I just wanted to share some things I learned about words, because you know how much I love words. For example, the origin of the term 'upper crust', from medieval days:
"At the bottom end of the hall an elaborately carved screen was constructed to hide the entrance to the kitchens. It disguised the doors to the buttery (for storing drinks) and the pantry (where bread was kept). The pantry was the workplace of the pantler, who handed out bread to the household. ... 'Trenchers' were slices of old bread which acted as throwaway plates. They were formed from the burned and blackened bottoms of loaves. The more desireable top crust was eaten at once by the master and guests, hence the enduring term 'upper crust' for something posh."
Ever wonder why desert and dessert were so similar in sound and appearance but nothing to do with one another? Turns out they are in fact related terms:
"The separating out of sweet from savoury was an important development of the sixteenth century. One step towards the breakdown of the communal household meal was the new Elizabethan practice of serving the sweets that now followed the main meat course in a different room.
Often a concert or play followed dinner in the great hall, so it was necessary to clear the tables away. The action of removing the dirty plates from the tables was in French called the desert, the creation of an absence (the same word used for the Sahara). This act of 'deserting' the table gave its name to the dessert or sweet course served elsewhere while the entertainers were setting up."
I always wondered about sculleries, given that this house and those of our neighbours all had one. Most of us have modernised and joined the two kitchen-y rooms together, but I always wondered about the term 'scullery' since I associate sculling with some kind of boat. Turns out sculleries were where the dishes were washed (also cleaning food, plucking birds, etc - the dirty stuff). Escuelerie is the French word for 'dish room'.
I've always wondered why Brits call 'cookies' biscuits (or why American's call them cookies). Lucy doesn't explain fully, but she does tell you about the term 'biscuit':
"Early ovens work quite differently from modern ones, where heat is provided continuously throughout the cooking process. A stone- or brick-lined oven is heated before the food goes in, by the burning inside it of bundles of twigs called faggots. Then the ashes are raked out, loaves are shovelled in, the door is closed and the bread is left to bake in the slowly cooling oven.
When I used the bread oven at the Weald and Downland Museum, we stopped the oven's opening with a wooden door previously soaked in water to prevent it from catching fire. We sealed the gaps around the door with a strip of uncooked dough. When this dough was baked, we knew that the bread inside must be finished too. After the baking of the bread, the oven still contained just enough heat to bake a second round of cakes or biscuits. The very word bis-cuit means 'second cooked'.
Cookie, was recognised in American English from 1703. It comes from the Dutch word koekje, for 'little cake', a diminutive of koek, for 'cake'. I can only guess that Brits are more likely to take words from the French language, given the Norman invasion and all, in spite of the fact that their sovreign from 1689, was Dutch. We could go on to talk about why the colour orange links Ireland, Holland and France, but that would be another post.
Getting back to If Walls Could Talk, it really is a good read, not least because she talks about what people actually did in bed. You'll have to read her book to find out, but it's probably not what you're thinking.