Tag: Spanish

I’m Your Flan

I’m Your Flan

The tortuous history of the word ‘flan’ (false friend alert!).

The Romans managed to[1] domesticate fowl[2] on a large enough[3] scale for eggs to become readily available as a cheap source of[4] protein. One of the dishes that the Romans exported around Europe was an open pastry[5] filled with egg and other ingredients – either sweet or savoury. It was the centrality of egg that gave rise to[6] the confusion between the two branches[7] of meanings for ‘flan’ that exist in European languages.

The centrality of egg may have led to the confusion, but the word ‘flan’ is deeply rooted[8] in Indo-European language; cognates include Greek platus (= flat, broad[9]), Spanish llano, chato, English ‘flat’, Frankish flado and Dutch vlade (= custard[10]) and vla (= pancake[11]).

The Franks took their flat cakes called flados with them when they invaded Gaul[12] and these eventually[13] became flaons in Old French. In the Middle Ages English adopted the French term – transformed into ‘flawn’ – to refer to a flat cake, a pancake11 or a kind[14] of custard10 or cheesecake. ‘Flan’ entered English from French in the 19th Century referring to an ‘open tart’, typically round and containing fruit. Today in Britain a flan can also be a quiche (i.e. a savoury open tart). So, for example, a quiche Lorraine could be described as an egg-and-bacon flan. Obviously, in British English it would make little sense to describe someone as “shaking like a flan”; we say “to tremble/shake like a leaf[15]” (which makes slightly[16] more sense).

Modern French uses ‘flan’ for an open tart containing fruit. The French term for set[17] custard for dessert[18] is crème caramel, a term also used in British English. In the UK we also use the terms ‘caramel custard’ (when it’s more viscous) and ‘baked custard’ (when is more solid). In American English crème caramel is usually called ‘flan’ under the influence of Spanish and Italian speakers. Crème caramel was introduced into Spain by the Moors. Catalan avoids[19] the problem by calling crème caramel ‘flam’. Catalan flam should not be confused with flaons[20]: cheese-based cakes traditionally eaten at Easter[21] in the Catalan-speaking areas of Spain, whose name derives from the Old French flaon. Savoury flaons are essentially flans in the British sense.

[1] to manage to – be able to

[2] fowlfarm birds (such as chickens)

[3] large enough – sufficient

[4] source ofway to get

[5] pastrymixture of flour, butter and water used to make the solid bases for cakes, quiches, etc.

[6] to give rise to (give-gave-given) – (in this case) cause

[7] branch – (in this case) separate evolution

[8] to be deeply rooted – have ancient origins

[9] broad – wide

[10] custard – a viscous yellow dessert made of egg, milk and sugar

[11] pancake – crêpe

[12] Gaulancient France

[13] eventually – (false friend) finally, in the end

[14] kind (n.) – type, sort

[15] leaf (plural ‘leaves’) – piece of foliage

[16] slightly – a little

[17] set – congealed , become semi-solid (like jelly)

[18] dessert – sweet, pudding, the last part of a meal

[19] to avoid – get round, not have

[20] the singular form is flaó

[21] at Easterduring Holy Week

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Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim Fathers & the Spanish

Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim Fathers & the Spanish

Did you know that there would be no Thanksgiving if it weren’t for[1] Spaniards[2]?

Most people think that the Pilgrim Fathers[3] went to Massachusetts directly from England. In fact, they settled in[4] the Netherlands[5] for a decade first. Specifically, they lived in Leiden. However, by 1618 there was a threat[6] of a Spanish invasion of the Netherlands to restore Catholicism[7], so the Pilgrim Fathers decided to look for[8] religious freedom in the New World.

However, the Spanish were not only indirectly responsible for the first permanent English colony in North America but they were also responsible for the most quintessentially American holiday.

The First Thanksgiving was a harvest festival[9] to celebrate with the local Wampanoag Indians the Pilgrims’ first successful harvest[10] in 1621 (after half of the Pilgrims had died in the previous months). But where did the settlers[11] get the idea for a celebratory banquet? Well, every year on 3rd October the people of Leiden celebrated – and still celebrate – a special feast to thank God for the defeat of[12] the Spanish in the siege[13] of 1574. The Pilgrim Fathers adopted the idea of a thanksgiving feast to celebrate deliverance[14] from adversity and turned it to their own purposes[15]; thus[16] was born Thanksgiving.

[1] if it weren’t for – without the intervention of

[2] SpaniardsSpanish people

[3] Pilgrim Fathers – a group of 102 Puritan pioneers from England who went to Massachusetts and founded the first permanent English-speaking colony in North America in 1620

[4] to settle ingo to live in

[5] the NetherlandsHolland

[6] threatdanger

[7] because of Dutch interference in Bohemia

[8] to look fortry to find

[9] harvest festival – celebration of the annual harvest

[10] harvest – collection of crops (= agricultural produce)

[11] settlercolonist

[12] defeat oftriumph against, victory over

[13] siege – encirclement, situation in which a town is surrounded and attacked

[14] deliverancesalvation

[15] to turn sth. to one’s own purposesuse sth. in a different way

[16] thus – in this way