Friday, August 27, 2010


Did you know that the reason shortbread was named shortbread had nowt to do with the length of the cookies, but their texture? I did not know this, although I was familiar with the term shortening as a baking ingredient.

"butter or other fat used in baking," 1796, from shorten "make crumbly" (1733), from short in the secondary sense of "easily crumbled" (early 15c.), which perhaps arose via the notion of "having short fibers." This is also the sense behind shortbread (1801) and shortcake (1590s).

Via Wikipedia, of course, which adds:

The short or crumbly texture is a result of the fact that the fat inhibits the formation of long protein (gluten) strands.

It's kind of amazing how even the most mundane-seeming things have these layers of history.

Baby crawling in front of some cowsP.S. And speaking of layers, I am just now finding out by double-checking on my attempt to be a little Scottish above, in honor of the origin of shortbread, that I could be said to have had a cow. Funny that Alf Wight -- the guy who taught me about the first sense of nowt -- never saw fit to mention the second, in all of those books. Not like there was any shortage of opportunities to make a pun, I mean.

Or, who knows. Maybe his humor was more subtle than I was able to detect at that time.

Pic. source. Given the spread of topics, how could I not choose that source? (At least in the lower case.)

Post title is an old joke between Dan and me. He was once praised by a mutual coworker for his knowledge of entomology.

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