The Oddities of Culinary Wording

Hello, world!

Toward the end of March, I’ll leave to study abroad in Bremen (Germany) until the end of July. Therefore I don’t have any more classes to attend, and as exams are over, I have a good bit of free time before my departure. I’m working three days a week in an organic grocery store just down the road from home. Though the work is quite arduous, I really enjoy it. I like the environment, the store is only a five minute bike ride from home, and overall customers are very friendly.

A few days ago, I got into a very interesting conversation with one elderly customer at the cash register. He told me that when he was growing up on a Belgian farm in the 1930’s, they didn’t even own a trashcan. It just wasn’t necessary, because nothing was made out of plastic, and most “trash” was composted. He also recounted how when World War II came along, the whole family had to evacuate, as they lived really near the Front — at this point in the story, another customer arrived at the cash register, thereby interrupting the tale (the nerve of him!).

A wintery scene. It reminds me of Brueghel!

A wintery scene. It reminds me of Brueghel!

Recently, I’ve also baked a couple new desserts. I would like to highlight an interesting vocabulary phenomenon : have you ever noticed how sometimes recipes seem to get their wording wrong? The following relates the study case of The Enticing Pumpkin Maple Coffee Cake (*).

“Pour the batter into the pan” the recipe read. I, however, was far from the smooth, elegant motion implied by the word “pour”. Surely they meant “Attempt to coax the batter into spreading across the whole pan”!

The next step was equally befuddling. I was told to “sprinkle” the crumble mixture all over the batter. Odd! My crumble had sort of clumped together to form a dense paste. Instead of deftly sprinkling, I broke off buttery clumps and tried to sort of squish/pat them all across the cake.

Thankfully, the recipe, besides offering due cause for confusion, also proffered (quirky) encouragement : “This will be the thickest batter of your whole life,” it read. “You will be very sure you did something wrong” — I was — “but you did not. Press on with confidence.”

Oy, watch'ew lookin' at?

Oy, watch’ew lookin’ at?

Finally, I just finished re-reading The Hobbit. I love how this book, through its poetic prose, awakens vivid, magical images in my mind, and draws me into its own entire universe.

On the subject of comfort books — and of reading in general — I’ve recently been pondering this line from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (roundabouts page 70) :

“What do you mean by meant? Given the final futility of our struggle, is the fleeting jolt of meaning that art gives us valuable? Or is the only value in passing the time as comfortably as possible? What should a story seek to emulate, Augustus? A ringing alarm? A call to arms? A morphine drip? Of course, like all interrogation of the universe, this line of inquiry inevitably reduces us to asking what it means to be human […]” (Peter Van Houten, writing to Augustus)

To end on a lighter note, the other day, while preparing Hot Chocolate n°2075286, I noticed that our cocoa brand was “Van Houten”. Ha.

Self-portrait in the woods.

Self-portrait in the woods.

(*) This cake was made with a Belgian pumpkin!

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