Unagi with teriyaki sauce

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 7 07:01:26 UTC 2011

It was once explained to me that one of the colloquial names for sorrel in
French translates into English as "copper" (as in "copper coins", "change").
I no longer recall what the actual word was, but I can easily explain its
significance. When sorrel is overgrown and goes to seed, the seed-carrying
part of the plant is a long shoot covered with clusters of small circular
discs (about 3-5 mm in diameter). As they mature, they go from green to
nearly copper or bronze color. Hence the name.

It is possible that the shape or some other property of the shrimp that went
into the dish (or of one of the additives) somehow resembled or reminded the
proprietors of the establishment of money. That is the only plausible
explanation that I can come up with. Of course, I have no actual knowledge
of Japanese beyond a culinary vocabulary list, so YMMV. But it sound as if
the joint was just having some fun at the expense of its customers.

As for Ajinomoto, it serves dual purpose. It is actually a common "brand" of
Asian condiments (not just Japanese), but, in general, it's just Monosodium
Glutamate (MSG). That certainly would explain why Westerners would try to
avoid it.

It is also interesting that the sansho pepper (mentioned earlier by BB) is
considered to be quintessentially Japanese, even though it is just ground
seed-pods similar to Szechuan "peppercorns", which have absolutely no
relation to either black peppercorns or chili pepper (on the other hand,
white and green pepper and one variety of "pink" pepper are just different
maturity and grind stages of black peppercorns).


On Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 2:07 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:

> Korea Town now includes my former 'hood, from the days when I lived in
> L.A. in the '50's-'70's.
> Back in the day, I used to go with my sansei tomodachi, Hideo
> Fujikawa, to the area usually called "Little Tokyo," but which he
> always referred to only as "Japanese Town." We used to go to the
> various eateries down there. According to the kanji on the menu and my
> personal experience, the dish featured shrimp, for some reason
> pronounced _okane_, in this case, otomodachi. (Gnanadesikan 2009:113
> opines that Japanese has "the most-complex writing-system in modern
> use.")
> BTW, do you recall the condiment sold under the Japanese brand-name,
> _Ajinomoto_? Many Americans prefer that it not be added to their food.
> However, in the more traditional Japanese Town eateries, Ajinomono was
> more likely to be on the table than salt and pepper were.
> Hideo knew the meaning of his surname, "Wisteria River." but he had no
> idea what "wisteria" was. As it happens, I  know what it is and was
> able to point it out to him, when we serendipitously came across some
> growing on a fence.
> --
> -Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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