THE ENGLISH CHOW-CHOW
“How could you dish out the dirt about a language that is full of beans? You must be as nutty as a fruit-cake,” I protested. It was a retort to my friend’s charge that the English language betrays the English people’s fixation on food. Yet, once I regained my cool I chewed over my friend’s theory and did a bit of digging, for, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
It was not a piece of cake, but I discovered that my friend, indeed, knew his onions, when could piece together an English sham sandwich with meaty fillings.
Fish and (potato) chips, bacon and eggs and, of course, the tea are integral to the English chow. And, may be, to the English polity. For, while the Tories have bigger fish to fry and the Liberals have had their chips at the hustings, the tough eggs in the kitchen-cabinet are busy trying to save the bacon. The opposition, to whom scandal and gossip are meat and drink, cooks up a political hot-potato to raise a storm in a tea-cup, leaving the treasury bench with egg on their faces.
When the English football team brings home the bacon, the fans go bananas. But when the rivals make a mince meat of them, the players do not fast in penance but eat pie, albeit a humble one. When the English team loses, the tabloids give the team a good roasting, revealing juicy bits in spicy detail.
The English know which side of the bread is buttered. While the IRA and Ulster Unionists eat each other for breakfast, the English remain as cool as cucumber letting factions stew in their own juices.
Incidentally, do you know that the toast is something that you can eat as well as drink? Or that a man can either eat or marry a peach? Or that a stupid person is either a pudding or a noodle? And how about producing cheese from the milk of human kindness?
If at the end of all these instances, is it not fair to say that the English language betrays The English people’s fixation on food? It surely is.