Fizzy Zombie! Halloween Special

I found a great reception for this concoction when I tried it a few weeks ago.. in two variants.
Those who can remember it say they loved it. Those that can’t obviously loved it not wisely, but two well.

Equal portions of Barbancourt’s Pango and Dry Champagne, with ice was the basic mix

But later, the Pango having all gone, for extra vitamin C for the winter

Equal portions of Barbancourt 4 year old with Dry Champagne, and a liberal splash of Blackcurrant juice.

Go join the living dead for Halloween!

Pirate Rum

Eat like a real pirate? No thanks on the slop & flamingos, but oh, that rum

By Marene Gustin – October 13th, 2010

News_Marene Gustin_columnist_mug

Last Friday the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship opened. The exhibit tells the tale of the slave ship Whydah that was captured near the Bahamas by the dread pirate “Black Sam” Bellamy and his motley crew in 1717.

For two months the crew sailed the Whydah, plundering more than 50 ships, before setting sail for the captain’s Cape Cod home. Unfortunately, the ship met a violent storm, hit a sandbar and sank just miles off shore. Her plunder sunk to the bottom of the ocean as 102 pirate corpses floated on the waters, including Black Sam. Only two crew members survived.

Her wreckage was finally discovered by underwater explorer Barry Clifford in 1984 and it’s firmly established as the only authentic pirate shipwreck to date by the ship’s inscribed bell, and now the treasures have become a traveling museum blockbuster.

You really need to go.

There’s a lot of cool educational stuff and artifacts and some creepy Disney-esque pirate scenes like the one where a pirate’s leg is getting sawed off. Arrr, matey, it’s a great Halloween outing.

Oh, wait, this is a food column, right?

OK, so I’m looking at the stuff recovered from the wreckage and there are these pewter plates and big knives and I’m reading the text that says the pirates ate buckets of meat with ship’s biscuits “which might or might not be infected with weevils or maggots.” Ewwwww.

So all those old swashbuckling films where the captain is swilling rum and feasting on giant turkey legs at a table laden with food are fiction?

“There’s a lot of myth in what pirates ate,” says Merrianne Timko, a culinary historian who volunteers at the museum. Timko, a member of the Houston Society of Les Dames d’Escoffier, has been working with the museum staff to host Culinary Feasts since 2003. She’s currently working on Eat, Drink, and Plunder! A Pirate Feast, to be held October 31 on the tall ship Elissa docked at Galveston Island.

“For that, we’ll be doing some things a little more exotic, some Caribbean based foods,” she says. “I was going to do a traditional rum punch, there are still a few brands of rum that are like the 18th century ones, but they are very high proof. You know why? Because if the rum spilled on the gunpowder it would still ignite.

“But we don’t want guests driving back from Galveston under the influence of that.”

So the whole “yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum” thing is accurate?

“Yes, there was a lot of rum, you might say,” she admits.

Apparently rum, from Jamaica, kept longer than beer onboard ships. Pirates, many of whom deserted from the Royal Navy, were swayed by the abundance of pirate rum. It was the pirates, Timko says, that discovered scurvy early on, and added limes, as well as bitters, molasses, eggs and chocolate, to their daily rum. All for medicinal purposes, of course.

The longer they were at sea, as rations and fresh water ran out, they would even mix flour with rum and eat the paste. Not so yum.

“A lot of time they would go without food,” Timko explains. “They would even cut up leather shoes into strips and eat them.”

But surely, Johnny Depp’s Black Jack Sparrow didn’t dine on leather strips?

“I saw one of those movies,” Timko says. “I thought the taverns were a little Hollywood.”

Timko has a passion for art, history and food. She’s spent months researching what real pirates from the so-called Golden Age (1700-1730) really ate.

When they were in ports in the Caribbean, they stocked up on supplies: dried grapes, plantains, cabbage (good source of vitamin C to combat scurvy), rice, coconuts, flamingos (please tell me no one eats those pretty pink birds anymore) and iguanas and their eggs. They would get whole pigs and brine them in vinegar and salt.

Without refrigeration, meats had to be salted in order to last any length of time. The beef was so salted and so hard that it often had other purposes.

“They would use it to patch holes in the ship,” Timko says, “it was that tough.”

Apparently, pirates didn’t have a very glamorous diet.

“A lot of stews, soups, something easy to prepare,” Timko says. “Almost like a slop. And the hardtack, the ship’s biscuits, was so hard they used it like utensils to scoop up the slop. Sometimes they just made little dough balls and dropped them into the stew. Of course the ship’s rats had probably been nibbling on them.”

Um, really getting squeamish here.

But what about all that pewter dishes and flatware?

“All of that was taken from looted ships, and probably reserved for officers,” she says. “Most of the pirates just ate with a knife. Not the best table manners.”

So this Halloween, even if you can’t score a ticket the museum’s culinary feast in Galveston, you can dress like Black Jack Sparrow and hoist a pint of rum, preferably with some lime and bitters added, and thank your lucky stars that we live a culinary city and don’t have to eat shoe leather. Or poor pink flamingos.

Or maggot infested… never mind, just drink your rum.

Rum Origins

In the Spirit of Scholarship, Rumpundit offers this posting from Oxford University Press

which includes some fun details. I will also post later an essay written in Guyana in the 19th century which I am going to share with Liberman!

The Rum History of the Word “Rum”

By Anatoly Liberman
The idea of this post, as of several others before it, has been suggested by a query from a correspondent.  A detailed answer would have exceeded the space permitted for the entire set of monthly gleanings, so here comes an essay on the word rum, written on the first rather than the last Wednesday of October.  But before I get to the point, I would like to make a remark on the amnesia that afflicts students of word origins.  Etymology is perhaps the only completely anonymous branch of linguistics.  When people look up a word, they hardly ever ask who reconstructed its history.  Surround seems to be related to round, but it is not.  On the other hand, soot does not make us think of sit; yet the two are allied.  Obviously, neither conclusion is trivial.  Even specialists rarely know the names of the discoverers (for those are hard to trace).  Unlike Ohm’s Law or Newton’s laws, etymological knowledge easily becomes faceless common property, a plateau without a single hill to obstruct the view.  To be sure, we have great authorities, such as the OED and Skeat, but Murray, Bradley (the OED’s first great editors) and Skeat authored only some of the statements they made.  In many cases they depended on the findings of their predecessors.  What then was their input?  All is either forgotten or falsely ascribed to them.  Murray could defend his authorship very well.  Skeat, too, in countless letters to the editor, strove (strived: take your pick) for recognition and kept rubbing in the fact that he, rather than somebody else, had elucidated the derivation of this or that word.  Rarely, very rarely do dictionaries celebrate individual discovery.  Thus, pedigree (which French “lent” to English) means “foot of a crane,” from a three-line mark, like the broad arrow used in denoting succession in pedigrees.  This was explained by C. Sweet (no relative of Henry Sweet, the famous philologist and the prototype of Dr. Higgins; I could not find any information on him), and Skeat gave the exact reference to his publication.  Something similar, though less spectacular (because the conclusion is still debatable), happened when language historians began to research the history of the noun rum.
The most universal law of etymology is that we cannot explain the origin of a word unless we have a reasonably good idea of what the thing designated by the word means.  For quite some time people pointed to India as the land in which rum was first consumed and did not realize that in other European languages rum was a borrowing from English.  The misleading French spelling rhum suggested a connection with Greek rheum “stream, flow” (as in rheumatism).  According to other old conjectures, rum is derived from aroma or saccharum.  India led researchers to Sanskrit roma “water” as the word’s etymon, and this is what many otherwise solid 19th-century dictionaries said.  Webster gave the vague, even meaningless reference “American,” but on the whole, the choice appeared to be between East and West Indies.  Skeat, in the first edition of his dictionary (1882), suggested Malayan origins (from beram “alcoholic drink,” with the loss of the first syllable) and used his habitual eloquence to boost this hypothesis.
Then The Academy, a periodical that enjoyed well-deserved popularity throughout the forty years of its existence (1869-1910), published the following paragraph.  (The Imperial Dictionary [not A Universal Dictionary of the English Language, as Spitzer says] gives it in full, but I suspect that few of our readers have access to or ever use it and will therefore reproduce the paragraph.) The Academy, September 5, 1885, p. 155:  “Mr. N. Darnell Davis has put forth a derivation of the word rum, which gives the only probable history of it.  It came from Barbados, where the planters first distilled it, somewhere between 1640 and 1645.  A MS. ‘Description of Barbados’ in Trinity College, Dublin, written about 1651, says: ‘the chief fudling (sic) they make in the Island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil (sic), and this is made of sugar-canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor.’  G. Warren’s description of Surinam, 1661, shows the word in its present short form: ‘Rum is a spirit extracted from the juice,…called Kill-Devil in New England!’  ‘Rumbullion’, is a Devonshire word meaning ‘a great tumult,’ and may have been adopted from some of the Devonshire settlers in Barbados; at any rate, little doubt can exist that it has given rise to our word rum, and the longer name rumbowling, which sailors give to their grog.”  Also in 1885, berummaged “confused” was recorded on Dartmoor, and still later it became clear that French guildive is a “corruption” of Engl. kill-devil.  According to Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, many of the settlers in Barbados, at the time when sugar making was being established there, came from Devonshire.  I have no way to check the reliability of this statement.
Skeat accepted Davis’s etymology unconditionally, and since that time it has become commonplace.  However, some dictionaries, including the OED, show caution, supply the explanation with a question mark, or even say that the origin or rum is “uncertain.”  The etymology of rumbullion will concern us here only in so far as it may be a combination of the adjective rum and French boullion “hot drink.”  That adjective has been rather convincingly traced to Romany rom “male” (= “Gypsy man, good man”), a once ubiquitous cant word.  Romeville (that is, Rumville) was London, and so on.  Hensleigh Wedgwood, the main etymologist of the pre-Skeat era, thought that rum is a curtailed form of rum booze “great drink.”  Indeed, in 1567 wine was called rum booze in Elizabethan slang.
In this context it will be proper to mention an article whose title promises nothing to word lovers but that contains numerous ingenious etymologies (John P. Hughes, “On ‘h’ for ‘r’ in English Proper Names”, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 53, 1954, 601-12).  A strong bond unites h and r in the history of all the Germanic languages. Alternations of the Hob ~ Rob type are the thin edge of a big, heavy wedge.  Hughes suggests that rum booze was taken for a plural (rumboes); then the new singular rumbo “strong punch” allegedly came up, from which rum would be a shortened form.  Rumbo was attested only in the middle of the 18th century, but slang words may exist for a long time before they make their way into print.  A curious thing is that hum “alcoholic drink” has been recorded too; in Hughes’s opinion, it is a stub of humbooze and a doublet of rumbooze or rum booze.
The way to rum from rum booze is shorter than from rumbullion (or rumbustion, also “tumult, hubbub, etc.”), but the fact remains that rum reached England from Barbados.  It is, however, not improbable that the phrase rum booze had existed in the speech of the English settlers on the Caribbean island and was taken overseas.  If so, rumbullion, from rum (adjective) and French boullion “hot drink,” was a verbal joke, a pun.  (In England, rum was known very little, if at all, before 1685, when after the battle of Sedgemoor the Duke of Monmouth tasted the drink.  It must have been one of the last pleasures the rebellious duke enjoyed before his execution.)  In any case, rum “a drink” and rum “odd” cannot be separated.  There was quite a fashion for rum- coinages in the 18th century: compare rumgumption, from which we have the abbreviated form gumption “common sense” (originally perhaps “rough common sense”), while rumbustious “boisterous, violent” sounds suspiciously like rambunctious “mischievous, self-asserting.”  Leo Spitzer believed that the French argot word rogomme “strong drink” goes back to Engl. rumgumption.  Some details remain hidden, but one thing is clear: excessive consumption of rum results in violent behavior.

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to him care of; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”