"Coolness is an aesthetic of attitude, behavior, comportment, appearance, and style that is generally admired. Because of the varied and changing interpretation of what is considered "cool," as well as its subjective nature, the word has no single meaning." Wikipedia
Let alone the other, mostly more concrete, meanings of coolness and cool which have nothing to do with the above quote.
Maybe it's because it's supposed to be a hot day, and yet this morning was cool enough for me to go for a walk, the word cool popped into my head, although I didn't get very far in thinking about it. However, when I got back from my walk and read The Guardian Newsletter I found an article on yet another aspect of cool, so I decided to go with the flow.
Where to begin? At the beginning perhaps. Where did the word come from? - well basically from the northern lands of Europe according to the detailed rundown from Etymonline. This is just part of it:
"Old English col "not warm" (but usually not as severe as cold), "moderately cold, neither warm nor very cold," also, figuratively, of persons, "unperturbed, undemonstrative, not excited or heated by passions," from Proto-Germanic *koluz (source also of Middle Dutch coel, Dutch koel, Old High German chuoli, German kühl "cool," Old Norse kala "be cold"), from PIE root *gel- "cold; to freeze."
So at least two of its meanings were there from the beginning, even maybe an inkling of the modern hip version of 'cool'. The Latins go for words associated with our 'fresh', which even slang-wise is slightly different. I wonder what the words are from the really hot countries of the world, or, indeed the really cold? If you are perpetually cold, then 'cool' would mean sort of warm wouldn't it?
The Oxford Dictionary people go for clear but mundane definitions:
"Adjective - 'of or at a fairly low temperature.' also 'showing no friendliness towards a person or enthusiasm for an idea or project'
Noun - ' a fairly low temperature' 'calmness, composure'
Verb - 'to become or make less hot.'"
According to Etymonline the slang use of 'cool' began around 1933 when it just meant 'fashionable' and is of African/American origin. Then it changed to its 'general term of approval' from the late 1940s and a particular style of jazz of which Lester Young was an example.
So let's get this meaning out of the way, because this is, after all, supposed to be a food blog. This image is from the website Mashable which I'm guessing considers itself to be 'cool'. Note the sunglasses. If you search for 'cool person' in Google images, most of them are wearing sunglasses. I think Tom Cruise started all of that with Top Gun didn't he? I haven't taken the time to find out. Now there's a thought. Is Tom Cruise still cool? Do you have to be young to be cool?
Anyway I looked for definitions on Urban Dictionary where there are lots of course, but I liked these two.
"What people say when they are genuinely not interested in what you have to say
Carol: I went to the mall last night
Dave: Cool" Vfa930/Urban Dictionary
- which just goes to show how meanings can be changed subtly, well not so subtly really as in this case 'cool' really means the opposite of 'cool'. And what did Carol think that Dave meant?
This one is probably more accurate:
"A word that describes someone or anyone or anything that is interesting and well liked. Cool is over used and often too general and used for things that are often only a fad. The things and people that are in actual fact cool don't care about being cool." Stuff/Urban Dictionary
Or this from Joel Dinerstein who is an American Associate Professor who taught a course on The History of Cool.
"a cool person has to have at least three of four qualities: a signature artistic vision, rebellion, far-reaching fame and a cultural legacy." Joel Dinerstein (2014)
Who is considered cool is completely subjective - if you look for lists of cool people the names on offer vary from Jesus and the Pope to David Bowie, Snoop Dog and Bluey and everything outside and in between.
So moving on to food.
I began with a picture of a watermelon on a beach because the watermelon is, to me anyway, the epitome of cool food - and here, and from now on, I am talking of cool in the temperature sense. Although doubtless some may consider it - and perhaps this photograph - as 'cool' in the street sense.
One of my first encounters with watermelon was on the beaches of what was then Yugoslavia, where young men, would come to sell watermelon on the hot days of summer. They would cut a small piece out of it to demonstrate how ripe it was, for they were not selling slices - they were selling the whole thing. It was very cheap and very cooling. But oh those pips. They were a pain to remove, although beautiful to behold. I notice that these days those seeds are disappearing. The food scientists are breeding them out.
When it's hot the food gurus seem to think we need to eat salads. Cool food for hot days. And yes it is cool, although warm salads are a bit trendy. But yes, salads are generally served cold, although it seems to me that this is a dangerous thing to do on a hot day in a way. I mean nothing is worse than limp and wilting salad. Of course you could perch them in an ice bath but that's a bit over the top isn't it? Perhaps it's another reason why I'm not a huge fan of salads. There's rather too much chewing involved to my mind. And I don't really like cold food on a plate with hot food - as in a barbecue. I do like some though. A good potato, rice or pasta salad for the carbohydrates, a crisp green salad as long as it is served as soon after you have taken the lettuce out of the fridge as possible, and perhaps this rather wonderful Melon salad with honey lime dressing from Curtis Stone, which can be varied with the addition of cheese, tomatoes, radishes ... Melons again - the ultimate cool summer food.
No that's ice-cream isn't it?
Other cool foods that are often pushed at us in summer, even if we don't fancy them? Cold soup, oysters and caviar on ice - if you can afford them, massive seafood platters - also on ice ...
Well we all have our pet hates and pet favourites I'm sure. The point being that in order to be cool in summer the food writers seem to think we need to eat cold food. Which, of course, is not necessarily the case because in the hottest countries in the world the food they eat is often very spicy and hot. Not cool at all. Perhaps looking at cool food makes us feel cool?
A cool drink, now. That's a different thing. And even though a glass of rosé or white is really good, it doesn't have to be an alcoholic drink. Even sparkling water will do. But yes it does have to be sparkling.
I have been asked to bring a salad along to tomorrow's double birthday celebration - a vegetable one, as rice and potato are already covered. I have some leftover home-made mayonnaise in the fridge so I shall have to see what I can do with that. I, in fact am feeling a little chilled in our beautifully cool house in this last flush of summer that Melbourne is putting on, so I might go outside and peruse some summery cook books looking for inspiration. And try to get warm.
However, before I leave the topic of 'cool'. There is another aspect to cool food - no not trendy - that The Guardian brought up today. How best to keep your food cool in the fridge. Indeed what should you keep in the fridge anyway?
The article is called Know your onions and it's by Dale Berning Sawa. She talks about the latest research on this, which seems to say, amongst other things, that really you should be keeping your potatoes in the fridge - and your lipstick in the door. Well I won't be doing that. My fridge is much too small.
It also made me recognise that I do not stack my fridge properly, although here I will lay the blame equally on to LG and David. This is because David will not let me put all my half finished jars of pickles and condiments and such like on the shelves in the door, because he says they weigh the door down, and the weight will crack the shelves (which is LG's fault.) I used to keep them there, but after he noticed that the door had slipped down, I was banned. I still don't really know who to blame. Anyway the end result is that I now have to stack them on the shelves - very difficult to find what's at the back. A dangerous thing for reasons from spillages, and breakages to things mouldering unseen and unused there. The shelves in the door are much more practical. Also I am now told that the weight of these jars is also cracking the shelves. So either David is wrong, or this is a fridge that is not fit for purpose.
The other downside of this reorganisation is that things are kept in the door - milk, cream, yoghurt - indeed virtually all of the dairy except the cheese - which should not be in the door, because the door is not the coolest place. Another sin - we keep the bread in the fridge. Everyone, including this article says you really should not keep bread in the fridge, but I actually do think that it stays fresher for longer in there.
There was a lot of very useful information in the article. And most of it made me feel bad. Not 'cool' at all. But at the end of it all, aren't we lucky that we have fridges at all? And aren't we lucky that the sun is shining on this perfect day and that tomorrow when it will be really hot we shall be barbecuing and eating salads.