mcgillianaire: (Did You Know?)
[personal profile] mcgillianaire
1590s, originally cole florye, from Italian cavoli fiori "flowered cabbage," plural of cavolo "cabbage" + fiore "flower" (from Latin flora; see flora).

First element is from Latin caulis "cabbage" (originally "stem, stalk") which was borrowed into Germanic and is the source of cole in cole-slaw and of Scottish kale. The front end of the word was re-Latinized from 18c.; the back end was influenced by flower (n.). The boxer's cauliflower ear is from 1907.

SOURCE: Online Etymology Dictionary

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I was inspired to make this entry after I saw an intriguing tweet which said that the introduction of cauliflower to England could be dated to a dinner given to the Privy Council in November 1590 (Joan Thirsk, Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads and Fashions 1500-1760 (2007) p. 289). A subsequent Google search produced another interesting tidbit from the author's note of Ian Mortimer's historical fiction work, The Final Sacrament (under the pen name James Forrester):

"I stated in my Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England that the cauliflower was introduced to England at a dinner for the Privy Council in 1590, but subsequently I noticed one in Joachim Beuckelaer's painting in the National Gallery, Four Elements: Fruit and Vegetable Market (1569) and another in a work by the same artist dated 1564, so clearly they were available in the Low Countries in the 1560s."

While Wikipedia offers a short excerpt into its origins and journey through Europe before its arrival in This Sceptred Isle:

"For such a highly modified plant, cauliflower has a long history. The oldest record of cauliflower dates back to the 6th century B.C. Pliny wrote about it in the 2nd century after Christ. In the 12th century, three varieties were described in Spain as introductions from Syria, where it had doubtless been grown for more than a thousand years. It is found in the writings of the Arab botanists Ibn al-'Awwam and Ibn al-Baitar, in the 12th and 13th centuries when its origins were said to be Cyprus. They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres' Théâtre de l'agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori "as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy", but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV."

And there you have it, the etymology and history of the beloved cauliflower. If you're anything like me, you'll never look at another cabbage flower (or the next one, at any rate) the same way again... bon appetit!

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