Just Words

I’m always piggishly interested in what people are eating so I just had to have a look at the menu for the State Banquet HM Queen gave for President Trump last week. The dessert was listed as Strawberry Sable.

Now I’m not a pastry expert but I knew there was a pastry French patissiers make called sablee. Was ‘sable’ a misprint, or an attempt at making, say, strawberry shortcake, sound more sophisticated and worthy of all those candelabra? Sable is the French word for sand, and my shortcake is definitely gritty because I add rice flour or semolina to the mix, depending on what I have to hand. A little research proved that the recipes for shortcake/shortbread/pate sablee are practically identical. So now we know what The Donald had for pud. Of course, having thought about strawberry shortcake I then wanted to eat it. You can therefore guess how my Saturday afternoon was spent. Restraint, though, got the better part of greed and I made little shortcakes, the better to eke out the treat over the next few days.

So that was ‘sable’ sorted. But sometimes there are words we use day in, day out, without any idea where they came from. Here’s one for you: book. No, me either, but thanks to Dot Wordsworth of The Spectator, I know now and will share with you.

People used to write on the inner bark of beech trees. In Latin it was called liber. See where this is going? The Old English word for a beech tree was bok. I concede that acquiring this piece of information isn’t as useful as remembering where I put my stapler, but it’s still rather nice to have.

One last thing today. If you haven’t joined my mailing list please go to the sign-up page and do so. I promise you won’t get inundated with annoying emails but if, as looks increasingly likely, I self-publish a book later this year, you dear readers, will be the first to sample it.


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