Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Say what?

At this point in my life, I don’t absorb as much pop music as I did in my teens—which I’m blissfully ignorantly fine about since the bulk of it is crappity crap—but this lyric caught me off-guard when I was roped in by the melodic hook to listening to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” this weekend: “Catch me in the kitchen like a Simmons whipping pastry.” What, pray tell, is a Simmons? A quick Google search yields a “Simmons Kitchen & Bath” in central Florida. There’s a Gene Simmons Kiss the Cook (oh god) apron. There’s a writer with the last name Simmons who calls her kitchen a Simmons kitchen. I’d presume it’s like an old KitchenAid or a person, but if you know, please enlighten.


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“It’s only heat.”

Training starts today, of course, on the hottest day of the year to date (woohoo!). I’m going to get all the cliches about sweating/heat/humidity out of my system, so I can really coin some new phrases while I’m experiencing a new level and duration of it. Sticky icky. Sub-Saharan. Hot as balls. Suggestions welcome.

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Treats taxonomy

A curious thing about the names of sweets is that they’re not controlled like the names of plants (Kingdom: Dairy; Phylum: Whipped?), so it can get confusing. (It’s also very curious that I’ve thought about this for too long a time, but.) Let’s say, for instance, chocolate cake, or lemon tart. Fine, these items are as advertised. But as an immigrant whose first language was not English, I was befuddled when I first encountered coffee cake. The only link to the drink is that you can have it with coffee, but you’re not required to. I ‘spose you run out of names after a certain point. (“Er, let’s call it. . . yum yum cake.”)

There are many desserts and items that are named because they look like something. Say, black forest cake—this should typically have some shaved chocolate piled on top to impart the idea that you’re now about to enter a woodsy chocolatey-cherry territory. Or, it can be gross, like the cookies known as langues du chat—they most closely resemble Pepperidge Farm Milanos—which means ‘cat’s tongues.’ Mmm! In the same vein, think of ladyfingers—kinda morbid, don’t you think? Or the most racist of them all, cookies known as Afghans, which are presented with a swirl of chocolate icing placed on top like a turban (whoever named those cookies have some explaining to do). And the most capitalist, the financier, which are made to look like gold bouillons. And, of course, I couldn’t get away without mentioning Sarah Bernhardts (not to be confused with Sandra Bernhardt), the glazed cookies that are supposed to pay homage to the late French actress’ lovely lady lumps.

And then, there are the obsolete. I read it was once thought that digestifs, those thick buttery sweet rounds made of wholemeal, helped with digestion because they contain baking soda. In actuality they don’t do much except give you an excuse to have a cookie while eating cheese and crackers because for some inexplicable reason they’re always in cracker samplers.

Well, if not for the initial confusion, at least they give me blog fodder.

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I bought a Chocolove bar today just for the poem, this one from Shakespeare. I guess I would make a good customer for Lyric Bread. It was 55% cocoa, and I think there’s enough bitter to sweet ratio for a 55%. Please chime in if you disagree. 

from Venus and Adonis:

Still she entreats, and prettily entreats,

For to a pretty ear she tunes her tale;

Still is he sullen, still he lowers and frets,

‘Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale; 

Being red, she loves him best; and being white,

Her best is better’d with a more delight.


Look how he can, she cannot choose but love;

And by her fair immortal hand she swears,

From his soft bosom never to remove,

Till he take truce with her contending tears,

Which long have rain’d, making her cheeks all wet; 

And one sweet kiss shall pay this countless debt.


Upon this promise did he raise his chin

Like a dive-dapper peering through a wave,

Who, being look’d on, ducks as quickly in; 

But when her lips were ready for his pay,

He winks, and turns his lips another way. 


And for those who really buy these bars for the poems, it says “Continued from Toffee in Milk Chocolate with best by date of MAR 2010,” and “Continued on Cherry Almond with best by date of MAR 2010.” Just like baseball cards—collect all three, folks!

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Watched HBO’s new show “Hung” last night and I snickered to myself quietly when Tanya, the poet/freelance proofreader played by Jane Adams, presents to her “I’m going to be a millionaire” class the idea of “lyric bread,” which consists of inserting inspirational verse into baked goods. She draws her inspiration from fortune cookies, and an example is “a croissant folded around Maya Angelou’s ‘Pheonomenal Women.'”

Did you know something like this already exists? In Chocolove‘s chocolate bars, in fact. There are love poems printed on the inside of the outer wrapping. I think I got a Rumi verse the last time I bought the 55%, so the whole experience was smooth and sweet on more than one level, albeit a little precious. If I were to curate the poetry for chocolate bars, I would pick verses that matched the cocoa content in bitterness. So let’s say milk chocolate, anything from Walden. 65% cocoa, Oscar Wilde. 72%, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker. 99% cocoa? Hmm.

It also reminds me of those random facts on Snapple and Nantucket Nectars bottle caps: a little some’n extra you didn’t ask for, but enriching nonetheless… for a second. It’s been years since I’ve bought either of those, and I have a very selective memory and can’t remember any. Can you?

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Pastry-related jokes

From Demetri Martin’s show, “Person”:

“I met many chocoholics, but I ain’t never seen no chocohol… We got an epidemic of people, people who love chocolate, who don’t understand the rules of word endings…They’re probably overworkahol-ed.”

“Cakes are the only food we write on. It’s always so encouraging, like, ‘Happy Birthday, Leo!’ ‘Congratulations, Eric!’ I feel like we’re missing an opportunity, [I’m] talking about negative cakes. ‘Surprise! You’re adopted.’ …Cuz’ that’s when you want a cake.”

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What is a foodie?

Just had this conversation with a friend who works at a food mag. Ah ha! So Gael Greene was the one.

Related, here’s a “list” I submitted to McSweeneys which got rejected. It was my third submission. I can never figure out the criteria; it just has to be funny, smart and subversive, right? They always write back, “This is fun, but we’re not going to use it.” I can take rejection well, because I’ve had plenty of practice, but I’d like to know why. Why don’t they just say, “Dear B., This just isn’t that funny.”??

Food-related words I’d like to have retired from the English language:
* smoothies
* wraps
* smelt
* Padma Lakshmi

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