Results tagged “vinegar”

Mackerel escabeche

italy, spain
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This recipe is adapted from one by Thomasina Miers. Escabeche usually refers to a technique of frying fish and then marinating it in a vinegary liquid with onions, spices and herbs. Flavourings vary enormously from country to country; escabeche is popular in Italy, Spain, Latin America and the Philippines.

smmackerelescabeche0009.jpgThis dish is a relative of good old fish and chips, which is not as British as one might think. They share origins in a dish beloved of the Shahs of Persia some 1500 years ago - sikbāj - sweet and sour stewed beef. This later made its way around the Arabic world, with fish replacing beef in Christian parts. The amazing history is told by Prof Dan Jurafsky on his blog, 'The Language of Food'.

Dan writes: "The word escabeche came to Spanish from Catalan, which acquired it from its neighbour, Occitan, who got it from the Genoese, who stole it from the Neapolitans, and so on, back eventually east to the Arabic of Baghdad and the Persian of Ctesiphon." And the story continues with the Jews being expelled from Spain and Portugal and going to northern Europe, taking their fish dishes with them. Finally, in England, Belgian frites were married with battered and fried fish doused with vinegar: fish and chips.

Oil, vinegar and phonological assimilation

morocco, spain
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Smmoroccanolives0001.JPG

Some olives in Morocco. Although they could
just as easily be in Spain.

I'd always wondered why the oil and vinegar seemed to be labelled wrong in Spain.  If, like me, you're more familiar with Italian than Spanish, and you see two bottles on the table, one labelled "aceite", you'd be pretty sure that was the vinegar.  You'd be wrong, though - although admittedly you'd work it out pretty sharpish if you saw that the other one was labelled "vinagre".  Or just tasted it, I suppose.

The Italian aceto (vinegar) comes from the Latin acer meaning 'sharp' or 'sour', and that's where we get English words like acid and acetic from too.  (Even the word vinegar comes this way, in fact, via the French vin aigre or 'sour wine').  Similarly, the word for 'oil' seems to have Latin origins in most European languages - the Latin oleum gives us oglio, oil, Öl, huile and so on.  So why would Spanish (a Romance, i.e. Latin-based language) be so different, and where does their word for 'oil', aceite, come from?  Well, now that we've made it to Morocco, all becomes clear ...

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