• salmagundi •
sæl-mê-gên-di • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. A dish of chopped meats, anchovies, fruits, and vegetables, usually highly spiced, served as a salad, garnish, or spread. 2. A hodge-podge, mishmash, jumbled mixture.
Notes: A 17th century recipe: "Cut cold roast chicken or other meats into slices. Mix with minced tarragon and an onion. Mix all together with capers, olives, samphire, broombuds, mushrooms, oysters, lemon, orange, raisins, almonds, blue figs, Virginia potatoes, peas, and red and white currants. Garnish with sliced oranges and lemons. Cover with oil and vinegar, beaten together." —The Good Huswives Treasure, Robert May (1588-1660).
In Play: The salmagundi I know is a pungently tasty spread that also serves as a spicy garnish for red meat, particularly if barbecued or otherwise highly seasoned. But the word's metaphorical versatility is what lexical legends are made of: "The Mardi Gras parade was a salmagundi of outrageous colors, musics, and motions." We find salmagundis all around us: "New York is a salmagundi of all the cultures of the world."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Middle French salmingondis, a compound probably based on salemine "salted food" and condir "to season". Salemine comes from Latin salamen "salted food", which became salami in Italian. The regular noun from condire (from Latin condire "to season") is condiment. (Dr. Goodword thanks Richard and Yvonne Smith of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, originally from Guyana, for introducing him to salmagundi—the word and the gastronomic delight.)
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