Mason County News
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AROUND THE SQUARE
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 • Posted September 22, 2010

Canape.

"Can nap."

But it doesn’t mean one "can nap."

It’s actually French for "sofa," as in "an upholstered divan."

Which you could nap on.

But here in America where we have Free Speech, we say it like it is.

Or however we feel like saying it.

So we call it canapé.

(Notice the accent mark.)

And pronounce it "canopy" or "can-a-pay."

And here in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, canapé is no sofa.

No sir.

It’s something to eat.

You know…those little bite-sized delicacies served on trays at wedding receptions, special parties, art show openings, and other gala affairs.

But alas, no one says canapé any more.

(Nor do they say "alas" much anymore.)

Usually it’s all lumped in as appetizers.

Or as Or-Derves (i.e., hors d’oeuvres, if you want to be fancy and say something in French).

And yet canapés are distinctly different.

A 1937 book recently came into my possession that opened my eyes.

This authoritative publication titled, My New Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book, states that canapés are "small pieces of toasted or grilled bread topped with interestingly seasoned spreads and smartly garnished."

I like a garnished bit of bread as much as the next person.

But a smartly garnished one?

According to the book, what constitutes that is this:

Thin strips of sweet red pepper.

A touch of mayonnaise with horseradish mixed in.

Mustard butter piped on top.

Three pearl onions.

Minced egg yolks and chives.

A slice of stuffed olive.

Narrow strip of pimento on either side of an anchovy.

Capers.

Caviar.

These garnishes smartly top off such things as crabmeat, deviled ham, chopped bacon, shrimp, cream cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, lobster, or smoked salmon.

A specific type of hors d’oeuvres.

(And that specific French word literally means "outside of work".)

In other words, something for one to enjoy outside the normal working day.

Hors ‘d’oeuvres can be so large they require a plate and fork.

Or bite-size, like cheese balls for instance.

Or simple, such as sticks of raw carrots and celery with dip.

So there you have it.

Man cannot live by bread alone.

So true.

He must have smart garnish now and then.

That’s Mason.

Renee Walker is an author, poet, and real estate broker on the square.

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