“Lashings”

Lynne Murphy tells me that one of her readers at the Separated By a Common Language log alerted her to today’s New York Times, specifically a passage about a dish called “breakfast salad” at the Bushwick, Brooklyn, cafe Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Julia Moskin writes that it’s

a proper green salad, but supersized and unfurled on a warm pink plate…. It’s also enriched with a creamy-yolked boiled egg, lashings of golden olive oil, soft chunks of marinated feta and an avalanche of chives, cilantro and basil.

The notable term wasn’t “proper,” which is pretty familiar in the U.S. by now, but “lashings.” The OED says the word is originally Anglo-Irish and defines it as “‘Floods,’ abundance.” (I’m not sure why “floods”is put in quotation marks.) The first citation is from Sir Walter Scott’s journal in 1829, a reference to “whiskey in lashings.” All of the subsequent quotations are British and most are also in reference to alcoholic beverages (a 1927 Dorothy Sayers novel has the line, “Nice little dinner—lashings of champagne”). The first food-related lashings is from The Lancet in 1966: “The crusty wholemeal bread..eaten with lashings of butter.”

A nytimes.com search for “Moskin lashing” reveals that this writer is fond of the word and has used it since 2004, when she wrote that a dish at a New York Japanese restaurant is  served with “lashings of mayonnaise, an American import that has become ubiquitous in Japanese fast food.”

As for me, I have been missing Australian breakfasts since I left Melbourne in January. My daughter Maria lives in Bushwick, and next visit I want to go to Carthage Must Be Destroyed. I just hope they serve tall long blacks.

13 responses to ““Lashings”

  1. Jeanne Nelson

    Sayers also uses “lashings” in Gaudy Night (1935), referring to the hot water supply in college.

  2. I associate the word with the phrase “lashings of ginger beer” which everyone (myself included) things is from Enid Blyton but Google tells me actually first appeared in the 1982 Blyton spoof Five Go Mad in Dorset.

  3. Nick L. Tipper

    Enid Blyton wrote formulaic story books for children. In one of her series, ‘The Famous Five’, posh kids with excessive self-confidence and 1930s racist, xenophobic and sexist attitudes had implausible adventures in the hols.
    Lashings of cream (1 mention) and lashings of ginger beer (4 mentions) in this hilarious send up.

  4. Jowls Paisley

    Long Blacks?

  5. Peter from Oz

    ”I just hope they serve tall blacks.”
    Why? Are you afraid that they won’t serve African Americans who are over average height?
    As Jowls Paisley says above, I think you meean ”long black”

  6. Incidentally, there was a use of “lashings” in a newspaper I saw once that did amuse me. It was in the arts section telling of a forthcoming concert which had “lashings of Percy Grainger”. (I think this was in the centenary year of Grainger’s birth.) As Grainger has a reputation of being into self-flagellation – I’ve seen his whips on display at the Percy Grainger museum in Melbourne – I assume this choice of words was deliberate.

  7. We always had “crumpets with lashings of butter!”

    • Mmm! Yummy.

      Incidentally, in my household – London in the late fifties – we used muffin and crumpet interchangeably. It wasn’t until I visited the US in 1980 got served English muffins that I discovered the difference.

  8. Scott, being Scottish, rightly wrote ‘whisky’ and not ‘whiskey’ as you state. The OED gets it right, too.

  9. Funny that all the earlier citations are to do with alcohol. British/Irish people would often say ‘to go on the lash’ to mean go drinking and ‘to get lashed’ to mean get drunk. I am not sure if these are linked to this or the lash of a whip, which could also be assumed in a figurative sense I guess (i.e. the drink hitting you like the lash of a whip).

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