Odgen Nash had his priorities in order, as he explained in opening his poem The Clean Platter.
And some of ladies lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And coarse ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English Verse
Is lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or less
Preoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom call me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.
To serve a feast of words of food.
comestible – adj. edible; suitable to be eaten. noun; usu. plural: something that can be eaten as food
– Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
And beer, according to Dr. Rimm, absolutely belongs on the list of alcoholic beverages with sanguine effects, though he was reluctant to characterize it as more efficacious than, say, red wine or any other comestible spirit for that matter.
– Ken Wells, Travels with Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America
Barmecide feast – illusory benefits held out to tantalize and torment, or to manipulate, the victim
barmecide – one who so tantalizes. Think of it as a "cock-tease", but not limited to sex.
[Note to readers: Do you agree that "illusory benefits" wouldn't be an accurate definition?]
From the Arabian Nights tale of a rich Barmecide who torments a beggar by feigning to banquet with him. He mimes eating, "ordering a variety of dishes and discussing the merits of each one" – but his servants are bringing only empty platters.¹
My example is my own first experience with this word, in college, reading Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata. In a famous scene, a young wife torments her horny husband. She seems cooperative, indeed seductive – but each time she divests an item of clothing, she suddenly finds a need to depart to get another prop (a pillow, a blanket, oils, etc.), driving him to distraction. He mutters a comment that refers to local customs. How should a translator render it, to preserve the humor?
The translation I read (Rogers?) says, as I recall, "This is truly a Barmecide feast."
Other translations put it more bluntly. "What a lovefeast! Only the table gets laid!"
¹You'll be glad to know that the story ends happily. The beggar retaliates in kind by feigning that the wine has gone into his head. He strikes Barmecide, then apologizes and blames it on the (illusory) wine. At this the Barmecide laughs, "You have had the good grace to fall in with my humor. Now you shall be rewarded." As so it is.
borborygmi – intestinal rumbling caused by moving gas
[singular borborygmus; adj. borborygmic]
– Walter Reeves, Georgia Gardener's Guide
And worse still, I had started a series of internal rumblings and musical tinklings which resounded only too audibly during every lull in the conversation. The only other time I have heard such sounds was in a cow with an advanced case of displacement of the abomasum. My companions delicately feigned deafness even when I produced a shameful, explosive belch which made the little fat dog start up in alarm, but when another of these mighty borborygmi escaped me and almost made the windows - rattle I thought it time to go.
– James Herriot, All Things Bright and Beautiful
abomasum – the fourth division of the stomach in ruminant animals (cows, sheep, and deer, which chew the cud), in which digestion takes place. Your life would be incomplete if I did not inform you that the prior three portions are the rumen, the reticulum, and the omasum (also known as manyplies or psalterium). Fascinating, huh?
Our recent word barmicide feast concerned tantalizing and tempting. Let's continue in that vein.
amuse-bouche (ah-mewz-BOOSH) or amuse-gueule - a "palate teaser": a bite of food served before a meal to whet the palate; more whimsical than hors d'oeuvres, and smaller than appetizers, often bite-sized. Typically complimentary; served as a "token of appreciation" to the customer.
[literally, "mouth amusement" or "gullet amusement". The term was coined in 1946, says Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Francais (1992 ed.)]
- Ruth Reichl, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Creamed Seafoord canapés – A little messy, but definitely in the class of what the French call amuse-geules [sic] or, freely translated, palate-teasers.
Irma S. Rombauer, et al., The Joy of Cooking (1977 ed.)
Continuing the subject of 'small portions':
degustation – a comparative tasting, in small portions, of a variety of similar foods or drinks; also figurative
– Margaret Campbell, The Independent, (London), March, 2005
One might also question the wisdom of so large and so inclusive a volume. Clearly the editors and the press intended to allow the reader to sample the richness of contemporary research. Too plentiful a degustation, however, often produces a bloated numbness, rather than a pleasant sense of satisfaction. It might have been better to have been more austere in the selection of articles.
– Mary Lindemann, book review in Journal of Social History, Spring, 1994
degust – to taste, esp. to do so attentively, so as to savor
May I occasionally offer you words that are completely useless, but fun? Here are two antiques.
smellfeast – an uninvited dinner guest; a parasite; a greedy sponger
[once a very common word]
shot-clog – the companion tolerated because he pays for the drinks
– John B. Sanford, Intruders in Paradise
I love it! I haven't heard of that term before, but I am definitely posting about it on the realbeer.com site.
curate's egg – (chiefly British) something with both good and bad parts
– Chris Hewett, The Independent, Jun. 25, 2005
Right Reverend Host: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr. Jones!"
The Curate: "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!"
Punch, Aug. 8, 1917: The fact is that "BERTHA RUCK" can achieve something better than these meandering methods and this spinelessness of characterisation; and it is distinctly disappointing to see her content with the curate's egg standard.