder if it is related to Carib pena “door opening, window” or its probably etymon, French pêne “door bolt”, perhaps via French Guianese Creole? (Pena is attested in Surinamese Carib, according to Henk Courtz (2007), A Carib grammar and dictionary, p. 342. The G in brackets indicates Guyanese Carib, S indicates Surinamese Carib, and V indicates Venezuelan Carib at this entry.)

    However, in Hindi and Urdu, the nutmeg football technique is apparently called पाना پانا
    pānā, literally “spanner, wrench”. (Is this from resemblence of opening between the legs of the nutmegged player to the U-shaped jaw of a spanner?) The Hindi term is just from English spanner, I suppose, though I am not sure of this. Could the word have entered Sranan Tongo from Hindi-Urdu language football broadcasts?

  16. Also, in a comment above, bertil linked to the following discussion in the Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands:

    Volgens de traditionele etymologie betekent ook mnl. foelge ‘foelie’, en is deze betekenis ontwikkeld uit een middeleeuws-Latijnse en Oudfranse betekenis ‘vlies’ (van folium c.q. fuelle), of op een nevenvorm fueil in de betekenis ‘voering van een beurs’ [ca. 1260; Rey], waaruit dan ‘zak’ > ‘omhulsel’ > ‘omhulsel van de muskaatnoot’ kan zijn ontwikkeld. Deze etymologie heeft echter verscheidene bezwaren: a) noch in het middeleeuws Latijn, noch in het Oudfrans komt de specifieke betekenis ‘omhulsel van de muskaatnoot’ voor; b) er is geen enkele contextuele aanwijzing dat de genoemde Middelnederlandse woorden ‘omhulsel van de muskaatnooit’ zouden kunnen betekenen; c) geen enkele andere Europese taal heeft een vergelijkbaar folium-woord voor deze specerij. De meeste hebben hetzij een woord dat teruggaat op middeleeuws Latijn macis [6e eeuw; André 1956] (bijv. Frans macis [1236; Du Cange], Engels mace [1377; OED]), hetzij een samenstelling, bijv. Frans fleur de muscade (naast macis), Duits Muskatblüte

    In regard to the problematic semantics of the etymology of Dutch foelie from Old French fueille (Modern feuille) “leaf”, we can also note that several of the languages of South Asia, “mace” is designated by the reflex of Sanskrit jātīpattrī “mace”, a compound literally meaning “nutmeg leaf, nutmeg petal”, made up of jātī “nutmeg” and pattram “leaf, petal” (no. 5188 in Turner’s A comparative dictionary of Indo-Aryan languages). I wonder whether the Dutch word could ultimately reflect a loan translation of a South Asian term of this type, or simply be a semantically parallel formation.

  17. Stu Clayton says

    Muskatnuss (initial stress)

    Whoa there, pardner ! You might get away with that in big city Vienna, but not on the Western front.

    Is anything known, and if so is it conveyable in few sentences, as to why a number of German words are stressed differently here and there ? In particular I think Austrian stress seems to move to the front (as seen from the back) ?

  18. Muskat is apparently from musk – which has an interesting etymology as well – and not from the capital of Oman.

    Thanks, Xerîb, for mentioning the uncertainties regarding the etymologie of foelie. I forgot that in my initial comment.

  19. @maidhc: Here’s a short story about nutmeg:

    My father is virtually incapable of following a recipe as written. This is fine for recipes he has memorized, which he can duplicate time and again without a problem, but if the ingredients are written town, he simply cannot resist fiddling with them. He once tried to make buttermilk pancakes with baking powder instead of baking soda, and the leavening results were disastrous. Another time, while making egg nog, he decided that, rather than sprinkling the nutmeg on top of the foam as each glass was served, he would just mix some into the liquid itself at an earlier stage. The results were not horrible, but the change was definitely not for the better. To make a point, the next time he made nog a couple weeks later, my mother and I insisted that he follow the recipe exactly as written. That also meant almost doubling the amount of alcohol from the way he usually made it, making for a very different egg nog experience than we had gotten used to.

  20. My mother-in-law (rest her soul) was like that too. She once served a lasagna with salami slices in it. She lived to be 102.

  21. Lars Mathiesen says

    Now you’re making me hungry.

  22. David Marjanović says

    Whoa there, pardner ! You might get away with that in big city Vienna, but not on the Western front.

    …what, do you say musKAHT?

    (That is what the spelling suggests, actually. That’s why I mentioned the initial stress.)

    Is anything known, and if so is it conveyable in few sentences, as to why a number of German words are stressed differently here and there ? In particular I think Austrian stress seems to move to the front (as seen from the back) ?

    Swiss stress is very often on the first syllable, even in abbreviations like USA. It’s an important feature of French spoken with a Swiss-German accent, aka FRANçais FÉdéral. I’d say this is simply kept from Proto-Germanic, but while that would beg for snarky comparisons to how conservative Switzerland is politically, it is not the case that Swiss German has had less foreign influence, French in particular, than Other German.

    Austria goes for root stress more often than handwavey-northern Germany, where people seem reluctant to stress the first syllable of a word that has more than four. For example, they’ll stress the second (fourth-to-last) syllable of Schönwetterwolken, while in Austria the first is stressed, because fair-weather clouds are Wolken of Schönwetter.

  23. Trond Engen says

    I have now stuffed the turkey with medister, apples, salt, pepper, and mace. We’ll see how it turns out.

  24. David Eddyshaw says

    I recall as a student being given a lecture about “Nutmeg Liver” by a pathologist*.

    He had helpfully brought along an actual nutmeg to show us, correctly anticipating that most of us had seen more nutmeg livers than nutmegs.

    *Pathologists evidently spend much of their time at work thinking about food. Sago Spleen, Sugar Icing Spleen …

  25. I had mace in the cabinet a couple of decades ago, but I don’t think I ever used it for anything but pound cake.

  26. What did the original Mace spray have to do with the spice? Wiki is silent on it:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mace_(spray)

  27. Trond Engen says

    The results are in. Mace is now the official spice for stuffed turkey..

    God jul til alle!

  28. When I grew up nutmeg was used only and always on cauliflower, a perfect match, IMHO. I was surprised to find out that in the US that was considered outlandish, and that nutmeg was used in desserts, which I considered equally outlandish.

  29. @juha: According to this piece from Smithsonian Maganzine, newpatper articles around the time Chemical Mace started being sold tied the name to the weapon meaning of mace—which is what I had always figured. The Smithsonian article also has some other funny tidbits, such as an alligator named Ernest.

  30. David Marjanović says

    Whole nutmegs are sold in supermarkets in Austria (rather cheap) and Germany (quite expensive, unless you find an “Asia” supermarket that sells them by the 100-g plastic bag). Little rasps used on nothing else are a household item.

    My spice surprise was to learn of cinnamon used in rice (together with other spices). It’s actually great.

    an alligator named Ernest

    Alligators have resting trollface.

  31. David Marjanović says

    …and I managed to forget that my little sister said musKAHTnuss today. TEMpora MUtanTUr et NOS muTAmur iN ILlis.

  32. Alligators have resting trollface.
    In some language (I forget which, because I am making this up) the word for ‘alligator’ literally means ‘smirker’.

  33. Trond Engen says

    David M. My spice surprise was to learn of cinnamon used in rice

    Cinnamon is an unalienable adherent to Norwegian risengrynsgrøt “rice pudding”, the standard Saturday hot meal when I grew up and also the canonical Christmas Eve lunch. Rice pudding with sugar, cinnamon, and a clot of melting butter on top. (I ate two bowls of it today. I didn’t find the almond, so no prize.)

  34. David Eddyshaw says

    @DM:

    nos et mutamur, or it doesn’t scan. Unless you were doing it on purpose. Which I expect you were. I which case, I see what you did there.

  35. @Brett

    So it was because mace had a kick to it. I see. Thank you!

  36. Lars Mathiesen says

    The Norwegians have it all wrong, risengrød must be served on the 23rd (lillejuleaften) so the portion set aside for ris a l’amande dessert on Christmas Eve can have the correct consistency. (That is the correct spelling in Danish, French objections will be ignored). And the whole almond goes in the dessert, not in the grød.

    Cinnamon sugar on top and a dollop of butter melting in the middle of the plate, those are of course correct. You don’t put the cinnamon in the rice porridge because that probably just makes it look dirty, while the light brown layer on top is traditional and thus pretty, and besides you don’t want cinnamon in the ris a l’amande. (Vanilla is the thing there).

    Like Trond, I haven’t had risengrød as the official dinner meal since I was a kid, except when feeling exceptionally anti-everything-else. It’s comfort food, but you’re hungry again before bedtime. (And it’s not easy food, it has to cook for ages, or at least half an hour, more likely one, and it burns instantly if you have the temerity to turn your back).

  37. The Norwegian dessert made from leftover pudding is riskrem, a 50/50 mix of cooled risgrøt and whipped cream, served with rød saus (sauce from berries, often by way of blackcurrant juice). This is one of two canonical Christmas desserts. The other is moltekrem, whipped cream with cloudberries. The latter is our traditional Christmas Eve dessert, but this year I miscalculated the requirements for cream*, so the dessert must wait until shops are open on tredjedag**..

    *) Actually I thought my daughter would use a lighter type of cream for her innovation of our chistmas meal tradition: mashed potatoes, When I discovered that we were out of kremfløte, the shops were closed.

    **) I could find an open shop if I tried, but this is not the year for small errands in crowded spaces.

  38. David Marjanović says

    nos et mutamur, or it doesn’t scan.

    I was wondering why it seemed to require -ntūr! I was taught it wrong.

    (And it still didn’t occur to me to look it up. I’m still not used to having the knowledge of the world at my fingertips.)

    Yeah, it did become self-illustrating that way…

    Rice pudding

    Right, I had forgotten about the existence of sweet rice dishes. Never eaten one or been offered one, even though I had “always” known of the existence of Reisbrei. I had meant savoury rice for dinner.

  39. John Emerson says

    In my church we had lutefisk dinners for Xmas. Only the old people ate it, and there were also meatballs. (When I was back there 2005-2010 I found a restaurant that actually sold lutefisk. I also remember 2 puddings, rommegrot and rodgrot (sp), which I liked.

  40. January First-of-May says

    In football (soccer), a nutmeg is the trick in which you kick the ball between the other player’s legs and retain possession after that.

    Previously 1, previously 2. I wonder what the “diminutive of “cucumber”” was.

  41. January, see here:

    “eine Gürkchen machen” : (dem Gegenspieler) den Ball zwischen den Beinen durchspielen

  42. Speaking of grøder (?), what is flødegrød?

  43. Trond Engen says

    Rømmegrøt is rømme (sour cream) hested, thickened with flour and thinned with milk. Served with flatbrød (unleavened bread) and spekemat (cured and salted meat). Traditional in the summer season when sour cream and cured meat was staple food at the mountain dairy farms. Fløtegrøt is essentially the same, but made from fresh cream. Traditionally it should be boiled and stirred until butter was separated on the top. The butter would be carefully ladled off and added on top of each bowl. Modern sensibilities mostly prefer the butter to stay in the pudding.

    Rødgrøt is red berries heated and thickened with potato starch. This is a seasonal dessert in summer. The same general recipe can be used with any fruit, but it’s not rødgrøt unless it’s red.

  44. …what, do you say musKAHT?

    (That is what the spelling suggests, actually. That’s why I mentioned the initial stress.)
    Yes, that’s also the pronunciation I know. My grandmother used to tell a joke that illustrates that pronunciation (YMMV on how funny you find it): A girl wants to have a small mouth (because that seems to look more refined). A friend tells her to repeat saying Zimt (“cinnamon”). When back home in front of the mirror, she can’t remember which word she was supposed to say, but then she recalls that it was a spice. So she starts repeating “Muskaaat, Muskaaat”.
    Rice pudding

    Right, I had forgotten about the existence of sweet rice dishes. Never eaten one or been offered one, even though I had “always” known of the existence of Reisbrei.
    Milchreis mit Zimt und Zucker. One of my favourite childhood dishes. The rice pudding was served without the sugar and the cinnamon, and everyone at the table added them according to taste. At some places (e.g. my above-mentioned grandmother’s), you’d get the cinnamon and sugar pre-mixed in a small bowl, but my mother always put cinnamon and sugar on the table in separate containers, so everyone could mix them as they liked it.
    The dish was special because it could be both a main dish and a dessert. It also was one of the few hot dishes to be served for supper in typical German households, where supper normally consisted of bread, cold cuts, cheese, maybe some pickles.

  45. Traditionally there’s also fløyelsgrøt, where the fresh or sour cream is replaced by butter and more flour, so a béchamel sauce cooked as a pudding and served as a meal. And obviously the three would be combined depending on the occasion and the availability of the ingredients. There are also variations with other thickeners than wheat flour, yealding intermediate forms with oatmeal and barley porridge, and with water instead of milk as a thinner. The basic form with butter, flour and water is called smørgrøt.

  46. John Emerson says

    I suspect that our lutefisk church dinners were a Norwegian-American custom reminding people of their origins, and not a Norwegian custom at all. If the 2 puddings were traditionally summer puddings it supports that conjecture.

    Lutefisk is an ethnic joke in MN, familiar to the point of being tiresome. Lutefisk / stockfish is also eaten in Italy, and the Italian grandfather of one of my friends likes it. Wiki tells me that stockfish is also important in Nigeria.

  47. A girl wants to have a small mouth

    In Russian, it would be изюм and кишмиш.

    Unrelated: My father would turn 100 years old today, but he died more than 33 years ago. Father, I miss you!

  48. Fløtegrøt is essentially the same, but made from fresh cream.

    TE, takk!

    The name has stuck from reading a book in Russian about foreign cuisine published some 40+ years ago. Another word is калекукко instead of the correct kalakukko.

  49. Unrelated: My father would turn 100 years old today, but he died more than 33 years ago. Father, I miss you!

    My father died 15 years ago today, at the age of 90. I miss him.

  50. David Marjanović says

    “eine Gürkchen machen” : (dem Gegenspieler) den Ball zwischen den Beinen durchspielen

    Clearly ein Gürkchen, neuter. Known to me in the dialect form Gurkerl, also neuter.

    Mostly applied to kicking the ball into the goal between the goalie’s legs.

  51. Trond Engen says

    Why do we end up discussing food at this time each year?

  52. David Marjanović says

    I’m sitting here eating Christmas cookies, just saying.

  53. We’re going to have a second dinner of the Norwegian meatballs.

  54. Trond Engen says

    Andre juledag is Great Leftover Day. We had a long, late breakfast with breads and jams and cheeses and sausages and herring and salmon. We had a long dinner of both Christmas Eve turkey (with mace stuffing) and Christmas Day ribbe. I’d been out in the freezing rain to get a couple of packages of cream for moltekrem, so we even had desserts. Now we’ve been seated for five hours with cookies and sweets. If you’ll just excuse me for a minute I’ll try to walk over to the kitchen to sort out the second batch from the dishwasher and get the third round going.

  55. Fløtegrøt revisited.

    I had a peek in the book again, and it sez ‘wheat, cream, and raspberries’, as can be seen here.

  56. Lars Mathiesen says

    @juha, grød is a mass noun and can’t be made to budge (unlike for instance te and kaffe, which become count nouns if you want to talk about varieties, and øl which means ‘bottles of beer’ as a count noun). In Danish at least you would say grødretter (porridge dishes).

    I’m very unsure about which English word to use.

    Porridge is supposed to be any grain cooked in water or milk until mushy, of which the Danish risengrød is certainly an instance — but it’s not a breakfast type dish.

    On the other hand, I think of pudding as equivalent to Danish budding, a starch-based boiled or cold-set thing with no grains in it, stiff enough that you can turn it out on a plate. (Unlike jellies which are translucent and have been set with gelatine or pectin).

    The thing I really don’t know what to do with is rødgrød and its variants, which are basically cooked fruit where the liquid has been set with starch, but soft enough to behave like porridge — coalescing to an even surface when you lift out a spoonful. Is it a jelly? (It doesn’t have enough sugar to be jam, and it hasn’t boiled long enough to reduce).

  57. Lars Mathiesen says

    I don’t have much to add to Trond’s rundown of our mostly shared culinary traditions, except that for risalamande cherry sauce is de rigeur.

  58. Trond Engen says

    Risalamande is a difference. Our riskrem is the same but simpler — sans la mande, and served with standard rød saus (often just blackcurrant juice thickened with starch, but berries are welcome). But now that I think of it, there’s still a couple of servings of porridge and a fistful of almonds waiting to be taken care of, so maybe I’ll have a go. I’ll just have to get yet another package of cream.

  59. John Emerson says

    Per Wiki, more lutefisk is consumed in America than in Scandinavia. If true (Wiki is Wiki) this supports the idea that the Christmas lutefisk dinner is a Scandinavian-American rather than a Scandinavian custom.

    Lutefisk is a shibboleth for *older* Lutherans and is dying out. Italian/American ethnic food, Chinese-American ethic food, and Mexican-American ethnic food have all established themselves in American life the way Scandinavian-American ethnic food hasn’t. Not really a mystery, though I still love lefse, smoked fish, and pickled herring.

    A Swedish friend once offered to send me som surstromming, but found that it is illegal to ship surstomming by air since the cans can explode.

  60. Chinese-American ethic food
    Fortune cookies? 😉

  61. Lutefisk is traditional for Christmas in some parts of the country, and although it’s more of a specialty dish now, it isn’t completely absent from modern Christmas celebrations. E.g. it’s usually on the restaurant menus in the weeks before Christmas, and especially at places that accomodate office Christmas parties.

    As for the strangeness of Norwegian American Christmas food traditions: Even over here Christmas attracts traditional foods that used to belong in other seasons.

  62. Lars Mathiesen says

    So to look forward instead of back: Boiled cod for New Year’s Eve, with all the trimmings: Mustard sauce, chopped hard boiled egg, diced pickled red beets, mealy potatoes with melted butter. I’m the only one in my family who wants it, but back in the day cod cost about twice as much in the run-up to New Year’s as before and after.

    Cod is seasonal now, but of course wild fishing can’t handle a sudden (but expected) spike in demand like farms can. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a Lenten tradition originally.

  63. Trond Engen says

    Risalamande

    I got the extra cream, but my daughter had eaten the leftover grøt for breakfast yesterday morning, so no alamande this year.

    We’re still on leftovers, but increasingly removed from their original context. Yesterday we had tagliatelle with the last pieces of meat picked off the turkey* and the leftover creamed sauce, simmered with walnuts, some wrinkled grapes that hadn’t made it into the waldorf salad, and a few dashes of applejuice. Today we had moussaka au noël scandinave — leftover potatoes, turkey stuffing, saucissons and brussel sprouts cooked with an aubergine that had been forgotten in the back of the fridge since some time before Christmas. Now there’s only a package of medisterkaker that I had in backup for St. Stephen the Boxer’s Day left to take care of. And cookies and sweets, of course.

    Lars M.: Boiled cod for New Year’s Eve, […]

    I’m not aware of a tradition for cod on New Years Eve up here, but juletorsk is the traditional Christmas Eve meal wherever local cod could be caught in the morning. It’s my impression that it’s more common along the Skagerrak (Southern) coast than in the more specialized fishing economies in the west and north. More about that below.

    with all the trimmings: Mustard sauce, chopped hard boiled egg, diced pickled red beets, mealy potatoes with melted butter.

    Mealy potatoes for sure. Eggesmør, melted butter with chopped eggs. Diced bacon. Carrots.

    Cod is seasonal now, but of course wild fishing can’t handle a sudden (but expected) spike in demand like farms can. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a Lenten tradition originally.

    Cod is seasonal in winter, but the large annual Lofoten fisheries don’t start until january, and they don’t translate directly into a diet of fish on the fisherman’s table. They’ve rather been a backbone of the Northern Norwegian export economy ever since the settlement, with dried fish for the European lenting market exchanged with much needed agricultural products and textiles. The word torsk “cod” itself is probably derived from þurr “dry”.

    *) I would have finshed it off with cooking broth on the hull, but my wife can’t stand the smell, so not this year.

  64. Stu Clayton says

    cooking broth on the hull, but my wife can’t stand the smell

    I haven’t crossed knife and fork with a turkey for decades. But I do seem to remember that anything that remains from a turkey, except lean meat, is unusable. The skeleton broth stinks, and words cannot do justice to the horrors of leftover turkey fat – except in the sense of “cold turkey” for sudden withdrawal from your drug of choice.

  65. David Eddyshaw says

    I haven’t crossed knife and fork with a turkey for decades

    Nor me. We adopted duck as the festive bird of choice years ago in this household; my own initiative at the beginning, but no family member has ever expressed any regret at all at the change subsequently, or reverted to turkey on striking out on their own.

    Americans have to eat turkey for symbolic reasons at Thanksgiving, one gathers; the horrid bird’s metastasis to Christmas is presumably the result of a commerce-driven plot against the public by turkey farmers.

  66. Stu Clayton says

    The only objection I might have to duck is that there is no Gänseschmalz forthcoming. Christmastime in this household is honored by consuming rather large quantities of GS on black bread adorned in turn by Grieben, Äpfel oder Kümmel.

  67. David Eddyshaw says

    Goose is admittedly even festiver; in fact, the festivest.
    Probably the only truly canonical choice.

    [Guinea-fowl is rather nice, too; for some reason, it’s difficult to source reliably in Wales, however.]

  68. Trond Engen says

    I don’t find the bird horrid at all. Cooked on low temperature and with a juicy stuffing it’s delicious meat.

    It’s become a New Years Eve meal here, but not in our house. We switched to turkey for Christmas in my childhood when I was about seven or eight. My mother told that this happened after all the traditional Norwegian Christmas meals had had failed one by one with us children. When my wife and I should make our own traditions, it took about two seconds to settle for turkey, since she’s extremely fond of waldorf salad.

    Duck and goose are hardly available in Norway. Wild fowl is, but you have to know a hunter.

  69. John Emerson says

    My family has also switched to duck. Given the choice I’d never eat chicken or turkey.Almost all wild meat is lean so wild duck Isn’t quite as good.

    Except carp. Wild carp are nice and fat, and plentiful too, and they can be caught without limit. Unfortunately the bigger they are the more mercury they contain. And alas, they compete with ducks by ruining the best lakes for ducks.

  70. Nowadays, turkey is fine with me but nothing special (so long as it’s not overcooked and dry; since I don’t like gravy very much, there is no real cure for dried-out turkey breast). However, having gotten food poisoning from smoked turkey when I was about ten, I had a pronounced taste aversion to any turkey products for several years, and aftereffects of it probably still linger in my complete lack of enthusiasm for turkey. (I got food poisoning from my grandmother’s turkey soup—made from the leftover Thanksgiving carcass each year—once as well. However, that seems to have had no lasting effects, since her soup was so bland that there was hardly a taste to develop an aversion to. My sickness was also quite brief, since I threw up the entire bowl I had eaten and felt much better afterward.)

    My preferred winter poultry is goose, barbecued outside in spite of any snow. However, I have not had it in years, due to lack of interest from my family members.

  71. Two turkey related food poisonings? Since I’m guessing you didn’t have turkey except at holidays, and maybe not every one, that’s a hell of an illness rate.

    You should be glad your family didn’t (under)cook ham for the holidays.

  72. >besides you don’t want cinnamon in the ris a l’amande. (Vanilla is the thing there).

    Would mixing them be distasteful. Mixing cinnamon and vanilla is the essence of horchata.

  73. PlasticPaddy says

    @lars
    Re torsk, there is also turbot, where (if the etymology via Swedish is correct) the initial syllable goes back to the same PIE root (or a homonym) as for torsk, but the Proto-Germanic forms have different endings, -n vs. -sk.

  74. John Emerson says

    One of my mother’s friends shared a recipe including torsk. She herself was British in descent, so she probably got it from her mother in law.

  75. the horrors of leftover turkey fat

    It’s handy for fine puns about Turkey Greece.

  76. Trond Engen says

    PlasticPaddy: there is also turbot, where (if the etymology via Swedish is correct) the initial syllable goes back to the same PIE root (or a homonym) as for torsk, but the Proto-Germanic forms have different endings, -n vs. -sk..

    Hm… The “Swedish” etymology is more likely Norman. Anyway, þorn-butr vel.sim. “spike-but” as distinct from halli-but “slab-but” makes immediate sense. ON þorskr < PGmc *þurs-ka-, a derivation of a PIE them *ter-s- meaning “dry”. The thorn word goes back to PIE *tr-no-, which I guess could be based on the bare root *ter- and maybe have meant “dry grass or twigs”, but that would be long before anyone thought of applying it to a fish.

  77. Dept. of odd statistics: each year around Thanksgiving, American hospital emergency rooms ready themselves for cases of Turkey Toe: toes broken by frozen turkeys sliding off kitchen counters and landing on the feet of cooks.

  78. Lars Mathiesen says

    @DE, I agree on the goose, but even in normal years there are not enough poultry eaters in the Christmas Eve gang to justify the expenditure. (One household insists on a pork roast, but at least they bring the thing themselves). This year I actually found a source for goose breasts, but they didn’t want to ship less than 7kg of frozen stuff so that came to nothing. With some planning, next year it will be goose for St. Martin’s and duck for Christmas.

    Turkey as a whole bird needs to be copiously wrapped in bacon to be half way decent, but pan frying a turkey breast can be done in a controlled manner that leaves it quite edible.

    Gänseschmalz can be had in well assorted supermarkets here. Almost as good as from the goose you cook yourself.

  79. Мусик!!! Готов гусик?!

    A Tatar recipe for stock goose (with video):

    https://gotovim-doma.ru/recipe/13422-vyalenyy-gus-kaklagan-kaz-super-blyudo-tatarskoy-kukhni

  80. John Emerson says

    On the trivia internet there was a story just now about a little dog who ate their family’s entire Christmas turkey breast and then passed out in ecstasy. A photo of the bloated dog was included.

  81. Lars Mathiesen says

    Stock goose: Total cooking time: 10 weeks. Active cooking time: 2 hours.

    Please remind us next October.

  82. David Marjanović says

    Carp is traditional for the dinner-as-opposed-to-supper of Christmas Eve. That’s the last Catholic remnant of the lent before Christmas, still observed in full on the Orthodox side (by those religious enough). With garlic and potatoes it’s great.

    Ducks are quite expensive, geese are traditional for Christmas Day (even more so for St. Martin’s, Nov. 11th: Martinigansl) but at least as expensive. Turkey, a thing for “St. Stephen the Boxer’s day” (perfect!) and/or the New Year in this family, is not stuffed, but dismembered, cooked in the oven and eaten with rice.

    The skeleton broth stinks

    Huh. Chicken soup with turkey instead of chicken is the first course of many a festive dish, and rightly so.

    the horrors of leftover turkey fat

    Molten, with rice, it’s a complete main course. No meat needed.

  83. John Emerson says

    Carp are really hated in the US now because of their destruction of habitat for more prized fish, but they were a commercial fish in the US a century ago, and the poet Lorine Niedecker’s father was a carp seiner. Many refuse ever to eat carp and if you catch one accidentally, you are required to kill it rather than to return it to the water, Someone with a freezer could eat carp every day for a year with a few months of fairly casual fishing, but no one does.

  84. Since I like unusual meats (from unusual animals, not so much the eating of unusual organs), and barbecued duck or occasionally goose were regular things in my household growing up, I eventually suggested to my father that he look into getting a swan. It turned out that asking even artisan butchers whether they could get you a swan to cook was liable to result in some very funny looks. Eventually, my dad did find a place that said they could order him a frozen swan. However, we never did get one, since it would be: enormous, and probably too large to fit in either our oven or barbecue; absurdly expensive, since the price per pound was like filet mignon; and, from what he heard, probably less tasty than duck or goose anyway.

    No other bird, in my experience, makes broth as easily or as tastily as chickens. That applies to less fatty fowl like turkeys, or fattier ones like ducks (although I don’t think I’ve ever had an attempt at goose soup). For one thing, the usual way to make chicken soup is just to boil the whole, raw bird with salt and spices. This results is plenty of soft, moist meat, as well as a ton of broth. However, you can also roast the chicken and boil the carcass afterwards, which produces a somewhat different, but still very useful and tasty, stock. Trying to make turkey soup is much finnickier; boiling the carcass, it’s easy to end up broth that has too little fat, or to overdo it and get the unpleasant bone broth that has already been mentioned.

  85. Why Don’t We Eat Swans Anymore?

    “….chefs like Mario Batali, whose friends in Michigan have hunted the birds before. “We once ate a swan at Christmas nine or ten years ago,” he told Esquire. “It was delicious – deep red, lean, lightly gamey, moist, and succulent… “

  86. Lars Mathiesen says

    We had a nice duck for St. Martin’s and decided to carve it before roasting. The carcass went in the pressure cooker to make stock for sauce, that worked very well. But for soup I’d go with a chicken every time.

  87. David Eddyshaw says

    Eating swans in the UK is High Treason, and will get you beheaded (if you’re lucky.)

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swan_Upping

  88. Lars Mathiesen says

    You cannot hunt swans in Denmark (the mute swan was down to three breeding pairs in 1925 and was protected in 1926, and nobody wants to unprotect it because the ugly duckling, even though it’s abundant now. The other swans get lumped with it, I think). I have never heard of farmed swans either.

  89. Peacocks: gastronomy, literature, interior design:

    https://reconstructionarytales.blog/2020/06/02/peacocks-cats-poets/

  90. David Marjanović says

    Trying to make turkey soup is much finnickier; boiling the carcass, it’s easy to end up broth that has too little fat, or to overdo it and get the unpleasant bone broth that has already been mentioned.

    Ah. Boil the wings in a pressure cooker. Eat the meat separately at another occasion.

    I don’t think I’ve even seen a pot large enough for a whole turkey carcass!

  91. John Cowan says

    A girl wants to have a small mouth (because that seems to look more refined). A friend tells her to repeat saying Zimt (“cinnamon”).

    The traditional English-language versions are “prunes and prisms” and the same preceded by “Papa”.

    Milchreis mit Zimt und Zucker

    There is plenty of lactose, so there is no real reason to add sugar: my mother never did.

    the horrid bird’s metastasis to Christmas is presumably the result of a commerce-driven plot against the public by turkey farmers.

    Not so. Henry VIII (he of the “riotous life / with a terrible habit of changing his wife”) was eating Christmas turkey before 1573, long before any English settlement here.

    Goose is admittedly even festiver; in fact, the festivest.

    Gale had the most awful experience cooking a goose for six (herself, her then-boyfriend, and his parents and grandparents). She followed the recipe, but on removing the roasting pan, it was found to be full to the rim of goose grease, goose bones and skin, and about four bites of meat (one for each of his relatives). What is more, his grandmother didn’t like Gale because she wanted her grandson to marry the girl next door (later on, they actually did get married — for about three months).

    Guinea-fowl is rather nice, too; for some reason, it’s difficult to source reliably in Wales, however.

    Back to West Africa with you, sometime late next year!

    ham for the holidays

    Gale and I had a ham with pineapple rings for Christmas and will have it again today. I got it from the East Village Meat Market fully glazed; I stuck in a bunch of whole cloves and that was it. To get the pineapple to stay on top, toothpicks are canonical, but the only toothpicks we actually use nowadays are reusable (but meltable) plastic ones. Fortunately, a ring of pineapple impaled on cloves stays in place very nicely. (They had both “city hams” and “country hams”; I asked what the difference was, and was told “Size”. I bought the smallest city ham available.)

    cases of Turkey Toe

    The turkey’s revenge.

    little dog who ate their family’s entire Christmas turkey breast

    Ha. Dogs notoriously don’t know how big they are (or aren’t).

    I don’t think I’ve even seen a pot large enough for a whole turkey carcass!

    One could use a roasting pan (I have one, complete with lid) and make it straddle the two back burners/elements.

  92. I heard a bilingual version (courtesy of my great-uncle, king of the clunky joke), involving Hebrew שְׁזִיפִים shezifim ‘plums’ (said with a pinched mouth), and Pflaumen.

  93. Lars Mathiesen says

    plenty of lactose — true, but I think the kanelsukker topping is a carry-over from vandrisengrød and other porridges that usually aren’t boiled in milk; upgrading a cheap dish with milk was probably a bourgeois invention. Before the current age of excess, the sugar was probably a very thin dusting too.

    (Also powdered cinnamon alone tends to form a dust cloud and might stain the table cloth, for some reason the mixture with sugar greatly reduces that tendency. You mix by shaking in an old jam glass, lid on, and waiting for the dust to settle — my mom still has the glass we used when I was little).

  94. David Marjanović says

    I’ve encountered the version with “the wide-mouth frog” (der Breitmaulfrosch, presented as if that were a familiar figure from other jokes) who thinks his mouth is too wide. Told to say Konfitüre, he forgets and says Marmelade. Penultimate stress on both of them.)

    There is plenty of lactose, so there is no real reason to add sugar: my mother never did.

    Lactose is barely sweet. I’ll hazard the guess that your mother just didn’t have a sweet tooth.

    Dogs notoriously don’t know how big they are (or aren’t).

    Most believe they’re full-grown wolves.

    (Very much unlike cats. That’s why cats generally don’t try to kill you.)

  95. @John Cowan: In the South, country ham is supposed to be dry-cured and smoked, while city ham is wet cured. In my experience, the difference in flavor, once it is sliced and fried, is negligible.

    @Lars Mathiesen: The exceedingly fine dustiness of cinnamon is the basis of the cinnamon challenge that became extremely popular in 2012—as well as what made it dangerous. Trying to chug a teaspoon or so of cinnamon, one can inhale it or (as I personally witnessed) accidentally blow it up one’s eustachian tube.

  96. Lars Mathiesen says

    That was probably Cassia, though. I wonder if real cinnamon is just as dusty (reportedly it’s much softer when you get it as a whole stick).

  97. @Lars Mathiesen: There’s nothing that’s not “real” about Chinese cinnamon. The vast majority of cinnamon sold in the West is from the bark of Cinnamomum cassia. In any case, however, the person I knew who ended up with cinnamon powder all the way to the inside of her eardrum was using the oilier Vietnamese C. loureiroi.

  98. John Emerson says

    There’s a story about a feisty little chihuahua who flunked obedience school right at the graduation ceremony when it attacked a German shepherd, who also flunked by killing the chihuahua.

  99. Lars Mathiesen says

    Well, Cinnamomum verum must be the real one, it’s in the species name innit. But cassia as the common variety goes back further than I thought, so it was probably what I got on my rice porridge in the 60s too:

    De to vigtigste Sorter Kanel er Ceylon-Kanel eller Ægte Kanel (Cinnamomum zeylanicum . .) og Kassia-Kanel, Kinesisk Kanel eller Almindelig Kanel (C. cassia)

    — A. Mentz & C. H. Ostenfeld, Planteverdenen i Menneskets Tjeneste. 1906.

    The two most important kinds of cinnamon are Ceylon or True cinnamon (C. zeylanicum …) and Cassia, Chinese or Common cinnamon (C. cassia).

    If I can even find some Ceylon cinnamon, I will report back whether it makes a difference to the porridge.

  100. John Cowan says

    Cinnamon sugar is so popular in These States, particularly on French toast (which is not pain perdu, although that name is given to it in North American French) that one can find it premixed on a supermarket’s spice rack. It seems to much closer to arme Ritter and especially its Danish nativization.

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