29 February 2004
Ambigu (it says, in Schottís Food & Drink Miscellany) is an old French word for a meal in which all the dishes - hot, cold and dessert - are presented at the same time. Itís not in my dictionary, and itís not in the new Larousse; I was going to fling the word down like a challenge to readers of this journal (knowing that at least one of them is French, another a scholar of mediaeval French), but then I thought to look in the old Larousse, which has a small paragraph on the subject. That paragraph is itself ambiguous ("the word ambigu is applicable to a meal which is taken between luncheon and dinner, or between dinner and luncheon" - sorry, howís that again?), and of course half my interest lies in its relationship to ambiguous. So I looked up ambiguous in Chambers for the root (ambigere, to go about or waver), and en route I spotted ambitty, an adjective used of glass, and meaning devitrified. And Iím sorry, and I know there is a highly technical explanation, but the concept of devitrified glass just flings me instantly into a world of dehydrated water and dephlogisticated air. Itís okay, though, I like it here...
And meanwhile my first half-dozen chilli hatchlings are sitting on the windowsill, rubbing their little leaflets together and gazing out at a snowy white wilderness, and muttering Werenít we promised rainforests and jungle heat..? There must, of course, be a pun to be perpetrated about leaflets that promise tropical paradise, but I canít be bothered; you want it, do it yourself.
Which is pretty much what I did last night. Not complaining, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but how is it that even when Iím invited to a house Iíve never been before, by someone I donít really know that well, I still end up cooking dinner...?
© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.