I often ponder on where particular sayings related to food in pop culture originate from. I don’t lose sleep over it mind you, however, it’s always been an interest of mine. Think of me as “CSI: Too much time on my hands.”
I’m sure you don’t have to be a twenty-one day Jeopardy Champ to deduce how “Nuttier than a Fruitcake” or “Easy as Pie” came to stand the test of time in the pantheon of frequently used one offs.
Of course my idea of how a particular phrase came to fruition is almost always way off the mark once you dig deeper into its roots. Ok way off. Ok, Ok, a History Professor could bring me up on charges for factual injustices against the world.
Just for kicks, I have compiled for you, five of the more popular sayings which have stood the test of time in our fast paced world with my musings of its origins, followed mercifully by the real one.
And no, “Where’s the Beef?” will not be making an appearance.
Don’t Put Your Eggs in One Basket
Andy: Back in the day, when Styrofoam had yet to be invented, many a villager purchased their eggs locally from market, deposited into one basket and as a result of transporting on badly constructed roads or flatulent donkey, ended up with their dozen being downsized considerably. I also think the Farmers who sold eggs conspired with local basket weavers.
Factual: This phrase is often attributed to Miguel Cervantes, the contemporary of Shakespeare and author (in 1605) of the world-famous “Don Quixote.” However, in fact Cervantes’ original Spanish doesn’t use this phrase; various English translators have used it to convey his meaning. Historians note its first recorded use is in a 1660 text, where it is clearly already a well known proverb. After this it appears frequently, always with the same meaning of “Don’t put all your resources (money, time, energy) into the same project, in case that project fails.
Selling Like Hotcakes
Andy: Wasn’t this coined in the 50’s by a green line cook at Denny’s who didn’t realize pancakes and hotcakes are pretty much the same thing?
Factual: “Hot cakes cooked in bear grease or pork lard were popular from earliest times in American. First made of cornmeal, the griddle cakes or pancakes were of course best when served piping hot and were often sold at church benefits, fairs, and other functions. So popular were they that by the beginning of the 19th century ‘to sell like hot cakes’ became a familiar expression for anything that sold very quickly effortlessly, and in quantity.”
Full of Beans
Andy: I think this term was used as a PG alternative to when someone would call another person out on being full of it. Well something that rhymes with it.
Factual: This term was first used to describe a race horse that possessed lots of energy and was in tip-top condition. Nobody really seemed to question when exactly beans had become the staple diet of horses. Gradually it moved onto Humans around the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. It did gradually over the years move from noting one of vigor and health, to one who exaggerates a bit too much.
Saving your Bacon
Andy: A common practice amongst business savvy Farmers would be to horde all their Pigs until the competitors had sold out on their stock at market. Once he was in sole possession of an Oink monopoly, he could butcher accordingly and sell at an inflated cost.
Factual: As the only meat readily available to a large amount of the population for hundreds of years, bacon was a much sought after commodity on dinner plates. Bacon was cured and dried to ensure sustenance through harsh winters. Saving you bacon from any form of loss or damage amounted to an almost life saving act. Therefore the term gradually evolved to mean you were saving yourself from injury or other type of life changing disaster.
Andy: In Pilgrim days of early America, bored families would sit around the fire entranced by the ventriloquist act put on by their eccentric, most likely insane elder. This would entail a freshly plucked turkey dressed up in baby clothes and worked like a puppet. The “Talking Turkey” would be eaten shortly after the show with much guilt and crying by younger members of the kin. The use of turkeys as prop humor has been passed down over the years. Please refer to Mr. Bean Christmas Special, and the episode of Friends which blatantly rips off the same gag in which Joey gets one stuck on his head.
Factual: This term originated in America where it was commonly used by mid Nineteenth century. It means talking business or talking seriously. It does in fact come from the early days of the colonies when the turkey became an important trading commodity between the Native Indians and the Pilgrims. Whenever a colonist showed up on the wigwam step to do some type of trade, inevitably it almost always revolved around a turkey. So, Indians coined the phrase “You come to talk turkey?”