Thursday, January 08, 2009

Toponyms in Produce; Part 2 of a Series.

Having hitherto discussed the etymological hyperspace of the quince to a somewhat alarming degree, I thought I'd move on to a slightly smaller morsel:

The shallot. (image cheerfully stolen from Wikipedia)

I've been cooking with these (oh, man, sautéed in butter with just about anything, going to be roasting some on Monday) and have enjoyed expanding my spectrum of allium tastes. (now if I could only see the benefits of leeks except for dissolved in soup). But I'm already digressing. I'd been made dimly aware that the word for shallot (and scallion) had been traceable to the name of a Palestinian seaport, Ascalon (modern Ashkelon).

It was only after the quince intruded into my thoughts that I realized that this had to be analogous to quince.

quince : Cydonian (apple) :: shallot : Ascalonian (?).

I assumed it would be 'onion,' A bit further research confirms this: Latin ascalonia (caepa) 'Ascalon (onion), late Latin escalonia. Early/Middle French escaloigne-->eschalotte-->échalotte, English 'shallot'.

I've yet to use them in salad dressing, but I hear that's a reasonable idea as well. What I'll likely try: chopped shallot, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, maybe a little mustard. I suspect I'll report back on the success or failure of this absurdly simple salad dressing when I'm back to discuss the proliferation of Lat. caepa/cepa "onion" throughout the languages of Europe. (French and English excepting.)

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