Eat This Word: Chai

The James Beard Foundation on chai

WHAT? Spicy sipper. Chai is the Hindi word for “tea,” which makes a coffeehouse order of a “chai tea latte” redundant. (The word passed into Chinese and Japanese as “cha.”) The fragrant, milky beverage we’re referring to goes by “masala chai” in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet, where it is an integral part of every social gathering. To make the tea, a combination of sweet and savory spices such as cloves, star anise, peppercorn, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and fennel are ground, boiled in water, steeped with black tea, strained, and mellowed with milk and honey. According to Indian cooking expert Julie Sahni, “The people in cooler parts of India have traditionally added spices to their tea, not just for flavoring, but also to induce heat in the body. Spiced teas are particularly welcome after an Indian meal, because they provide a gentle, more graceful ending to the intricately spiced Indian dishes.” She adds, “A plain

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Eat This Word: Membrillo



WHAT? Jam-cestor. Derived from the Latin word melimelum, or "honey apple," the Spanish word membrillo (in Portuguese, marmelada) refers both to fresh and preserved quince, a celebrated fruit that was stored in honey during classical times. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, the thick sweet paste of cooked quince and sugar is the likely ancestor of jam and marmalade. Quince, a large, lumpy, bitter, green fruit that is inedible when raw, is transformed from ugly duckling into swan with the addition of sugar and a little heat, becoming an aromatic, delicious pink jam. In his book The Basque Kitchen, Gerald Hirigoyen describes the transformation of quince into membrillo as "magical," praising the quince, beloved in the French Pays Basque as well as along the Iberian peninsula, for its "delicate, floral, almost citrusy flavor." The paste is often served as a counterpoint to the salty flavors of Manchego cheese and Serrano and Presunto ham.

WHERE?

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Eat This Word: Vacherin

The James Beard Foundation on vacherin

WHAT? A very dairy dessert. Several cow’s milk cheeses, both French and Swiss in origin, go by the name Vacherin, which contains the French word for cow, vache. Some are made specifically for fondue; others are so soft they’re eaten with a spoon. To make matters even more confusing, the word is also used for a French meringue dessert. The dessert, it’s true, was named for the cheese, which it’s said to resemble. Rings of meringue are stacked on top of one another to form a basket, which is filled with fruit and ice cream, whipped cream, or crème chantilly, and then prettily decorated.

WHEN? Jean-Marc Boyer and Cedric Tovar's Beard House Dinner

WHERE? June 30, 2010

HOW? Strawberry Vacherin

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Eat This Word: Carnitas

The James Beard Foundation on carnitas
WHAT? Mexican confit. Though the word carnitas can refer to any small bits of cooked meat—that are usually served in soft corn tacos at roadside stands throughout Mexico—the most common is pork. To make pork carnitas, large pieces of shoulder and other fatty parts of the pig are simmered in vats of lard until they are crisp on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. The meat is removed from the fat, drained, and broken up into small shreds that are then stuffed into tacos. (Where there are carnitas, there are usually chicherones, or crisp, fried pork skins.) The western part of central Mexico, namely Michoacán, is known for carnitas, but truth be told they are tasty just about everywhere—even Queens, New York.

WHERE? Ivy Stark, Scott Linquist, and Hugo Reyes's Beard House dinner

WHEN? May 21, 2010

HOW? Roast Duck Breast and Duck Carnitas Enchiladas with Dried Fruit,

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Eat This Word: Mostarda

The James Beard Foundation on mostarda
WHAT? Pungent preserves. No, mostarda is not the Italian word for mustard. Though the words sound similar, this sweet-and-spicy condiment is only distantly related to the hot dog's favorite sidekick. To make mostarda, fruit is preserved in sugary syrup and given a slight kick with the addition of mustard seeds or powder. According to food writer Elizabeth David, this jam-like spread is a descendant of "the honey, mustard, oil, and vinegar condiments of the Romans, who also preserved roots such as turnips in this mixture." Cherries, figs, pears, and apricots are the most common ingredients in mostarda, but different variations include candied melon, pumpkin, or oranges. The piquant fruit accompaniment is enjoyed with boiled white meats or cheeses throughout Northern Italy. The most famous and popular variation is from Cremona, a small town in Lombardy, and includes pears, quince, peaches, cherries, and mandarins.

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Eat this Word: Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs

WHAT? Proustian picnic food. An American adaptation of a dish that has been eaten throughout Europe since Roman times, deviled eggs are beloved throughout the South and Midwest. Named for the fiery seasonings that give the dish its signature kick, the savory snack is the topic of rapturous remembrance on the Southern Foodways website. "Deviled eggs go down with surreptitious ease," waxed Richard A. Brooks on the site, "smooth and creamy, deceptively innocuous with all that hard-boiled whiteness topped by a relatively small dollop of yellow yolk and mysterious, secret flavorings." Though the preparation of the dish is simple—hard-boil eggs, mix the yolks with a creamy dip, season generously, and pipe into the halved egg whites—the relative merits of each family's deviled egg recipe can be endlessly debated. Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip? Dry mustard or French's? Cayenne or paprika? In their 2007 JBF

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Eat This Word: Succotash

The James Beard Foundation on succotash
WHAT? Daffy's favorite side dish. ("Suffering succotash!") Indians introduced colonists to this mix of beans and corn (the Indian version sometimes included bear meat) and gave the dish its name, which derives from msickquatash, Narraganset for boiled kernels of corn. In A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain listed succotash (along with possom, coon, and cobblers) among the food from home that he most craved while he was traveling. Ronald Reagan once used the word as a substitute for "Podunk" to mean a backwater place; in so doing, he incensed the 600 residents of Succotash Point, Rhode Island. Sadly, so many Americans were raised on loathsome frozen succotash vegetable mix, they've written off what food writer John Thorne has described as "a quintessential summer dish...with a wonderfully delicate flavor."

WHERE? Will Gilson's Beard House dinner

WHEN? August 4, 2009

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