Food Snob Chronicles – Edible Clichés: The Holiday Edition

Like it or lump it, the holidays are here. Come along for the ride as I take you from the frying pan and into the fire of useless trivia

Talking Turkey
It’s funny how even trite remarks evolve. When one talked turkey about 150 years ago, they were merely conversing harmlessly — similar to the gobble of a turkey. A tale from the 1800s indicates that an American Indian informed a white hunting partner that he wanted to ‘talk turkey,’ upon seeing that the white man was dividing their kill unevenly. And to this day, talking turkey means getting down to business.

Cold Turkey
This phrase originally carried the same meaning as the modern-day talking turkey, according to a 1928 article from our friends across the pond at the Daily Express of London. (The editors were referring to the way Americans used the expression.) — By the 1950s, good ol’ American slang gave cold turkey an entirely new meaning – an abrupt end to something, such as cigarettes. That use is still in effect here today.

How do you like them apples?
This well-worn query is often spoken just prior to (the speaker) receiving a knuckle sandwich. Or a kick to the groin. But it wasn’t always the sass-mouthed conversation ender that it’s become.

In all likelihood, according to The Dictionary of Clichés, the phrase was born out of a market setting where different apple varieties were compared. That all changed with the 1961 one-act play The American Dream, in which a character emphasized them (apples) in a supposed tone of defiance.

Nutty as a fruitcake
I felt compelled to include this common phrase for two reasons. First, the most popular mail order fruitcake company in the free world bakes and ships from a nearby town. Second, the holidays are here and … you know.

It didn’t take the king of clichés to concoct such a phrase, considering that fruitcakes are full of nuts. But it was definitely widespread by 1935 in Graeme and Sarah Lorimer’s book Heart Specialist, in which one character is told that she’s ‘nutty as a fruitcake.’

Easy as pie
Want to know why there are few (no) pies in The Recipes? Because there’s nothing easy about pie! More often than not, I’ve ended up cursing homemade crusts that don’t make it (in one piece) from the countertop to the pie dish. And then, there’s all that fancy crimping and lattice. I failed crochet class and pastries are twice as difficult — for me anyway.

Eating pie? Now, that’s pretty damn easy! And, as it turns out, that’s what this old threadbare phrase refers to. One of the earlier published uses appeared in an 1886 edition of Sporting Life magazine — ‘As for stealing second and third, it’s like eating pie.’

‘Easy as cake’ means the same thing, though eating pie is a much easier task for yours truly.

Out of your gourd
Fruitcakes. Nuts. Gourds. Pick your holiday poison, because they all have the same essential meaning. Gourds, in this case, are pumpkins (they resemble human heads after all). When one is out of his gourd or – worse – has lost his gourd … it’s a bad thing.

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My bride way back when introduced me to Bubble & Squeak, a British dish that was hatched to make use of leftovers. It’s quick to make, filling and easy on the pocketbook — even if you aren’t repurposing ingredients from Sunday supper. At least a few stories exist about how Bubble & Squeak earned its title. The most reasonable is the claim that cabbage and potatoes make bubble and squeak sounds while cooking.

Southern-Style Bubble & Squeak

Bubble and Squeak

Bubble & Squeak is quick, filling and easy on the pocketbook — even if you aren’t repurposing ingredients from Sunday supper.

2 lbs – Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 – Cabbage head, chopped
1 lb – Smoked sausage, thickly sliced

3 TB – Butter

Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat; cook cabbage until tender — about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to medium-high, then add sausage and potatoes. Fry mixture until edges of cabbage and potatoes are nicely browned and sausage is warmed through — about 10 minutes. Season to taste.

Serves 5.


  1. Thank you for saying there is nothing easy about pie. Can I get an Amen?

  2. Love it. I am interested in how words and phrases come about. It’s fascinating.

  3. Bubble and squeak! I make too much of the primary ingredients in order to have enough for buibble and squeak for breakfast….so important to brown the potato /cabbage hash

  4. Southern Style Bubble & Squeak. Yes, brother, yes. Can’t wait to make it. Now if Stan’s meyer lemon tree would just bear some fruit to make some lemon curd for dessert. One day. Soon, I hope.

  5. That Bubble and Squeak looks easy as pei to make. I love the smoked sausage in there – always thought it had hamburg. Great post Adam since I love learning about the origins of expressions.
    My favorite dessert is apple pie although up here we also have it for breakfast. I can make a nice flaky crust but it’s never going to make a food article in any magazine – maybe it would impress in Popular Machanics but certainly not Good Housekeeping. Tell me the truth – did you really try to crochet?

  6. Glad to know I’m not nutty as a fruitcake for thinking there’s nothing easy as pie. I hate making pies and haven’t even attempted one in a number of years now. Bubble and squeak, on the other hand, is easier and more delicious (in my opinion).

  7. Re: Bubble & Squeak, yes it’s correct the name implies to the bubbling and squeaking heard when frying this dish. However, the idea came from left over christmas ingredients; i.e leftover roast potatoes and brussels sprouts (bubble and squeak is best with brussels not cabbage, so different try it). Mash the pots and chop the brussels, either throw it all into a fry pan and leave until the bottom has many browned areas and stir to obtain further browned areas, keep doing this until cooked to your liking and serve.

    It is a tradition in our family to have this every boxing day. It’s served with cold leftover turkey and other meats you may have leftover too. Must be served with Branston Pickle!

    Simply delicious and we often have this meal throughout the year. Sometimes I make a big effort and make bubble & Squeak into individual patties to look nice.

  8. Great read. I love to research and learn the origin of phrases and words. I set up a segment about this on one of the food blogs I write and it is one of the most popular segments. Just shared a link to your article on their Facebook page. Thanks.


  1. […] interesting how some of the best dishes out there originated from leftovers — Bubble & Squeak (UK), anything with stale bread (Italy) and Chilaquiles, Mexico’s ingenious way of […]

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