antedating scampi (UNCLASSIFIED)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Dec 15 01:54:57 UTC 2010

At 7:42 PM -0500 12/14/10, victor steinbok wrote:
>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.

OK, OK, I have to confess the bread crumbs in my description came
from my mother's preparation of, yes, "shrimp scampi", which were
broiled or baked with the addition of bread crumbs to the garlic,
olive oil, white wine and parsley, and I do them the same way.  (I
suppose the OED's informants must have come from the same culinary
tradition.)  I grant that the authentic preparation may well involve
neither bread crumbs nor, as a result, the broiler or oven.  (Breaded
fried shrimp would not fall under the "scampi" rubric, I wouldn't
think.)  By VS's plausible definition, my mussels scampi  from Aunt
Bella's (Ridgewood, Queens) on Sunday would be an almost authentic
preparation (poached in olive oil and white wine with lots of garlic,
and served with lemon juice, but perhaps no butter) albeit an
instance of the semantic transfer we've noted.

--LH, somewhat OT, but pleading hunger as an excuse.

The American Dialect Society -

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