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 bacon

Bacon is meat from a pig which has been preserved (i.e. cured) by salting. This may be dry salting or a pickling and drying. For centuries bacon formed an important part of a peasant’s diet in Europe due to its availability, cheapness and keeping qualities. Bacon became so associated with poor country folk that the word became used by writers - including Shakespeare - to mean a rustic person.

First recorded as bacoun in the 14th century, the word bacon is from the Old French bacon, bacon and etymologically speaking it is related to the word back, although nowadays bacon can be produced from meat from the back, side and hind quarters of a pig.   

Bring home the bacon means to achieve a task or to provide material support for one's family. The phrase only dates from the 20th century, which is surprisingly recent given that bacon had been the staple meat of peasant diets for centuries and so was an obvious candidate to be used as a metaphor for basic sustenance or a wage. It is first recorded in P.G. Wodehouse’s Ukridge, a collection of short stories published in 1924. It's origin is possibly related to the sport of trying to catch a greased pig which used to take place at country fairs and resulted in the winner keeping the pig and literally 'bringing home the bacon'.

Save one’s bacon means to escape unscathed from a difficult situation. Dating back to the 17th century, like the previous expression, it reflects the past importance of bacon as a store of meat.

Lard is generally fat from the inside of a pig carcass, which has been melted and clarified by straining. White, semi-solid and almost odourless, it nonetheless has a characteristic flavour and is used both to fry and roast foods and in making pastry. Its lack of water means that it will not spit when it becomes hot and its high smoking point makes it suitable for deep fat frying. The word lard is also used to describe the action of inserting rashers of bacon into meat about to be cooked to add flavour and baste it as it cooks. Both the noun and verb derive from the Old French for bacon, larde, itself from the Latin lārdum meaning bacon, lard and also the origin of the word larder.

Lard-arse is a derogatory, slang term for someone who is overweight and carries with it the implication that this is the result of inactivity. As lard-ass, the term originated in American English in the mid-19th century.   

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