Eating Your Words

The fascinating origins of everyday culinary words and phrases

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Food glorious food!

Everything but the kitchen sink

Keep the pot boiling

Out of the frying pan

Salad days  

In the soup!

Cook one’s goose  

Give us a butchers!   

What a sauce!

A sandwich short of a picnic

Feeling groggy           

Just my cup of tea

Look to your laurels   

The spice of life      

In a nutshell   


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The meaning and origin of words and phrases related to the word recipe

A recipe is simply a list of ingredients for a particular dish together with the step-by-step method used to prepare and cook it. Recipes that only contain a few, basic, ingredients may remain exactly the same from one reference source to another. However most recipes are more complex and are open to adaption. As a result, there may be dozens of different recipes all of which bear the same name. More often than not though, the differences between recipes will be comparatively minor, relating to the flavouring ingredients, rather than those that form the main body of the dish.

Dating back to at least the 16th century, the word recipe was originally used by physicians on instructions for mixing medicines. Latin in origin, it meant 'take!' or ‘receive!’ and was written at the top of a medical prescription. It then came to describe the recipe itself. Recipe! was the imperative form of recipere meaning ‘to take' and also the origin of the words receive, recipient, reception and receptacle. The commonest modern usage of 'instructions for the preparation of food' is first recorded in the first half of the 18th century.

The expression a recipe for success describes a process for achieving a desired objective, whereas a procedure that will lead to catastrophe is a recipe for disaster.   

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Keeping the pot boiling