Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gazing upwards, as it were

Sometimes all it takes is a single word for me to know something's blog-suitable. Herewith, Rebecca Mead at the New Yorker on the culinary adventures of Tom Parker Bowles:
Since 2001, Tom Parker Bowles has been the food writer at Tatler, the British society magazine. He is also the author of a new book, “The Year of Eating Dangerously,” in which he chronicles his global culinary adventures: fugu in Japan, ultra-hot sauces in New Mexico, ant-egg salad in Laos, dog soup in South Korea. “The thing about food writing is that there are only about fifteen adjectives you can use—‘delicious,’ ‘delectable,’ ‘unctuous’—so that is why I moved to the disgusting side,” Parker Bowles explained over lunch recently.

He had chosen to eat at Scott’s, a new restaurant in Mayfair that serves, among other traditional British dishes, a variation of stargazy pie, a Cornish delicacy in which the cooked heads of pilchards poke through the piecrust. British food is, in Parker Bowles’s view, wrongly maligned. “Potted shrimp, clotted cream, our scones and our baking—we have one of the richest food heritages in the world,” he said, through mouthfuls of smoked sardines with soft-boiled duck’s egg.
The word of course is stargazy...

Here's what the OED has to say:
1847 J. O. HALLIWELL Dict. Archaic & Provinc. Words II. 799/1 Starry-gazy-pie. A pie made of pilchards and leeks, the heads of the pilchards appearing through the crust as if they were studying the stars. Cornw. 1864 F. T. O'DONOGHUE St. Knighton's Keive: a Cornish Tale Gloss. 303 Star-a-gaze pie, a mackerel pie with the heads above the paste, gazing upwards, as it were. 1954 D. HARTLEY Food in England x. 246 Stargazey pies. These are properly made of pilchards... The cooks covered the body of the fishbut left the head sticking out. 1966 Punch 14 Sept. 385/1 To provide the dishes that one's forbears ateroast saddle of hare,..or stargazy pie, or syllabubwould be to proclaim oneself madly affected. 1970 A. PASCOE Cornish Recipes Old & New 30 (heading) Star~gazy pie. 1980 ABMR Feb. 75/1, I now believe that heavy cake, like starry-gazey pie, was originally made from pilchards.
I love how it is an adjectival back-formation from the already quite delightful (because hyphenated) verb star-gaze. One effect blogging has had on my prose style is to make me dangerously uninhibited about turning almost anything (even quite a long string of words) into an adjective....A good picture and a recipe from Ben Bush at the Food and Drink in London blog:

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