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 offal

Also known as variety meats, offal is a collective term for an animal's edible internal organs (the heart, liver and kidneys etc). Dating back to the 14th century, the word originated as a shortened compound of off + fall meaning the parts that would be removed while preparing a carcass and would literally 'fall off' the butcher's block.

Faggots are savoury balls made from minced pig offal, onion, breadcrumbs and herbs, bound together with egg and wrapped in a thin, edible casing. They are then baked or fried. Usually eaten hot with an accompanying tasty gravy, they can also be enjoyed cold, with a salad. They are a traditional dish in northern England and Wales.

From the Old French fagot meaning a bundle of sticks bound together and intended for firewood. Later it came to be used generally for a bundle of things and it was the bundled nature of the ingredients that led to the word faggot gaining another – food - meaning.

The 20th century use of faggot to describe a male homosexual is American English offensive slang, now often shortened to fag. It is thought to have developed from a much earlier use of faggot as a derogatory term for a woman, especially if she was elderly and unpleasant. Like the faggots we eat, it came from the bundle of sticks meaning and so has parallels with how we use the term baggage today.

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