Monday, August 10, 2015

Cooking with Tender Buttons Food: Roastbeef. Discussion 1

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           FOOD
THE SUBPOEM ..................-            Roastbeef
WORD COUNT (Total)……..-           1757
STANZA(S)............................-           37
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET

Before the Steiny Road Poet gets to the first discussion of the “Roastbeef.” stanzas, she will address the title “Roastbeef.” “Roastbeef.” is the first subpoem of section 2 “Food”. Therefore, by position alone, Gertrude Stein has given a lot of weight to the food item that she calls roastbeef.


Here’s what Judy Meibach had to say, Jews love roast beef as they do food—and for most Sabbaths and holidays, roast beef will be the main course.”

Karren Alenier [a.k.a. Steiny] answered,
How you are so right about the role roast beef plays in the Jewish diet. Isn't it so that the Sabbath meal is often made with beef that is put into a pot before Sabbath starts at sunset? Cholent, as the Ashkenazi Jews call it. There are similar dishes to Ashkenazi cholent, including Moroccan skheena, Tunisian bekaila, Sephardic sofrito, and Iraqi thbit.

“Gertrude came from assimilated German Jews who immigrated and landed in Baltimore. I know some of her family went to schul when she was a child. Anyway I'm sure she knew about such dishes as cholent.


However, the question arises about why she runs the two words roast and beef together?

Alenier rolled up her sleeves and dug into the root words:
“There is an English-French connection to the word beef and it is closely aligned with the word cow.”

[Middle English, from Old French buef, from Latin bs, bov-; see gwou- in Indo-European roots.]

Word History: 
That beef comes from cows is known to most, but the close relationship between the words beef and cow is hardly household knowledge. Cow comes via Middle 
English from Old English c, which is descended from the Indo-European root *gwou-, also meaning "cow." 

This root has descendants in most of the branches of the Indo-European language family. Among those descendants is the Latin word 
bs, "cow,” whose stem form, bov-, eventually became the Old French 
word buef, also meaning "cow." 

The French nobles who ruled England after the Norman Conquest of course used 
French words to refer to the meats they were served, so the animal called 
c by the Anglo-Saxon peasants was called buef 
by the French nobles when it was brought to them cooked at dinner. 

Thus arose the distinction between the words for animals and their meat that is also found in the English 
word-pairs swine/pork, sheep/mutton, and deer/venison. What is interesting about cow/beef is that we are 
in fact dealing with one and the same word, etymologically speaking.

“In looking for the history of the slang term what's the beef, I found that beef is related in slang parlance to all sorts of sexual terminology so maybe this solves the mystery for me about why Stein starts the "Food" section with   and maybe why she runs the two words together.


Here Steiny will interrupt what was said above in the ModPo forum to note that the French derogatorily called the English rosbifs because they associated the English with eating roast beef cooked a certain way. So perhaps Stein is signaling something about being judged. One would suspect that had to do with her relationship with Alice Toklas, who was the cook (roast) in this illicit union and Stein, the beef because of her excessive weight.


Beef meaning ‘to complain’ is a coinage of the mid-19th century.
This quote comes from an anonymous burglar's memoir, published in
New York in 1865 (though the burglar himself was English and had fled from London):
1865 Leaves from the Diary of a Celebrated Burglar: With the intention of 
finding out whether he was likely to ‘beef’ or not, Tom asked his sister
 Til how much his ‘poke’ was ‘up to’.
'Poke' here means a wallet (which had been pickpocketed), and 'up to' means worth,
i.e. whether he complained (to the authorities) depended on how much the wallet
contained. (Leaves is a fascinating book and a boon for the lexicographer -
every instance of slang, and there are at least 1000, comes neatly bracketed in quote marks.)

As regards the etymology of beef, it seems to go back to the cry of hot beef! meaning ‘stop thief!’
(quasi-rhyming slang but more by coincidence than design, since it is far older than rhyming slang's first widespread use in the 1820s-30s); thus the 18th century cry hot beef, to raise a hue and cry. This became ‘to raise an alarm’ or ‘make a fuss’ - the presence of crime was now irrelevant - and thence ‘to shout’. The 'complain' use followed that. Then (both in the late 19th century) came ‘to argue’, ‘to give someone away to the authorities’, and so on.

So, do we Buttons think Stein came by her word play with historic sturdiness?
I do. I do. Let's see, we can point to the Bible, Shakespeare, English slang, probably more.

Now Steiny thinks it is safe to discuss the opening stanzas of “Roastbeef.”. Stay tuned for the next post.

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