Thursday, August 22, 2013


Why are foreign translations of food terms and menus so gosh darned hilarious? We know that mockery is very bad and wrong, and anyone who’s ever tried to learn a foreign language has made some stupid, glaring howlers.  And, yet how can you not hoot with mirth at this pack of Japanese instant noodles?  Soup for sluts - “cheap fast and easy” indeed.

At the risk of second-guessing the Japanese translator, I assume there was some confusion here between the modern sense of slut as simply a sexually promiscuous woman, and an older meaning of slut as a woman who isn’t very good at, and really doesn’t care about, domestic chores, cooking being one of them.   I guess “slattern” would be the more current word, but my Word dictionary considers this offensive too.  

Still, slut was certainly used in the title of a book that quite a few women had back in the day: Erin Pizzey, The Slut’s Cookbook, and Erin Pizzey certainly didn’t mean to offend.  Her website glosses it thus: “A slut is a much maligned human being. It is usually quite wrong to assume that a slut is promiscuous - nothing is further from the truth. A slut is always in control of every situation she is in,”  though I imagine there are one or two things that are a little further from the truth.

Well, sluts and slatterns, and indeed whores, have to cook and eat just like the rest of us, and of course the Italians have the term putanesca - “whore style.” The concept supposedly dates back to the 1950s, devised by one Sandro Petti, of Rancio Fellone, a restaurant and nightclub on the island of Ischia.  That’s him below, and I think that's Gina Lollobrigida with him, though I could be wrong:

One evening near closing time a group of customers asked for a meal but Petti had run out of ingredients and told them he didn't have enough to make them a meal.  Just what kind of restaurant and nightclub was this, you may ask.  The customers said,  "Facci una puttanata qualsiasi” (Make any kind of garbage), puttanata here meaning something worthless. derived from puttana. This seems to be an insult both to chefs and whores, and perhaps is a bit of an urban myth, but Petti concocted a sauce with what he had: tomatoes, olives and capers.

Nigella Lawson has a recipe that she calls Slut’s Spaghetti. And she writes,  “Well, how could I resist this translation of pasta alla puttanesca, whore's pasta as it usually is described in English? The general consensus seems to be that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don't go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars and tins. I hold my hands up to that. Or maybe one should just attribute the name gamely to the fiery tang and robust saltiness of the dish?”   Well maybe.

And if whores have to eat, so do porn stars.  There are various references to this volume floating around the Internet, The Pornstar Cookbook.  It’s attributed to someone or something called Nicotext, and was allegedly published in 2007, running to 640 pages.  Whether this book actually exists I’m not sure, all the sources that claim to sell it declare it to be unavailable or out of stock.  I admit that I haven’t put too much energy into finding it.

All of which brings us to the notorious book by Carol J. Adams titled The Pornography of Meat.  Her previous book had the less zesty title The Sexual Politics of Meat.  I hesitate to paraphrase the book’s argument, being part of the patriarchy, but I think it is that women are sometimes (Adams might say always) treated like pieces of meat, and that this is obviously bad and wrong: and who could disagree?  But I think she ultimately believes that treating animals as meat is every bit as wrong too.  Vegetarians suffer under male hegemony just as much as women do.

She’s particularly against the presence of knives in food advertising.  She writes, “the knife is a popular implement in the pornographic script: women are shown mutilating their own genitals; a smiling young woman is shown thrusting a large butcher knife into her vagina, blood spurting rom the wound.” Well she obviously sees very different pornography than I do.

She particularly has it in for a restaurant in Ithaca named John Thomas, which I agree is a dodgy name for a restaurant. though I gather it is named after a real man who lived nearby. 

She writes, “With John Thomas’s establishment we have several reminders of the accessibility of women’s bodies to men.  First of course is the double entendre of the word strip.  Then, the knife as a phallic symbol represents all those John Thomas’s who want a piece.”  She is referring to DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in which John Thomas is the nickname of gamekeeper Mellors’ penis.

'Say goodnight! to John Thomas,' he said, looking down at his penis.
'He's safe in the arms of creeping Jenny! Not much burning pestle about
him just now.'
And he put his flannel shirt over his head.

This is the ad Adams particularly objects to: and I do think she probably has a point.  Stripping at knife point really isn’t very right on. (Sorry the image quality is so poor - it's a scan of a scan.)

Elsewhere I’m not so sure: “Vagina is the Latin word for sheath. A sheath is a case for a knife blade.  In pornography, women’s sheaths receive not only knives, but daggers, razors, scissors swords, hooks, jackhammers, axes, ice picks, cigarettes, needles, pokers.” 
Well, if you say so. But of course the sheath is not slashed, not even damaged, by the knife or sword (it would be useless if it were) anymore than the vagina is slashed by the penis.  She also claims that knives are used to intimidate vegetarians, but who needs that?  Why not just wave a pork sausage at them; but not a pork sword, definitely not a pork sword.

No comments:

Post a Comment