antedating scampi (UNCLASSIFIED)

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 15 00:42:07 UTC 2010

One item that often produces peevish responses, especially from the
culinary types, is "shrimp scampi". But, in reality, of course, it
just illustrates the transfer. And you know the transfer is complete
when Costco carries a big box of frozen "Shrimp Scampi" pre-fab.

What I found ghastly, however, is the mention of "bread crumbs"--THAT
is NOT scampi. If this were a foodie list, I suspect the mention of
olive oil also would cause commotion--"frying" (in reality any cooking
other than poaching) in olive oil is usually a cause for some
unnecessary consternation. In fact, four ingredients that are common
to most (though not all) scampi recipes are shrimp, garlic, butter,
olive oil and parsley. And the shrimp are indeed poached in olive oil
which is then mixed with butter for sauce. The other two /usual/ main
ingredients are white wine and lemon juice. Obviously, this does not
exhaust all the possibilities (e.g., Red Lobster uses parmesan, which
is another ghastly addition), but bread crumbs are straight out.
Perhaps the original preparation of scampi (prawns) was indeed fried
in bread-crumb coating, but that should not transfer to scampi the
dish, as it is known now. I don't know where the OED got its idea--I
suggest scouring Italian and seafood cookbooks all the way back to the
1930s for consensus.

Also, the 1978 scampi 2. cite appears to refer to the prawns, not the
preparation, but essential context might be missing. Without looking
up the original piece, I'll defer to the editors.


On Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 1:28 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> Of course in our culture "scampi" has come to
> usually designate not the variety of seafood
> itself, but a prominent mode of its preparation.
> I had "Mussels scampi" Sunday night in New York.
> Further, "scampi" in such contexts isn't
> interpreted the way "fish-cooked eggplant" (i.e.
> eggplant cooked in the style of fish, in Chinese
> cooking) is.  Rather, "scampi" seems to mean
> basically baked or sauteed with garlic, olive
> oil, parsley, and bread crumbs.  I don't know if
> the meaning transfer or "adequation" [Gustav
> Stern, 1931] can be dated.  (It's a bit like what
> happened with "chili", as we discussed in a
> distant thread.)  Let's see if the OED
> tries...No, the closest they come is:
> 2a. (A dish of) these prawns eaten as a delicacy,
> usu. coated with breadcrumbs and fried in oil, or
> boiled and served with (garlic) sauce.
> But the key shift is for "scampi" at least in the
> U.S. to denote that preparation itself rather
> than the prawns cooked that way.
> LH

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