Enough of "collections"! Last we looked at "savory collectives": food terms that have become collective nouns. This week we'll look at terms of tasty food.
bonne bouche– a delicious morsel, as a treat (also used figuratively, as in the last two quotes)
[French, "good mouth"]
– Edgar Allan Poe, Diddling
Flo Ziegfeld had grown rich in the past twenty-five tears on the annual production of his Ziegfeld Follies revues ... In between these bonne-bouches he created a raft of Broadway hits including Show Boat …
– Christopher Wilson, Dancing with the Devil: The Windsors and Jimmy Donahue
I don't in the least mean to say that we were the sort of persons who aspired to mix 'with royalty'. … But the Grand Duke was a pleasant, affable sort of royalty, … and it was pleasant to hear him talk about the races and, very occasionally, as a bonne bouche, about his nephew, the Emperor …
– Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
Ambrosia and nectar, the food and drink of the Greek and Roman gods, have come to mean respectively any delicious food and drink. [Sometimes confusing food with drink!]
ambrosia – something very pleasing to taste or smell (also, a dessert of oranges and shredded coconut)
nectar – any delicious wine or other drink (now esp. a kind of sweetened fruit juice)
Each word is rooted in Greek for the concept that the gods are immortal:
– ambrosios,, from a- "not" + mbrotos, related to mortos "mortal"
– nektar, said to be nek- death (as in necrosis – death of most or all of the cells in an organ)+ -tar overcoming
I’ll illustrate each with the rare adjective-version, which comes in a variety of forms. Some recent quotes first.
– Colleen McCullough, The First Man in Rome
The food was well-cooked and would have been good in any case; starved as I was, it was ambrosial.
– Diana Gabaldon, Voyager
Of course, the pig's head frightens most people away from its nectarean hulk. But the tastiest part of your pig is his head …
– Gourmet Magazine Editors and Ruth Reichl, Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge and H. J. Jackson, The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) (unclear if this is Coleridge or the editor speaking)
For dinner savory fruits of taste to please / True appetite, and not disrelish thirst / Of nectarous draughts between from milky stream, / Berry or grape …
– John Milton, Paradise Lost
She consented that the village-maiden … should brew a certain kind of beer, nectareous to the palate, and of rare stomachic virtues …
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables
gustable – 1. capable of being tasted 2. pleasant to the taste; toothsome. (We’ve previously seen the word "toothsome".)
I do like the first quote on this rarely-used word. Who would have anticipated that cannibalism could have a positive effect on a society’s morals?!
– Time Magazine, Nov. 19, 1928, reviewing Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island by H. G. Wells
. . ."Do sit down," … . "Elmira's maid left us some coffee." … She felt a little shy, covering up this feeling with a serious inquiry into his tastes. "Cream? Sugar?"
. . ."Black!" he expostulated, as if the mere suggestion of some other possibility were a desecration. "Black, of course. That's the only way it's gustable. Don't you prefer black yourself, Mrs. Fuller?"
. . ."Oh, yes," Dilly admitted. "I always take it black."
. . . "We have a lot in common," Mr. Smith observed. The discovery seemed to give him pleasure.
– Daisy Newman, The Autumns [sic] Brightness
> more eager to detect a gustable neighbor's mortal infringement of law.
I'm not so sure that (with the emPHAsis added) this would be such a positive.
sapid – (chiefly N. Amer.) 1. flavorsome 2. pleasant or interesting
[Latin sapidus, from sapere to taste]
– James Peterson, Essentials of Cooking
The "sap" of taste becomes the "sip" when negated, as with "insipid," the antonym of sapid.
Are there other such vowel shifts, in negations or elsewhere.
Two words today meaning a fancy or choice dish: one complimentary, the other usually contemptuous.
viands – 1. foods, esp. very choice or delicious dishes (the singular form exists, but is very rare) 2. provisions, food
[At root a complimentary word, for it comes from Latin vivenda ‘things to be lived on’. (Ultimately, from Latin for ‘to live’]
kickshaw – a fancy dish in cookery (chiefly with contemptuous force: a fancified French 'something', not one of those good old English dishes.)
[This word sounds Anglo-Saxon, but is in fact a mangled mispronunciation of French quelque chose, ‘something’.]
–Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full
[The Admiral, presiding at dinner:] “Elliot, tempt the ladies with that ragout. They may be partial to foreign kickshaws – made dishes are not to my taste.”
– C.S. Forester, Ship of the Line
– Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Interesting that both "viands" and "victuals" derive from life.
From Etymological dictionary:
victualia "provisions," noun use of plural of victualis "of nourishment," from victus "livelihood, food, sustenance," from base of vivere "to live" (see vital).