July 6, 2014
Both of my regular readers probably know that our word “wiener” is derived from the German word for a sausage that comes from Vienna, and that a frankfurter is straightforwardly a sausage from Frankfort. We did this once before in the blog, if you missed it. But what about a few more food-related fun facts?
- Back in the 1850s a particularly ineffectual cook named Mo ran a local café and boarding house in Northern Michigan. Mo had trouble getting his hotcakes out of the pan in a timely manner. The loggers who were his primary clientele were recently arrived from back East, and they had curious way of pronouncing the distinctive trait of Mo’s blackened fare. They complained that the food at Mo’s was always “boyned”. They started referring to Mo’s joint as “boyne city.” And that’s how the town that grew up around it is still known today.
- The Owston’s palm civet, native to Laos, has learned to feed on coffee beans from plantations that coexist with wildlife preserves in the Cuc Phuong area. Their highly adapted sense of smell has made them picky eaters who choose only beans at the very peak of flavor and aroma. Connoisseurs of fine coffee will pay a fortune for kopi luwak or kopi musang, both made by collecting civet droppings and washing out the remaining beans. Producers in Sumatra have started keeping the civets in battery cages and force-feeding them beans.
- William Faulker’s script for the 1958 film “Long Hot Summer” originally started out as light comedy about a summertime weenie roast around a bonfire in Southern Mississippi. The action tends more heavily toward slapstick as the characters engage in bouts of raucous drinking and carousing until finally the fire gets out of control, burning down the main character’s barn. Bluesman James Cotton wrote a song named “Hot Dog” for the film, which went, “Just got into town today to find my girl who’s gone away.” Ultimately the bonfire and Cotton’s music were scrapped and the barn-burning became part of the back story for Paul Newman’s romance with co-star Joanne Woodward.
- And speaking of picnic-related song lyrics, though now a vegetarian, Yusaf Islam once wrote a song about a picnic he went on with Bill and Hilary Clinton when they were all students at Yale University in the 1960s. The original lyrics referred to his own contribution to the picnic. He brought “tea for Hillary’s man” and “steak for their son”. Islam apparently thought that the youngster accompanying them was Bill and Hillary’s child, but it was actually the child of Yale anthropologist Othneil C. Marsh, who Hillary was babysitting. According to later reports, Bill enjoyed the tea, but did not inhale.
And here’s the most shocking thing: Some of this is true!
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University