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