Thursday, March 3, 2011

They are pestilent fellowes, they speake nothing but bodkins, and pisse vinegar.

I’m not a great fan of the word, but in medieval times the word "piss" was not considered a vulgar word.  It wasn’t until Victorian England that words such as piss were deemed vulgar.  Although, perhaps because they’ve been in use for so long, expressions like "pot to piss in" and "full of piss and vinegar" are accepted and not considered offensive.

In times when indoor plumbing wasn’t heard of, a chamberpot (or piss pot) was used as an indoor toilet.  It was generally a bowl-shaped container with a handle kept in the bedroom under a bed or in a cabinet.   It’s probably safe to say that when indoor plumbing wasn’t to be had, neither was there a public disposal system.  Housewives threw the contents of the chamberpot out the window and into the streets below.  Often they issued a verbal warning to passers-by but all too often the caution was issued at the exact moment of disposal and the sound of the cry and the discarded material often arrived simultaneously. Woe to the one who looked up to see what was happening.

If you happened to be a person who did not have a "pot to piss in" you were quite poor indeed and unlikely that you would be “full of piss and vinegar”.

But, back then they wouldn’t have said “full of piss and vinegar”.  That phrase is purely an American slang invention.  During the early part of the 20th century, vinegar was commonly associated with vitality and energy.  The phrase is likely and crude adaption of the common term “vig and vigour”.

Speaking of vinegar . . .

Balsamic vinegar is a thick, sweet smelling vinegar made from the pure and unfermented juice of a grape called the "must."  It is made from grapes but it is not wine vinegar.  The grape pressings are boiled down to a dark syrup.  The syrup is aged in a succession of different types of kegs . . . it starts out in oak barrels and then as it ages it is moved to smaller casks made of chestnut, cherrywood, ash, mulberry, and juniper until it is ready for sale. All of these woods progressively add character to the vinegar. As it ages, moisture evaporates out, further thickening the vinegar and concentrating the flavor.

Balsamic vinegar is pricier than average vinegars; the most expensive have been aged for over 100 years. It is this aging process that makes true balsamic vinegar from Modena in Northern Italy so expensive.

Balsamic Glazed Mushrooms & Onions

A quick and easy side dish that goes well with beef or chicken.  I use it as a tasty substitute for starchy rice or potatoes. 

  • 2 Tbsp Cup Olive Oil
  • 8 Ounces Sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 Medium Sweet Onion
  • 3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Coarse Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Red-Pepper Flakes
  • Freshly Ground Pepper

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in vinegar, salt, and red-pepper flakes, and season with pepper. 

Cook 1 minute more. 

Serve and nom

1 comment:

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