Food is everywhere. We talk about it, think about it, stare at it, chew it, gulp it, and dream about it. We bake it, boil it, fry it, slice and dice it, and sometimes eat it raw. We party with it. We plan it, worry about it, and we work for it.
Food is everywhere. We talk about it, think about it, stare at it, chew it, gulp it, and dream about it. We bake it, boil it, fry it, slice and dice it, and sometimes eat it raw. We party with it. We plan it, worry about it, and we work for it. We talk about food even when we’re not thinking about producing it, buying, or eating it. Some of us even eat too much food. Down through history, food has been an important part of our lives. Without food, we could not exist.
Our English language is full of food expressions and names, and each one’s path into common usage is different. Silly things like, he’s a “couch potato,” “it’s a cake walk,” “pie in the sky,” and you might be “worth your salt” someday. Sometimes they’re startling, sometimes funny, and sometimes just plain weird.
The forbidden fruit, for instance, was first taken from the Bible in the story of Adam and Eve who were warned not to eat what many people think was an apple in the Garden of Eden. Swayed by a smooth talking snake, Adam and Eve didn’t listen to God and tasted the forbidden fruit anyway. That soon led to Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The term forbidden fruit lingered down through the ages and was popularized in the 17th Century to mean anything you’re supposed to stay away from, and not necessarily just weird apples. In my case it was the “farmer’s daughter."
And speaking of weird apples, why do we call New York City the “Big Apple”, and Manhattan, Kan., the “Little Apple”? Neither is shaped like an apple and there aren’t a lot of apples growing at either place. I understand the expression was originated by jazz musicians in the 1930s when they boasted about playing in “The Big Apple” – New York City. If you were fortunate enough to play in the big city, then you were considered to have made the big time, the Big Apple. In 1971, New York City’s convention bureau took the term and ran with it. Of course, the city was built on Manhattan Island, which was originally the ancestral home of the Manhattan band of the Delaware Indians, who in time were removed from the East Coast to an area known today as Manhattan, Kan.
They say, “An apple a day, will keep the doctor away,” and they are probably right. I do like my apples, but probably my favorite delicacy is ham and eggs. However, in the Jewish and Muslim religions, even a nibble of pig meat is forbidden. But, we Americans love our porkers. We love to eat them anyway. Eating ham, bacon and sausage is almost a religion within itself. In fact, it may very well happen someday, “when pigs fly,” or after we are accused of “hamming it up.” That is, if we can save enough in our piggy banks.
Food fads, like fashion fads, come and go like the wind. One day everyone is eating a fruit like kiwi. Then, almost over night, kiwi goes out of style and other fruits such as pomegranates and blackberries are suddenly all the rage.
There are also a lot of superstitions surrounding our food. It’s bad luck to spill the salt, but if you do, pick up a handful and throw it over your shoulder quickly. My dear old grandmother told me things like, never eat before your elders, or you’ll return as a dog in your next life. Don’t eat other people’s food without permission, or your throat will swell up. Don’t eat turtles, because you will start to walk slowly, and don’t eat chicken feet; they will give you bad handwriting.
Reference: “Everything but the Kitchen Sink” by Frieda Wishinsky and Elizabeth Macleod.
Portraits of the Past - Volume Five, a collection of the stories and artwork from this column, has arrived and are available at the Examiner office, 410 S. Liberty, and at the Blue & Grey Book Shoppe at 106 E. Walnut, two blocks south of the Independence Square.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 816-252-9909.