Archive for January 11th, 2010

The noun form of fritter—the one that speaks of food—derives from the Latin verb for “fry,” frigere. Although I’m writing a food blog, this is not the form of fritter I’m concerned with today.

The other form, the transitive verb usually followed by “away” derives not from any culinary activity but from the Old English word fitt, meaning “part” or “piece.”  When you fritter away your time or money, you disperse it little bit by fragment, almost unconsciously….

What I’m getting at is the reason I haven’t been posting much recently.  We have seven months left in Rome, and I’m determined to finish and file my dissertation before those months are up.  Therefore, my life must be lived with as little frittering of any sort as possible.  I’m sure I’ll find a snatch of time here and there to post some words about some thoughts on food.  Just less frequently.  And, of course, some forms of frittering can always be justified.  As Lord Byron says, “Oh pleasure, you’re indeed a pleasant thing.”

Or, wait!  Maybe I can sometimes bring these diverse writing projects together.  Byron wrote some funny verses on being a carnivore during the Venetian Carnival:

This feast is named the Carnival, which being
Interpreted, implies ‘farewell to flesh’:
So call’d, because the name and thing agreeing,
Through Lent they live on fish both salt and fresh.
But why they usher Lent with so much glee in,
Is more than I can tell, although I guess
‘Tis as we take a glass with friends at parting,
In the stage-coach or packet, just at starting.

And thus they bid farewell to carnal dishes,
And solid meats, and highly spic’d ragouts,
To live for forty days on ill-dress’d fishes,
Because they have no sauces to their stews,
A thing which causes many ‘poohs’ and ‘pishes’,
And several oaths (which would not suit the Muse),
From travellers accustom’d from a boy
To eat their salmon, at the least, with soy;

And therefore humbly I would recommend
‘The curious in fish-sauce’, before they cross
The sea, to bid their cook, or wife, or friend,
Walk or ride to the Strand, and buy in gross
(Or if set out beforehand, these may send
By any means least liable to loss),
Ketchup, Soy, Chili-vinegar, and Harvey,
Or, by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye;

That is to say, if your religion’s Roman,
And you at Rome would do as Romans do,
According to the proverb,—although no man,
If foreign, is oblig’d to fast; and you,
If protestant, or sickly, or a woman,
Would rather dine in sin on a ragout—
Dine, and be d—d!  I don’t mean to be coarse,
But that’s the penalty, to say no worse.

(From Beppo, 1818)


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