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friedag

OT Peculiar Family Sayings

friedag
8 years ago

When I was a kid and liked to blather at the dinner table with my family, my mother, when she had had enough, would say, "Frieda, pipe down and eat your peas." My dad and two brothers picked up on it so that whenever I was too effusive -- at the dining table or anywhere else -- they would admonish me using mama's expression, except that they usually said, "Frieda, shut up and eat your peas." Mama disapproved of "shut up" and never said it to anyone. In turn, my brothers and I all used both versions of the saying with our own kids, inserting their names instead of mine of course. It was just a family thing.

Today I heard some pundit on TV talking about a politician bloviating. The pundit said he wanted to tell the politician, "Shut up and eat your peas!" Whoa! I didn't know that it was a common saying outside my own family. I thought my mother had coined it, but apparently not. I asked mama where she got it, but she said that she has no idea.

Is it a common expression? Have you heard it or used it yourself?

And that brings me to: Have you ever been astonished to hear someone use a saying that you thought was unique to your family? Or wonder if maybe it really did originate in your family but somehow leaked out and spread far and wide? There's probably no way of proving or disproving the origins of these sayings, but isn't it funny when they crop up unexpectedly?

Comments (58)

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Vee, I'm saddened to know that Tim had an abbreviated life. I can only imagine how rough things were for him and all of you, his family.

    The more I learn about DNA, the more amazed I am about how it works. I was startled when I saw a photo of my great grandmother when she was young and I could see my own resemblance to her, particularly in the way she held her head, seemingly to peer from the corners of her eyes instead of straight on, which I seem to do a lot in photos too (when I'm not caught with my eyes closed). It would have been interesting to know if, had she lived longer, whether she and I similarly aged in looks.

    The great grandmother mentioned above was prone to uttering spoonerisms and after she had done it once, often she continued to do it. One that became famous in our family: she would say, "Pick up a lead of hettuce for me while you're at the store." Nearly all of us in the family have, at one time or another, repeated 'lead of hettuce' either accidentally or intentionally. I particularly have a proclivity for saying it and coining other spoonerisms -- perhaps it's something else I inherited from her.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    Frieda, sorry, but I can't help you with the "Slang Jang", as I've never heard of it. There are some uniquely Charleston recipes however, with interesting names, such as "Perlew" or "Purlieu". (That is a riff on the word "Pilaf" referring to the clasic rice dish.)

    One phrase I used to hear growing up in Atlanta constantly was "Would you be so kind as to carry me down to the bus stop?" Used commonly among older southerners, meaning transport me in your car, wagon, etc., not to carry in ones arms.

    Like Frieda, I am fascinated by how DNA works physically. I can look at old photos of my grandmother and note I have her nose and her thin hair exactly, as well as the way she stands with her feet apart, which I often do. Likewise, my handwriting is similar to my grandfather (whom I never knew) who was trained in Spencerian penmanship. I call my scriblings self taught calligraphy.


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  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    Sorry, Frieda, I can't think of anything unique to my family in the way of expressions. Remember, it was a boiling cauldron of school teachers. Others in the community did threaten to "skin kids alive" if they didn't behave.


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    ...it was a boiling cauldron of school teachers.

    Carolyn, that's delightful wording! Maybe it's not unique to your family, but it's new to me. I may think henceforth of school teachers as being in one big pot. ;-)

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Friedag, I think you could be right about my mother's two note flourish.
    Vee, my grandmother used a similar expression about age but said "Old as my tongue....."


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Mary, when I visited my sister-in-law's family in Charleston, I recall them referring to the rice dish that was served as perlew or purlieu. It occurred to me at the time that it was what I call pilaf, but I didn't question how pilaf had morphed into perlew linguistically. I must see if I can find out. I also remember liking a mild curry dish they called "Country Captain" and, of course, Breakfast Shrimp -- I adore grits, which is thought by some to be unusual for a non-southerner.

    Re "Slang Jang": I did a search and found various recipes (some of them sound pretty awful but actually might be quite good). Most of the recipes don't list cabbage as an ingredient, but one published originally in Oxmoor House Homestyle Recipes seems to be pretty close to my S-I-L's version. Oxmoor House, as I'm sure you know but I didn't, publishes various southern-interest items such as Southern Living magazine. So it seems likely that Slang Jang is indeed southern, but The South is a big area -- big enough that something in one part isn't always known in another part. Some of the other Slang Jang recipes refer to east Texas, and that seems a possibility because S-I-L spent much of her married life living in southeast Texas. Perhaps she decided to combine some east Texas tradition with her own South Carolinian. I suppose that could be called fusion cuisine.

    Anyway, Mary, you put me on the right trail, I think, by letting me know that you weren't familiar with it. Thanks.

  • Kath
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Members of my family say 'touch wood', then touch something wooden and count to ten. If there is no wood available, you touch your head :)

    My mother has a wealth of old sayings like 'dry as a limeburner's boot' but my grandfather used to say 'can't tell A from a bull's foot'. The correct saying is 'can't tell B from a bull's foot', as that is the shape of a cloven hoof in the dirt.

    When we first let our two sons watch 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', they spent the whole film saying 'oh, that's where that comes from', as my husband and I use lots of phrases from it.

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Kath, I have heard the "B from a bull's foot" used. Never realised there was a reason behind it before though.
    I suppose sayings do get changed through misunderstandings or from not being heard correctly.
    Frieda, my mother went to Wales quite a few times so she may have picked up the "Touch wood..." from someone there, as it has Celtic heritage.


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    'dry as a limeburner's boot'

    That reminds me of "colder than a well-digger's patootie," something that I've heard in my family as long as I can remember. It probably did not originate with my family, though. I don't know how widespread the use of patootie for buttocks is.

    I'm not familiar with "can't tell B from a bull's foot." Do you think this is an Aussie original?

    Here's another that I've wondered about: When someone yawns, the automatic response from some people is "You're good-natured." I've asked why that's said -- the question seems to be expected -- and the saying is finished with "He must be good-natured or he would have swallowed us all." I've heard this from North Dakota to Texas. One time though I heard someone in Italy say it. I perked up and asked if he was from the U.S. Plains. He said no; he was from Holland.

  • Kath
    8 years ago

    Frieda, I have never heard anyone but my grandfather (who died in 1980 aged 90) say that :)

    My mother also says 'cold as a nun's fanny', remembering that fanny is different here (apologies if I have offended anyone).

  • martin_z
    8 years ago

    One I heard from my grandmother - she used to say when she was young that if she had a half-crown, she could call the Queen her aunt. Just a nice way of feeling very rich. (To US people - a half-crown was a nice big coin worth an eighth of a pound. I know that my grandparents were not well off when they were children, so they would have felt very rich with a half-crown. During the war, a pound was worth about four dollars - in fact, it wasn't that unusual to hear people in London refer to 'arf a dollar to mean half a crown, even in the sixties.)

  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    Martin, I well remember when five bob was referred to as a dollar, ' though only as slang.
    Kath, your Mother's remarks always cheer me up. Long may she carry on being offensive! I still laugh at the Toyota 'bugger' advert from NZ.


  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Having half a crown to spend when I was a child was wealth indeed! I found one in the sand by the beach and it was worth ten ice cream cones in those days.


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Martin, I like your grandmother's saying. I don't know of anything similar over here. I'm noticing that our sayings are not overlapping very much. Thanks for the money explanation. I made it to England a year after the money changeover and recall that people were still talking about how unreal the new money seemed compared to the old. It was unreal to me as well but for a different reason, of course.

  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    re new money not long after the coinage 'changed' (early '70's) in the UK I spent some time in Scotland with my late Mother and were in the Highlands staying in Inverness (my goodness that was a truly dreary place in those days . . no wonder the monster stayed well-hidden) . We had gone into a self-service cafe and handed money over at the checkout. The cashier looked at one of the coins in disgust and handed it back saying the Scottish equivalent of "Please don't hand me useless old currency" We apologised and when sitting down I checked the 'wrong' coin and noticed it had the symbol of St George and the Dragon on the obverse. It was half a guinea, a coin that had gone out of circulation years before but was a similar size the new ??? might have been the new 5 pence piece (old shilling).
    A guinea was worth one pound one shilling and is still used in fancy art auction prices, horse races etc. Of course the coin we inadvertently handed over was worth far more than that. I still have it somewhere along with an odd collection of coins picked up by my US grandfather while travelling in the Far East . . . some of them huge Spanish ones; 'Pieces of Eight' maybe?!


  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    When I returned to Australia after a twelve year absence, I had some old style currency notes and went to the Bank to change them. To my disgust I found they were going to take out a percentage for this so didn't proceed, thinking I might get a cheaper rate elsewhere.
    I mentioned this to a shop assistant and she said "Give them here." took the notes and gave me the equivalent current amount.
    "Banks!" she scorned. "We still get old money from people's savings and take it."

    I had some old notes when I went to the UK after a long absence and found the currency was different. I proffered a note for a theatre programme and the attendant gave it a long look.

    "Is that all right" I asked "Yes, fine but I haven't seen one of those in a long time." I think it was a ten shilling note now a coin, Vee?

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Vee, do you recall whether the Spanish coins in your grandfather's collection are scored or not? If I remember correctly, the minters did not make the score marks but users did to make it easier to take a chisel or some tool to break the coin up into pieces, usually eight, thus giving it the name "Pieces of Eight."

    Evidently the real de ocho was used in the U.S. through the 1800s and perhaps into the twentieth century. The pieces were calls "bits", thus 2 bits = 25 U.S. cents, 4 bits = 50 cents, and so on. The reference to bits is still used in some of our jingles ("Shave and a haircut, 6 bits") and sports team cheers (2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar/All for [insert team name] stand up and holler!) Do you all in the UK ever refer to the Spanish real (dollar)in such a way?

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    I remember the threepenny (pronounced throopenny or thripenny ) bit.
    According to one online site "Bits and bobs" referred to the threepenny piece and the shilling, known as a "bob". Possibly...


  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    Interesting about the 'bits' and 'Pieces of Eight'. I don't think our coins are 'scored'. I learn something new everyday at RP!. Over here we used to have 'thrupenny bits', which I think just meant 'bit' as a small size. At decimalisation (sp) we lost the 'tanner' ie sixpence,the shilling 'the bob' worth twelve 'old' pennies, the florin - two shillings, the half-crown - two and six. The ten bob note was replaced with the fifty pence coin and the pound note has been taken over by a coin. Much less weight to carry in purse or pocket.
    Must be much easier for kids learning 'money sums' . . . I have bad memories of doing long division of £ - s - d.
    Some years ago a US cousin visited and after flying into Heathrow went to buy breakfast. When she arrived with a loaded tray at the checkout the assistant said her money was 'out of date' and she realised someone 'back home' had wrongly supplied her with worthless cash! She was left wiser but hungry.
    My Mother had an equally embarrassing experience. She had arrived in New York at the Cunard pier and took a cab to the railroad station. She had enough dollar bills to pay the fare but not many loose coins, all of which she handed to the driver.
    "Whad you call this Lady?" he sneered at her. My mother putting on her best English accent hurriedly sailed away calling back to him "Oh that's quite alright driver, please keep the change."


  • annpanagain
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I am always uncomfortable about tipping as it isn't normal for me to do in Australia. I was advised to take US dollar notes with me for tipping in Europe as they were very welcome there.
    The whole tipping business is a minefield for me. In New York, the same man used to open the door for us at the little supermarket by the hotel and I found out later that it was usual to give him something! I just thought he was being polite...
    I also tipped a taxi driver with a handful of coins which didn't impress him but as he had taken me to the wrong place at first, I thought it made us even as I wasn't impressed either!

    Vee, speaking of drivers, would you or anyone who reads Golden Age mysteries think that an upper class person would call a vehicle a "car" or a "motor" in England in the thirties? I seem to recall that people "motored in the Daimler" or whatever make they drove.
    I am still reeling from the mistakes in a book I have just read but this is one that I am not too sure about!

  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    I never did get the hang of the "old money" while traveling in the UK. I would just trust the person was honest and hold out a bunch of change, hoping they would select the correct amount owed.

    I recall reading many books from the twenties and thirties when instead of saying "They drove the car to New York", it was written, "They motored to New York." This was usage both in the states and in the UK. I even have an old Nancy Drew Mystery from the 1930's which describes Nancy "motoring" to River Heights in her blue" roadster". And, by the way, Nancy wore a "frock." (That's a word long gone out of usage in the US).


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I remember hearing in the UK and reading in older books a vehicle being called a 'motorcar' or just a 'motor' but not a 'car'. I don't know if this was upper class usage, however. In the U.S. during the same time period, vehicles were usually called 'automobiles' or 'autos' but also 'motorcars'. I don't know when 'car' became the usual way of referring to vehicles -- I'm guessing it was either during WWII or after (don't take my guess seriously, though). The use of 'car' for train carriages goes further back in the U.S. -- passenger cars, freight cars, boxcars, etc.

    Mary, I have some of those original Nancy Drew books. I always liked the quaintness of roadster, frock, etc. I hated when they were updated into modern vernacular.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    Frieda, I agree. I like the quaintness of the older vernacular of the N.D. mysteries. I should say that the usage of "driving" goes way back, before automobiles or cars. In Atlanta, there was the old traditional "Piedmont Driving Club" which dated back to the days when its members arrived via horse and carriage. The name still stuck, in the 20th century.


  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    Annpan, I possibly wouldn't have noticed the 'car' word, but think what you suggest sounds correct. People 'motored' to the country and, as Mary says driving goes back to the use of animals as 'horse power' . . . and cows are still 'driven' to the milking palour etc.
    re 'frock', it seems to have come back into use here. There has always been the child's 'party frock', probably frilly or velvetty, but now you hear/see it sometimes used for adults. The fancy 'frocks' worn on Ladies Day at the races (with enormous hats) or the fashions seen on those red carpet occasions.


  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Thanks for these replies.
    I think that the author of "Murder at the Brightwell" made life hard for herself by setting the mystery in 1930's England. She could have made it an American mystery in that period and I would have enjoyed it!
    Trying to write about English people and get the speech patterns and word use correct is a huge task! I winced at "gotten" and so many other errors that it was hard to concentrate on the story.


  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    Vee, I had an embarrassing encounter with a railway porter in Prague a few years ago. My daughter and I spent a few days there, and for some reason--I think because it took so much of their money to equal one U.S. dollar--I never got my head around what the value was. A very nice older porter took our suitcases from the taxi to the proper platform for the train to Vienna, and when I gave him some money said, "That's not enough." I quickly gave him all the Czech money I had left and still have no idea what I gave him or whether it was still "not enough." Not one of my finer travel memories, aside from the fact that since we had had to leave before the breakfast room opened, I didn't have any money with which to buy a cup of badly needed coffee.

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I like to offload coins when I leave a country as they cannot be redeemed like notes. In Hong Kong I gave the lady who wheeled my chair (I travel as a senior/disabled person on my own) a handful of coins but she refused them at first saying that tips were not allowed. I said "For the children." and then she took them.

    Getting back to the thirties, I notice how meals have changed, at least in the UK. I believe that no one serves a savoury course now after the pudding unless one counts a cheese platter. In a Heyer novel, sardines on toast is mentioned as the savoury. I wouldn't like that after a pudding such as trifle. It would spoil the taste.
    My grandmother would eat a dry biscuit/cookie after a meal to "Settle the love." she would say. I don't know if that was her own or a general saying.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    I am in the dark as to what exactly a "savoury" is.


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I don't think a savoury course has been much in vogue in most of the U.S., ever -- except maybe at fancy restaurants or amongst the higher ups who employed servants.

    My family -- and most people we knew -- seldom broke meals into courses; everything was put on the table to be passed around. You could have your soup or salad by itself first if you chose, then eat your meat (or other main dish) with the starch and vegetables, and then go over to the sideboard to get your dessert. The fish, if we had it (we usually didn't), was not served separately before the meat, and we certainly didn't have sorbet to 'cleanse the palate' after the fish, and so on.

    My grandfather after eating his dessert wanted to eat an olive or a dilled gherkin to, as he said, "Cut the sweet." I suppose that was his savoury.

  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    Frieda, interesting about the lack of 'courses' in your childhood home. I had just been thinking about that very thing, in connection with one of those 'Little House . . .' books. It is where Laura's family go to meet the father and travel by train. They get to what might be called a station hotel and she clearly describes the whole meal served at mid-day. How all the guests sit round at a big table, which is already set with a plate of pie by each plate and then the serving dishes are brought in and the folk with the longest arms get the best portions (she doesn't say this, being careful that 'little children' are given the correct impression of life then!) but one gets the meaning. A similar description is given in her book about her husband's childhood on the farm.
    Would soup and salad and a meat/fish plus veggies and a dessert be on offer every day? As children were you allowed to eat whatever was there or leave it at will and help yourself to dessert whether the others had finished or not?
    So different from how we do/did things over here.
    Fish was always a Friday meal in most UK households, served fried/boiled/steamed either with chips or mashed potato and the inevitable white/parsley/egg sauce. Always meat and veg in some form on other days.
    In family homes I don't think fish and meat would have been served at the same meal, unless in 'top' homes.Three courses might have been offered at restaurants but two were pretty much standard in private homes or 'school meals' (yuk)

    Salad is never served as a 'course' unless to a vegetarian; you would have it as a 'vegetable(s)' with cold meat/cheese/quiche etc. or maybe as a small 'side' dish.

    annpan, I think savouries are almost never found on menus these days, so gone are the angels on horseback . . .which is the only thing I can think of! Cheese and biscuits is still popular and often we have them rather than pud, maybe with some fruit.


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Would soup and salad and a meat/fish plus veggies and a dessert be on offer every day? As children were you allowed to eat whatever was there or leave it at will and help yourself to dessert whether the others had finished or not?

    Yes, to your first question. The salad could be eaten by itself or, as you described, as a choice of vegetable alongside the main dish. If the main dish was, say, a meat stew, then the soup was omitted.

    No, to your second question. As children we were expected to eat what was put on the table or at least try a portion of it. We were allowed to help ourselves to dessert only after we had made a good effort of eating what was the proper amount. Mother was the judge. She would nod and give her permission for us to leave the table to get whatever dessert she had set out on the sideboard, and return to the table, of course, to eat it. We didn't have to wait on everyone else to finish the main part of the meal before we asked permission for dessert, though. My father was a very slow eater and if we had waited on him, we would have had to sit and fidget too long.

    There was a set order that my family followed in passing the platters and bowls of food round the table. Daddy did the carving and passed the meat. Even if no carving was required because she had done it herself in the kitchen, mother always set the meat by daddy's plate for him to help himself first and then pass it to his clockwise. Mama put the starch (potatoes, rice, pasta, stuffing) on her end of the table for her to start with and pass along clockwise.. The other offerings were scattered between daddy and mother. Whatever happened to be in front of your place, you were expected to start with that and pass to the next person. I'm sure that most families had some sort of order although it probably varied from family to family. However, I think some families practiced 'boardinghouse reach' which seemed to be who was the quickest on the draw to get the choicest items, much as you related, Vee.*

    I remember having something called "Locket's Savoury" in England. As I recall it was sliced fresh pears with (I think) Stilton cheese.

    *[Edit] I meant to include that we were expected to wait until everyone had filled his/her plate before we commenced eating. If grace hadn't already been said, this was when a quick grace was offered. Along with 'Amen', each person in our family included a single clap of hands. Nobody can remember how this got started. We didn't do the clap at other people's houses, though.

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago


    In the households where I lived when I was single, meals were dished up in the kitchen and the plates of food brought to where we sat the dining room. We had two separate courses, the main course was meat or fish and vegetables, in summer meat or fish put on the plate and a bowl of salad and other items like a dish of beetroot were put on the table so you could help yourself. The pudding course was again dished up and plated in the kitchen and brought to table.
    I think this plating was called "a la Rousse" and had replaced the "placing of the items on the table" kind of service some years ago. It saved all the shuffling about and the meals were served quickly and came hotter direct from the nearby kitchen.
    I continued this practice when I had my own home.
    When we were small children we said a quick "Thank the Lord for my good dinner. Please may I get down?" at the end of the meal. The adults would then have a pot of tea and relax after the meal and my grandmother would have a dry arrowroot biscuit from the biscuit barrel on the sideboard.

  • Kath
    8 years ago

    When I was young my mother dished the meals up and we ate what she gave us. We had meat and vegetables mostly. If we had a barbeque with salad, the salad items would be on the table to help yourself. We never ate bread and butter with our meals, but it was always out when we went to my grandmother's for a meal. My mother wasn't keen on cooking and rarely made dessert - we had icecream or a biscuit (cookie) with our after dinner tea or coffee. My mother in law apparently supplied a cooked dessert nearly every night. My father in law also at bread at every meal, usually with Vegemite :)

    One thing that surprised me in the US when we were there in 2013 is the main meal being called the entreé. It doesn't make any sense to me.

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    One thing that surprised me in the US when we were there in 2013 is the main meal being called the entreé. It doesn't make any sense to me.

    I haven't heard the main meal being called "the entrée" in the U.S. I think most of us call the main meal "dinner" whether it is served at midday or in the evening. However, if you mean, instead, the main dish being called "the entrée," that's true.

    Do a research on entrée and prepare to be even more confused. :-)

    I'll summarize what I think I learned, mainly for my own benefit but the rest of you might be interested. And you can correct me if you think I've got it wrong.

    Apparently in the service of contemporary French cuisine, an entrée is the course served prior to the main course BUT after the aperitif and hors d'oeuvre. Hors d'oeuvre are usually referred to as "starters" in the UK and "appetizers" in the U.S. The confusion that the entrée is the first thing served may come from the prix fixe menus which usually only include three courses: the entrée, the main dish with accompaniments, and dessert. In most of the English-speaking world, it is accepted that the first thing served is the entrée whether it is soup, salad or other dishes. However, in the United States and English-speaking Canada the entrée refers to the main dish only. This comes from an older French culinary definition of entrée as the most important dish to make entrance from the kitchen, and this was usually a meat dish. For some reason, North Americans have retained the older French meaning while other English-speakers have adopted the more modern French.

    Apologies for the lack of diacritical marks.

    Service a la russe: diners have empty plates before them. The food is brought to table as sequential courses on large platters and the diners serve themselves from them.

    Service a la francaise: This is country-style. All courses are present on the table at the same time. Diners have empty plates before them. Food dishes are passed from diner to diner in rotation. (This sounds like my family's method.) The buffet is a variation of this.

    There are other styles of service, including the one Annpan described when the individual plates/bowls are filled in the kitchen and then brought to the table and set before the diners.

    I suspect that the country-style service has been the most popular in the U.S. because most American families have never had servants. If the main food server is also the wife/mother, the cook and one of the diners, she would be hopping up and down from her seat to tend to everyone else's needs and never get the chance to enjoy her own meal.

    Of course in today's world some people don't bother with any kind of service when the family no longer sits down to eat together.

  • Kath
    8 years ago

    Frieda, you're right, I meant the main dish. I presumed that entrée meant the entry into the meal rather than entry from the kitchen :)

    I found the entrée mainly in restaurants. You are also right that in Australia and the UK this would be called the main course. When we eat in restaurants the choices are usually appetisers (this isn't always listed), entrées, mains and desserts. Soup would be in the entrée course, or sometimes listed separately, and cheese might be put in with the desserts or listed separately. Often there is a dish which can be chosen as an entrée or a main, with a difference in price of course.

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Friedag, thanks for the explanation of service a la Russe. I remember now, that was different from what we did. I should have checked out the term.
    I recall a well known chef telling a story about when he was a young waiter. He carefully served a fish onto what he thought was a plate and realised too late it was the table cloth in front of a prominent guest! Who calmly thanked him!!


  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    I think these days far more families eat in the kitchen. We only use our dining room on high days and holidays, when it has to be dusted, polished and accumulations of DH's cr*p removed from the table. Then the fire has to be lit as there is only minimal central heating in there. Usually jackdaws have made nests in the chimney pot, the fire smokes so the flue has to be swept . . . then the cleaning has to begin again. Kitchen meals are so much easier! But we always made sure everyone sat down to eat together; even breakfast . . . so I knew the children had had a 'good start' to the day.
    Many 'younger' families and individuals seem to 'eat on the hoof' or, using neither plates or cutlery, with adults hunched in chairs and kids on the floor all munching instant food, swigging from cans/bottles gazing at TV.
    Many school-age kids here in the UK are sent to school with no breakfast and only a packet of what we call crisps and a bottle of lurid juice for lunch. There are huge problems with obesity throughout the country, especially among the less well-off . . . and lots of TV 'reality shows' following grossly overweight folk around the supermarket, the doctors and most horrible to watch . . . the dentist where their kids have to have all their rotten baby teeth removed.


  • annpanagain
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Sitting hunched over meals in a chair while watching TV is asking for trouble.
    I had pains in my right side and was booked in for an appointment to see a consultant at the hospital after I was coming back from a holiday with my family.
    They eat meals around a table and my pain stopped! When I went home I bought a tray table to serve meals on and never had any trouble again. I mentioned it to the clerk when I cancelled the appointment to advise the consultant in case he was interested in my quick fix!

  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    Very sensible Ann! My older son had a couple of girl-friends (not at the time) and when he visited their families he was surprised to find they didn't even own a table. He offered to cook the Sunday lunch for one family, no doubt to impress them with his domestic skills, and they were amazed . . . he even did a Yorkshire Pudding . . . and this particular family lived in Yorkshire, a county known for being 'down-to-earth-no-nonsense' (as Frieda who I know has friends up there might second).
    BTW to US RP'ers Sunday lunch/dinner used to be the most important meal of the week when the cook/drudge ie Mother made a special effort, the kids had 'nice' table manners and helped with the dishes afterwards.
    DH remembers it as a time when his family (strong chapel goers) invited the Minister to lunch after the morning service. Very good behaviour was expected.


  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    It is an eye opener going to other people's homes for meals.
    My neighbour invited us to Christmas dinner one year. We had all the turkey and trimmings but balanced the loaded plates on our laps as she never had a dining table!
    I was used to a real effort being made for this meal with the best of china, drinking glasses etc. brought out and a beautifully decorated table. It was kind of her but I felt a little robbed of our special occasion...

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Woodnymph, you asked what a savoury was. It was a small dish served at the end of a meal. There is a good article I found on Google from The Guardian newspaper "A course to endorse" which gives a good explanation and some suggestions you may like to try.


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Annpan, what about dishes such as Scotch Woodcock (eggs and anchovies on toast) or Welsh Rabbit/Rarebit or Mushrooms on Toast or "Any other bloody thing on toast" (quoted from a book about food served before, during and after WWII)? Could they be served as savouries? What about kidneys, grilled or devilled? I'm feeling a bit green just thinking what the aftertaste of those things would be. I'm with you, Annpan; I don't want the sweet taste ruined.

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Okay, what about tiffin? The definition given as an explanation to Americans is snacks or a small meal. Yeah, that tells me a lot! It seems to have been a favorite of British expats in such places as India and China. It sounds so la-ti-da (pretentiously elegant) or do I have the wrong impression?

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Friedag, although I wouldn't like a savoury course after a sweet one, I can see the benefit for a person who doesn't like a sweet finish to the meal having savoury instead and passing up on the sweet. Some things are a matter of taste.
    A friend and I went to a buffet meal and I was surprised when she decided to have a second helping from the soup tureen after she had finished all the normal courses. She said that she had enjoyed the soup so much she wanted to have it again.
    I settled for coffee, a liqueur and a mint chocolate...


  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Friedag, I understand that tiffin was just a word used for lunch in India etc. but is now also used to describe a kind of lunch pail. I bought one for my son and it has three tiers for carrying different items and a clip goes over the whole thing. There is a pix on Google.
    He found it very useful.


  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    We discovered when they came over for Christmas brunch at our house that one of my stepdaughters was giving her little girls Hostess Twinkies (bad junk food for those of you who don't have them) for breakfast before sending them off to school. I had prepared a number of different dishes and served the food buffet style to simplify people's choices. The then six-year-old granddaughter asked what the yellow stuff was--and it was scrambled eggs, which she had never eaten. That same little girl is now 35, quite pretty, but, sad to say, badly overweight.

    DH's other daughter and her little son lived with us for quite a while, and he was the only one of my husband's grandchildren who knew how to sit down at a table and eat his food nicely. I'm not very tough, but I just did what we had always done at home. I don't really know how his girls were raised, but they both do love television.


  • mariannese
    8 years ago

    Everything you write evokes memories. In Sweden the saying to ward off evil is "pepper, pepper, touch wood" so I don't thing the touch wood bit could be Celtic in origin. When I was in India in 67-68, at international work camps, tiffin was the afternoon tea break with some savoury snack. But I think I heard the expression only in Delhi, not in other parts of India.


    In my childhood home (long ago now!) all meals were served at table in the kitchen and meal times were very strict and all families in the neighbourhood kept the same times. It was very convenient for children, all went in to eat at the same time so there were never any arguments. I lived on the Baltic coast so we had fish at least five times a week when in season, for lunch or dinner. We bought the fish from a fisherman who came round early in the morning, first on his bike with the icebox at the back, later with his car. There was only one main course and dessert, a cooked dessert every day. My mother would sometimes make small amounts of icecream, a rare treat. She made everything from scratch. I don't remember any store bought food or canned food. The first frozen foods in the late 50'ies were peas, spinach and fish filets.


    My mother never liked to cook although she had to. I started cooking when I was 14, the few things mother would let me cook. The very first thing I did was to cure a large fresh ham when mother was in hospital before Christmas that year. We usually got a cured ham for Christmas but that year father had bought a fresh ham from a farmer and took for granted that I would know how to make the brine.

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Hello, Mariannese! It's good to see that you made the transition to this 'new' RP. I've been worried that some of our longtime friends have not shown up yet.

    "Pepper, pepper, touch wood" -- now that's intriguing. Why pepper? Do you know?

    Hmm, tiffin doesn't sound especially elaborate by most accounts. But in a book I've been reading about British expats in Peking in the 1930s, the residents of the Legation Quarter -- the site of embassies and consulates and an enclave of foreigners, mostly Europeans but also Americans and Japanese -- seemed to have had a fancy version of lunch or some other small meal that they called tiffin. Young men would ask girls to meet them for tiffin at "tiffin salons." Maybe this was just a Peking thing. I thought so until I ran across the mention of tiffin as 'partaken by the gentry' (foreign again) in Kuala Lumpur.

    I love these vignettes you all write about your childhood and other memories -- the ways things were done and how people acted.

    Curing a ham at age fourteen! Mariannese, you were intrepid. :-)

  • mariannese
    8 years ago

    I looked up the pepper, pepper expression. It seems that pepper was considered a repellant because of its strong taste so putting pepper on your good fortune would not attract evil powers.

    Curing the ham was easy. I looked up the recipe for brine in a cookbook, just salt, sugar, water and saltpetre to keep the meat pink. One of my aunts didn't add saltpetre and her ham was quite gray and unappetizing but probably healthier though we didn't know that.

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Old cookbooks can be a little misleading. A recipe for a marinade that included Gunpowder meant a brand of tea....not the BOOM kind!