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What the heck is that?? Part 4

Get ready for honey season.

Sometimes in the culinary world, menus are confusing. Sometimes chefs use culinary terms that are esoteric and weird. Other times new culinary fashions come and go so fast you don't have time to learn them. Still other times, the chef is daydreaming, wishing he had stayed in college and become a famous writer. in any case we present to you an ongoing series of culinary terms explained by the chef.

Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi fruit: The Kiwi fruit originated in China, and was originally called a Chinese Gooseberry in America. New Zealand began growing them in the early twentieth Century, and exports to the United States took off in the 1960's. China's move towards communism might have dampened enthusiasm for the name, and Kiwi Berries was adopted by marketers as a a more acceptable substitute, as well as evoking images of the small Kiwi bird with the fuzzy brown exterior. The name was shortened to Kiwi Fruit, and they became very popular by the 1980's . On a side note, the French took to calling the fruit souris vegetales (vegetable mice), in the 1970's and that is my preferred term.

Kohlrabi: the kohlrabi is literally the stalk of a member of the cabbage family. These globular vegetables have a texture and flavor similar to the center of a broccoli stalk. they can be eaten raw or cooked, but the small ones are always the best.

Koumiss: fermented horses' milk as drunk by the nomadic peoples of western and central Asia. The alcohol level can range quite a bit, and it is reportedly a very much acquired taste. In late Victorian England there was a sudden craze for this drink as a cure for anemia. We don't usually serve Koumiss, I just thought it was pretty cool and maybe we can experiment with the new microbrewery.


Lager: Lager is beer made from bottom fermenting yeast (ale is made from top fermenting yeast) that thrives at low temperatures allowing it to ferment around 40 degrees. Lower fermentation temperatures make a much cleaner flavor, appealing to modern palates. The word roughly translate to "storage" for the longer time it takes to develop.

Lasagna: Etymologically, lasagna means "chamber pot". I swear I am not making this up. The Romans borrowed the word from the Greeks and applied their own wry humor to the name for a wide mouthed cooking pot or dish. In modern language however a lasagna means a flat dish layered with sheets of pasta, tomatoes, minced meats and cheese. Lots of different versions exist and most of them are quite good.

Latke: In Jewish cuisine, Latkes are crisp cakes made from grated potatoes. The word is Yiddish, and comes ultimately from the Russian word latka or pastry.

Leek: These members of the Allium family were eaten in ancient Sumer as early as the fifth millennium BC, and were a favorite in Western Europe from almost as long. Some surprising combinations are quoted in Medieval texts such as "Leeks and Quinces stewed in honey" (for instance). Yum. Anyway, the name for these mildly flavored onions is strictly Germanic (leek, lauch, look) and the also forms the second syllable in the word "garlic" as gardeners and cooks undoubtedly saw the resemblance. Interestingly the Romance language words for leeks (poireau, porro, puerro) also give is the name in English for Porridge-- an outdated term for a thick stew of vegetables. Leeks are a great addition to soups, stews, or on their own but are infamous for hard-to-remove grit from between their layers.


Lemongrass: a species of tropical grass which, as the name suggests, has a strong flavor of citrus. It is widely used in southeastern Asian cooking as well as in the Caribbean. When I was working in St. Thomas, my cooks used to make tea from lemongrass when they were sick. they called it "fever grass", because it would cause sweating which precedes the breaking of a fever. I love lemongrass, and planted it in our garden this year. It is not thriving.

Lentil: This ancient source of food has been cultivated since at least 6000 BCE and cultures all over the world count it as part of their diet. Bland but nutritious, lentils are a perfect foil for other flavors and combine brilliantly with strong spices such as ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilies.

Lettuce: this leafy vegetable is named for the milky white sap it exudes when the stem is cut. From the Latin lac for milk comes lacuta for lettuce, which in French became latuis and was thus borrowed into English as lettuce. Lettuce juice was used as medicine in the ancient world and was noted for its sopoforic qualities. It was a vegetable commonly cooked until well into the seventeenth century, but since then is usually served raw. High in fiber and vitamins but low in calories, lettuces-- in their many forms-- are a big part of western cuisine and are considered healthy by most.

Liberty Cabbage: this is a fun one. During the First World War, reference to anything German was considered unpatriotic. An alternate name therefor had to be found for Sauerkraut. Similar names were found for "liberty sandwich" (Hamburger) and even "liberty measles" (German Measles). Before you laugh too hard, it wasn't very long ago that the US Legislative Branch changed the name for French Fries in its cafeteria to "freedom fries" because the French had the audacity to doubt the existence of yellowcake uranium in Iraq [and therefore the justification for invasion.]

Lima Bean: a large flattish variety of edible bean, pale green in color when immature but developing to pale yellow color when mature which gives them their other name: "butter bean". These beans hail from South America originally hence the name. For generations children and sensible adults have described this bean as "yucky" and apparently they aren't far wrong as this bean does contain minute amounts of cyanide (far, far too low levels to actually be poisonous, but why take a chance?).

Manchego: a firm Spanish cheese made from sheeps' milk, made in La Mancha, a region of central Spain. This is my favorite Spanish cheese, and quite good with figs, quince and other fruits. probably the closest substitution would be Romano cheese.


Margarita: Cocktail said to be of Mexican origin containing tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice. This is usually served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. Many different people claim to have invented the Margarita in the twentieth century which probably speaks more to the power of tequila than anything else. Lora makes a killer Margarita and if you tell her I said so it is half price on Tuesdays.

Marinara: A sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil. In Italian, marinara means "in a sailor's style", but this dish usually has nothing fishy going on at all. In the song "La Bamba" made famous by Ritchie Valens, the line "Yo no soy Marinara" has nothing to do with marinara sauce, but I misunderstood the song to be about food for forty years until the truth destroyed me. Here at Vi our Marinara sauce also contains oregano, red wine, red pepper flakes, onions and vinegar.

Ok, that's enough for now. Please join me for the wine tasting next Tuesday (I mean it this time), and next week we will be having a Grease-themed buffet in anticipation of Angie's movie night.

See you soon!

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