The beauty about learning a European language is that it makes you appreciate English better. Studying French in university, I first encountered the word portmanteau, which upon closer inspection is actually a linguistic blend of two words and their meanings: porter ‘to carry’ and manteau ‘coat/cloak.’ The resulting compound word then acquires its own unique meaning, in this case, portmanteau ‘a large (compartmentalized) suitcase.’
Through the years, pop culture has expanded the English lexicon with blended words (now referred to in linguistic terms as portmanteaux), thanks to the crafty contributions of marketing and media trendsetters. And we’ve probably used some of them without even knowing the original words that made up the blends.
For example, if you’re into all things artsy and chic moderne, you’ve might have heard of the famous SoHo in Lower Manhattan (SOuth of HOuston Street)? The other two addresses in NYC particularly popular with celebrities are Nolita (NOrth of Little ITAly) and Tribeca (TRIangle BElow CAnal Street).
Fashion seems to spawn new batches of portmanteaux every season. If you’ve lived in the Middle East, it’s likely you’ve seen burqinis (BURQa + bikINIS) sold in water sports shops. These swimwear were designed for Muslim women who desire to swim modestly in public. Two years ago, the jeggings (JEans + leGGINGS) or leggings that were made to look like jeans became the biggest runway trend in fall.
Of course, the world of gastronomy hasn’t been spared. Starbucks trademarked the blended coffee drink that America loves and if you’re a milkshake fan, you might reach for an icy Frappuccino (FRAppé + caPPUCCINO) on a hot summer day. Fancy a nested bird roast for your next holiday feast? How about a turducken (TURkey stuffed with DUck stuffed with chiCKEN)? Sounds like a huge undertaking but probably tastes better than a cherpumple (CHERry pie + PUMpkin pie + apPLE pie) which is a monstrous construction of pies baked inside different cake flavors and stacked on top of each other! Then there’s the controversial Frankenfood (FRANKENstein + FOOD), like the Vitamin A-fortified golden rice produced from genetically-modified crops.
I have a favorite fastfood item which you may get from Burger King — the croissan’wich (CROISSANt + sandWICH). But my top edible portmanteau is definitely the banoffee (BANana + tOFFEE), which I first thought was an intriguing combination of banana and coffee!
So next time you eat your tangelo (tangerine + pomelo) salad with a spork (spoon + fork) at Sunday brunch (breakfast + lunch), know that your contemporary life is and will increasingly be surrounded by fantabulous portmanteaux. Hope to see you on this blog (web + log) again when I tackle another tower of bubble, the croquembouche (croque + en + bouche ‘crunch in the mouth’).
Makes 3 4-inch tarts
|1 1/2 cups||graham cracker crumbs|
|3 tbsp||granulated sugar|
|3 tbsp||unsalted butter, melted|
|pinch salt (optional)|
|3/4 cup||granulated sugar|
|1 1/2 tbsps||corn syrup|
|3 tbsp||unsalted butter|
|3 tbsp||heavy cream|
|1/2 cup||whipping cream|
|chopped pistaschios, optional|
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar. If using salt, add to the crumb mix. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Pour into the graham cracker crumb mix and blend well. Divide among the tart pans and wit the back of the spoon, press mixture to the bottom and sides of the pans. Bake for 15 minutes and set aside to cool completely on racks.
In a heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup and 3 tablespoons water and bring to a boil. Cook without stirring until syrup reaches soft ball stage, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter and cream. Mixture will bubble up quickly. Pour into cooled tart shells and cool caramel to room temperature. Refrigerate until set.
Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Slice up bananas into half-inch thick discs. Arrange bananas on top of tarts and top with cream. Sprinkle with pistachios, if desired.