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"Sliver - a very small, thin piece of something, usually broken off something large" Cambridge English Dictionary

This was going to be one of those bits and pieces posts, but for a moment there, as I started to look for a suitable picture I wondered whether it was actually a whole post in itself. And you know I'm still wondering. So why don't I start and see where I end up?

The reason I paused, having found my dictionary definition, and whilst looking for that suitable header picture, was this - Stir-fried potato slivers with chilli and sichuan pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop. Fuchsia Dunlop - a very aristocratic sounding English name - who is a cook with a reputation for being an expert on Chinese food. I come across her recipes here and there in The Guardian Newsletter but have never really followed her because I'm not much of a fan of Chinese food. I also have to say that although the recipe is mildly intriguing, it's also not that amazingly wonderful looking. However I investigated a bit further - as I do - and found heaps and heaps of recipes on the net. It seems it's a pretty standard Chinese dish. and it's generally served with rice because:

"While potatoes are more commonly categorized as a starch in the West, Chinese cooking more often recognizes potatoes as a vegetable, like eggplants or leafy greens, to be imbued with potent flavors and eaten with plain rice." Lucas Sin/Serious Eats

Apparently home cooks like to show off their knife skills with this dish because you've got to achieve really fine julienned potatoes. A mandoline will help. Then you wash them and blanch them before stir-frying - so not really all that simple. But it seems to be a top dish - that most of us have never heard of. Popular, because, it's sort of sweet and sour, with a touch of heat and also, of course, because it's fried. Humans love fried food as we know to our cost.

"It may sound counterintuitive to talk about crisp-tender potatoes, but that’s exactly the result you're looking for here." Hetty McKinnon/Bon Appétit

Below a couple of examples: Chinese potato stir fry/Red House Spice; Suanla Tudousi - Lucas Sin/Serious Eats; Spicy and sour stir-fried potatoes - Hetty McKinnon/Bon Appétit

I have to say that what got me was that none of the examples that I saw looked particularly fried and/or crispy, but, whilst we are on fried I came across this very delectable way of dealing with your zucchini glut - Zucchini slivers from CreamPuff/Food52. And these do look fried and crispy. A bit like whitebait in fact. A technique you could use for a whole variety of foods.

Well I see this is not going to be one of those bits and pieces posts so let's wander some more.

Still on food and what to cook that could possibly involve the word sliver, there are, I think two main uses of the word. The first is the one where you cut stuff into slivers, or buy slivered things like nuts in the supermarket, and then sprinkle them over stuff, either together or alone. And look, whilst trying to find a suitable illustration I found this recipe for Peanut butter stuffed dates /Nutriciously. Now there's an idea. Or is it? They certainly look good, and, you know, it could work.

This kind of use of sliver in food is not confined to sweet things of course. Slivered nuts of all kinds are often sprinkled over savoury things, as are slivers of lemon peel - well any kind of peel, and vegetables such as zucchini too - or are they shreds?. And let's not forget the inevitable slivers of cheese.

The second use is in the sense of cutting a thin slice of something - usually something sweet like a cake, which, it seems to me, when the phrase 'just a tiny sliver is used, is often an affectation that points out how slim the person asking for that 'tiny sliver' is.

Which brings me to the Urban Dictionary. The Urban Dictionary invites definitions of words from the great general public - the young and the hip mostly. Every now and then, when I'm doing one of my bits and pieces posts and looking for definitions I dip into it for inspiration. Today's 'Sliver' was an absolute treasure-trove which I just have to share. Mostly because it shows that there is a vast world out there speaking a language you think you might know but which you don't really. And even when it's pretty offensive, it shows enormous invention it seems to me. I often think that these are exciting times for the English language. Did you know that experts reckon that 14.7 new words are added to the language every day. Yes EVERY DAY. The Atkins Bookshelf tells us:

"According to the Global Language Monitor’s (GLM) “English Language WordClock,” there are 1,005,366 words in the English language. The millionth new word (a neologism in lexicographer lingo), “Web 2.0,” entered the 1,400-year-old English lexicon on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 am. The Google/Harvard Study of the Current Number of Words in the English Language also arrived at a similar number — 1,022,000 (a difference of .0121%) — after an analysis of the Google Corpus (more than 200 billion words from American and British datasets mined from books scanned by Google). The Oxford English Dictionaries (OED) comes up with an estimate of 750,000, when counting only distinct senses and excluding variants.

The GLM estimates that in the modern world a new word is created every 98 minutes (approximately 14.7 new words per day)."

And remember language evolves from the bottom up. Yes, Shakespeare invented a huge number of words, but these days it's not the literary giants it's those out there in the changing world. Many of those words will have a very short lifespan of course, but some will endure.

So herewith SLIVER as defined in the Urban Dictionary. Incidentally some of the contributors' names are pretty weird too. I didn't include those where sliver was part of a phrase - well just one, because it was kind of cute.

  • a female individual who is very thin, incredibly annoying and conceited." oakkmr

  • "slang for brief sexual encounters" j-zilla (this one continued in a mildly pornographic/erotic way)

  • "Best Nirvana song ever" Kris Novoselic - (Grandma take me home, I wanna be alone...)

  • "The best French rocking hardcore band ever. Named after the best Nirvana song ever." Sister Resist

  • "slang for cocaine" Blue Eyed Soul Brother

  • "A mid-west term referring to a splinter" Jiggerbat

  • "Refers to any creature that shares thoughts and abilities with their own kind, come in great numbers, and adapt quickly." Rodger (I think this one comes from a film with the name Sliver)

  • A strange, random phrase (sliver of the moon) used to describe anything. Usually used as an excuse for something you weren't supposed to do. The conversation including this phrase, used by my 3 year old cousin, is shown below.

"Uncle Ben, I don't potty talk. It's just a sliver of the moon." Zandri

And my personal favourite:

  • a word commonly misspelt as silver." Sliver McKite the poor thing has obviously been lumbered with one of those names we should never give to our children. You would think that he or she, or even they, would have changed it by now. There's a whole novel in those few words.

You can subscribe to a new word every day from Urban Dictionary. Today's is 'Jiffy foot' which is "Southern (North America) slang for the blackened souls of one's bare feet - dirty feet." And yes it is an American site and the audience mostly American, so it could be argued that American English is another language anyway, but then the world is so influenced by American English that you just can't ignore it. I might subscribe. It might make me smile at least once a day.

So who knew there were so many uses for the word sliver.? I thought it was just a small piece of something larger.

And on the point that food has any number of words with a similar meaning I also found this article on the Cambridge Dictionary's blog by Kate Woodford, which shows you just how many there are. Maybe I should do the same exercise on some of them one day. It's called Just a sliver,


Fish Soup

Re the fish soup that we ate at our Bastille Day lunch and which was assumed to be an Elizabeth David recipe, it seems that Clare too could not find her original source. My guess is that there probably was one and that over the years of making it she has honed it to meet her own needs - i.e. quick, simple and hugely delicious. She kindly sent me her recipe. Here it is - and incidentally I suspect that the Thai fish sauce is the genius ingredient - and that's not very Elizabeth David. That's not her soup in the picture. Sadly I forgot to take a photograph. It's the closest I could find, but there were no bits of tomato in Clare's. Although, of course, you could not purée the base of the soup and leave it with the vegetables in pieces.

1 medium/large brown onion

1 medium green (or red) pepper Whichever is cheaper on the day…

1 tin italian brand chopped tomatoes

Fry chopped onion gently in butter and olive oil mixture (2 tabs max)

Soften then add chopped pepper till soft.

Add tomatoes, Keep stirring round till all coated like soup preparation….

Add boiling water and about 2-3 tabs Thai fish sauce, for flavour.

Cook till soft, purée with stick blender, adjust seasonings and there you are.

(At this point I think you add the fish pieces and poach for a few minutes)

Sometimes like yesterday, the soup was a little on the thin side but ...

All this can be made ahead of time. The trick is to have fish cut into small pieces..whatever mixture you like…..and poach for 2-3 mins. Till just slightly underdone….fish will continue to cook in the hot broth whilst you are serving it so beware…..keep fish soft.

By the way I didn't think it was on the thin side.


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