Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What to Feed an Esperanto Speaker?

Just in case you needed a mead recipe
I may have to leave this one for a food historian.

As the 1910 Esperanto congress neared, the American press in general and the Washington papers in particular gave a lot of space to discussing Esperanto and the congress. On August 13, 1910, the Washington Herald ran an article on preparations for the congress, noting the attendance of various dignitaries, many of whom were also Esperantists.[1]

Some of the delegates who were officially representing various countries were also Esperanto speakers themselves, and so presumably at the congress in their personal capacities as well. I haven’t seen any indication that a government sent someone who didn’t speak Esperanto. That would strike me as just about the worst diplomatic job: smile and look amused while not understanding a word.

Near the end of the article, the Herald gets into the whole question of misunderstanding with a little anecdote:
One advantage of Esperanto, according to its adherents, is that its study will give an insight into and knowledge of other languages, while at the same time it will aid in correcting the careless lapses that occur during the speaking of one’s native tongue. It allows no privileges in the way of accent, pronunciation, spelling, or interpretation of any word.
Mix-up in Restaurant.
This latter point caused three of the visitors some embarrassment yesterday. They went into a restaurant for their breakfast, and one ordered Saratoga chips.

“Hey, what’s this?” one cried, when the order was placed before the trio. “Where’s our meat? Our Saragossa chops?”
I don’t think I believe this story. I know what a “Saratoga chip” is; it’s a potato chip.[2] But my searching has not turned up any such thing as a “Saragossa chop.” I’ve come up with two recipes, the oldest of which is for “Saragossa Wine, or English Sack” in an eighteenth-century book, The Complete Family-Piece. Just for the record, the recipe runs like this:
Saragoſſa Wine, or Engliſh Sack.
To every Quart of Water, put a Sprig of Rue, and to every Gallon a Handful of Fennel-Roots ; boil theſe half an Hour, then ſtrain it out, and to every Gallon of this Liquor put three Pounds of Honey ; boil it two Hours and ſcum it well, and when ’tis cold, pour it off an tun it into a Veſſel, or ſuch Cask as is fit for it ; keep it a Year in the Veſſel, and then bottle it ; ’tis a very good Sack.
It’s spiced mead.[3]

What that has to do with the 1902 Good Housekeeping recipe “Bass a la Saragossa,” I have no idea. The recipe is fairly lengthly, but works out to:
Poach a whole bass in a liquid of white stock and white wine to which has been added an onion, some mushrooms, and a carrot that been sweated in butter. After the fish was removed, the sauce was thickened with a butter/flour paste,[4] and then by the addition of two egg yolks. The fish was “garnished with fried oysters, fried scallops, slices of lemon and bouquets of parsley.”
Good Housekeeping makes no explanation for the name.

What I have not turned up is the “Saragossa chop” of the article. Unlike fish, poached chops don’t strike me as too terribly appealing. I assume the Herald writer wanted people to get the joke, but it looks like the punch line has been lost in the last 104 years.

What is a “Saragossa chop”?

  1. They were also predicting the biggest Esperanto congress ever. Odd that, given how things turned out.  ↩
  2. I suspect the ancestor of the Saratoga chip is pommes sautées, but that’s another post.  ↩
  3. Yes, I could have typed that without using the long-s character. It’s more fun this way.  ↩
  4. Specifically a beurre manié: flour kneaded into butter.  ↩

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1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your use of the long s, although it seems a little odd to see it in a sans-serif typeface (not that you can do anything about that, since it’s all determined by this page’s style sheet). Sans serifs didn't come into use until the 1800s, and the long s had pretty much faded out of use by then, right?


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