To kill the fatted calf is to prepare a huge celebratory feast, especially to welcome someone. It means to have a big party with lots of food and drink.
The American Heritage Dictionary Of Idioms defines it as "to prepare for a joyful occasion or a warm welcome." An example would be a long lost beloved relative coming home: "When Steve comes home from his deployment we are going to kill the fatted calf.
I've written about many food word origins here on CulinaryLore. I have been meaning to write about the origin of the word pumpernickel for a while, especially since I had read it had some surprising derivations. I thought I may as well do some research of my own to confirm these odd and funny origins.
The word epicure refers to someone who is a connoisseur of food and wine, seeks out only the finest, and has selective tastes. The meaning of the word was not originally so highfalutin, though. It could also mean something more like glutton.
What Does 'There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch' Mean?
When we say 'there's no such thing as a free lunch,' we mean to express that there are few things in life that are truly given to us at no cost or free. There are usually strings or at least expectations attached. The cost of goods or services has to come from somewhere. In other words, you can't get something for nothing, and if something appears to be free, it isn't really. A similar saying is "there is no such thing as a free ride."
Diner lingo is becoming a thing of the past but there are still diners where the servers use this colorful language to call out orders. Not all of this language originated in diners, though. Some if it came from the old soda fountain and lunch-counters. Some diners have their own peculiar slang, but there are some age-old gems that have been passed down. If you've ever heard a counter-person calling out orders using this slang, you may have thought you were listening to a complicated insider's code that only the inner circle of diner-world can understand. But the language handed down from the soda fountains and lunch counters to the modern diner originally served a purpose. Although some of the terms may have originated as early as the 1870's, with the soda jerks, they had their hey-day between the 1920's and 1970's.
Some people don't drink whiskey or other hard liquors but enjoy wine or the occasional beer. Others stick to the hard stuff, and others only like beer. None of these people are teetotalers. A teetotaler is someone who refuses to imbibe any and all alcohol containing liquids. Where did this curious word come from and how did it come to be applied to those who totally abstained from drinking?
The plural of asparagus is an interesting lesson in language. The word, in fact, could be said to not actually have a plural, or to have two plurals, depending on your viewpoint.
The expression 'apple pie order' is used to refer to something being perfectly neat and tidy. For example, we might say a person who keeps their kitchen clean and perfectly organized keeps their kitchen in apple pie order. How did this phrase originate? What does being neat and orderly have to do with apple pie? There are at least four explanations for the origin of this expression. As we shall, none of them are entirely satisfactory.
Vittles is an old-time word for food which we tend to associate with the rural South, cowboys, pioneers, mountain men, and the like. It actually comes from Middle English, by way of French.
Arrowroot, usually available in powder form, is a root starch used for thickening in similar ways to corn starch or flour, although both the latter come from grains. Arrowroot is also used in the food industry to create very clear gels. This same clearness is an advantage when using arrowroot to thicken at home. Unlike corn starch, arrowroot does not make sauces, stocks, or gravies cloudy or opaque.
Today, you can buy a 'hibachi' in most discount department stores or hardware stores. Most of use think of them as small Japanese grills. This is essentially what they are, a small charcoal brazier, but the traditional hibachi was more central and useful to the Japanese household.
The word candy found its way into English as early as the 15th century. However, centuries passed before it came to be used as a standalone noun, as it did during the 17th century.
At first, it was used in a compound word, as sugar candy, a usage you will still hear occasionally.
You know the presidential oath by heart, I'm sure: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of big cheese of the United States, and will to the best of my ability…"
Although we don't use this expression much anymore, the president has been referred to as the big cheese. Or course, we may use the term to refer to anybody who is in charge, or who we consider a "big shot." If you work for a company, you may call the CEO the big cheese. What is the origin of this nickname?
Nosh can be a noun or a verb. A between-meal snack is a nosh. Or, if you are hungry but it's not yet dinner time, you can nosh. Sometimes, as well, a nosh is any food or meal. A nosher is someone who eats between meals or who has a sweet-tooth. It may also refer to someone who has a hard time controlling his appetite, such as when dieting.
To understand how the term dessert came about, we first have to be clear on what a dessert is and is not.
First, a dessert is not just another word for a sweet food. For example, if you eat a candy bar as a snack in the middle of the day, this is not a dessert. Dessert is the last part of a meal, and, it is usually sweet.