A gallimaufry of culinary words

One of my favourite words is gallimaufry—it means a confused jumble or medley of things. I am not quite sure why I favour it as there are quite a lot of words in English that have similar meanings. From the very common words like hash, hodge-podge, smorgasbord to the rarer salmagundi and gallimaufry—we have borrowed culinary words for dishes that contain unlikely mixes of ingredients to describe any semi-random mix of things.

Making a hash of things

A hash is a much-loved American dish of chopped meat mixed with potatoes and browned and also means a confused muddle—as in the expression to make a hash of things.

A hodge-podge or hotch-potch

A hodge-podge is an adaptation of hotchpotch (from the late 1300s). It was a kind of stew made with goose, herbs, spices, wine, and other ingredients. It came from and Old French, hochepot, meaning a stew or soup. The first element, hocher, means to shake and pot is a dish. So it is a dish made from a shaken up set of ingredients.

Smorgasbord or butter-goose table

Smorgasbord is a word we borrowed from Swedish over a hundred years ago (although it seems it was a child of the sixties). It literally means butter-goose table from smör for butter, gås for goose and bord from Proto-Germanic, burdam for a plank, board, or table. Or less complicated, Smörgåsbord means bread and butter table. How gås (goose) became butter is explained in that the small pieces of butter that formed and floated to the surface of cream while it was churned were called geese by the Swedish farmers. The bread and butter table represents a wide mix of foods that were offered up buffet-style. Hence we use smorgasbord to describe a wide offering of very varied things.

Salmagundi and Solomon Gundy

Salmagundi is used to describe a heterogeneous mixture if things. It originates from salmagundi, a French salad plate of chopped meats, anchovies, eggs, and vegetables arranged in rows and topped with a salad dressing. The English have a very old, traditional dish called Solomon Gundy made from herrings, anchovies, apple, onion and lemon-peel. There are no known links between the two (although, surely, they must be related).

Gallimaufry a muddle of things

So, this brings us back to gallimaufry. Its origins now will seem quite predictable. It comes from the French word galimafrée for a dish made of odds and ends, from Old French galimafree (or calimafree) for a sauce made of mustard, ginger, and vinegar and a stew of carp.

The precise origin of galimafree is unknown. It is suggested that it comes from the combination of two Old French words, galer, meaning to make merry or to live well, combined with mafrer, meaning to eat much.

So as a word that once exhorted us to make merry, live well and to eat much before becoming a jumble or medley of things makes it a word very much to love.