Deconstruction of a Name, Part 2



The story of this word and myself starts with Dixie.  I used to word with Dixie at a lawyer’s office.  She sometimes refer to “all the various and sundry” ideas, papers, or documents we needed for a property closing.  “All the various and sundry” means something difference from “all.”  “All” clumps the world into a uniform block of three letters.  But “various and sundry” is more majestic and gives tribute to the dizzying infinities of diversity in the world.  Even in the world of property closing documents.




Other things Dixie used to say:

this, that, and the other

“While he was doing this, that, and the other, I was chopping up some celery hearts for him to take to lunch.  Now, I detest celery hearts, butmy husband loves them.  He’ll sit himself down and crunch his way through a package of celery hearts in a single sitting.”

in any way, shape, or form

“Before I married my husband, I didn’t even know what green salad was.  There’s no green salad in any way, shape or form up in the Delta- only coleslaw.  I grew up eating cabbage coleslaw all my life.”




I have always hated coleslaw, my whole life.  This hate of coleslaw can be traced directly back to my hate of sweet pickles.  Everyone always puts sweet pickles in coleslaw.  This is the worst of abominations.




Lemon Tahini Coleslaw

  • about ¾ of a head of Napa Cabbage
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 celery sticked, diced
  • 1 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 4 lemons, juiced
  • scant cup of Greek yogurt
  • scant cup of Tahini
  • ¼ cup chopped chives or green onions
  • around 2 tablespoons of salt
  • pepper to taste

Wash and chop the Napa Cabbage roughly into about one inch pieces.  You can use whatever cabbage you want- those round white cabbages are traditional back in Mississippi.  The advantage of using Napa Cabbage is the all the variety of textures and colors a single Napa cabbage contributes.  Put the chopped cabbage into a large bowl, and add the carrots, celery, and the cilantro.  Whip all the dressing ingredients together, and taste to make sure the seasonings are on point.  Then, mix the dressing into the vegetables.  You may want to massage the cabbage into the dressing at the point.  Because it is a hardy green, the massaging and the lemon juice can break down some of the rougher fibers.  Taste and adjust the seasonings one last time.  You may find you need more salt or more lemon, or both.  Cover the coleslaw, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least three hours before serving.  These portions are designed to feed about six people as a side, or an entire backyard at a potluck-style event.

Deconstruction of a Name, Part 1


It’s a compound word, which means two separate word entities work together to become greater than the sum of its parts.  A cup is a thing, a board is a thing, and a cupboard is yet a third thing.  Two ingredients, three separate symbols.  Which is always the goal, really.  A good recipe becomes greater than the sum of its ingredients.  A good piece of writing becomes greater than the sum of its components.

It is also an Old English word, a string of etymology that reverberates with a down-home, earthy flavor of myth.  Like Beowulf.  If you remember from senior year English, “beo” means bee in Old English, and “wulf” means wolf.  And a “bee wolf” is a bear.  Again, out of two ingredients comes three distinct things, four if you count the hero Beowulf himself.  And, I guess we should- he was definitely a bee wolf when you consider how much mead they were throwing back in the old wooden, communal dining hall, and that mead is made from fermented honey.


A cupboard has doors that open.  Behind these doors are shelves that store food and other eating-related paraphernalia.  Somewhere along the way, the cupboard became a down-home mythical portal to strange worlds for me, a bit like the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Items found in the cupboard are heavy with story, memory, myth, fact, science, taste, travel.  All of the best bits of life.  It could be my cupboard or your cupboard.  It could be any cupboard.

Random sampling of story-heavy cupboard items. Tomato, dried rose buds, black peppercorns, ginger, and my cast iron skillet.


Take pepper, for instance.  When I read Tastes of Paradise by Wolfgang Schivelbusch a decade and a half ago, I had no idea how profoundly it would change the way I see and understand the world.  It’s not just that something that has become so mundane to us was once so precious.  Black gold, they called it, and at it’s height of value pepper was worth more than gold.  And it’s not just that we used to consume our most valuable commodities with our bodies instead of with our cars.  It’s that the face of the world, our atlas, our history, was driven by the social need for pepper.  Good taste and social status was actually tasted.  With mouths.  Columbus was financed because he promised spices.  The hunger for pepper turned the two dimensional European map into the three dimensional globe.


Here’s a nice bit of Schivelbusch for you:


Spices as a link to Paradise, and the vision of Paradise as a real place somewhere in the East- their source- fascinated the medieval imagination.


We no longer need to look for a route the East to find material for our modern imaginations, although I very do.  We just need to open our cupboards, and look for the stories.