So I had to learn to play the mandolin. I think I did quite well for someone who'd only been playing a week, but of course it wasn't very good - and thank heavens for that, because I only knew one piece and if I'd been asked for an encore I'd have been sunk.
Finding a musical mandolin around the place is unlikely to be easy, but hearing one is no further away than YouTube:
Happy, now? Surely everyone must be who's listened to that.
Anyway, the reason why mandolins are in my mind is because at the weekend we had luncheon guests and for them I made a flan topped with a spiral of sweet potato shavings arranged on their edges to look like a big orange rose. I had to make the sweet potato shavings with a potato peeler, and, boy, did I miss having a mandolin.
No, not to amuse me as I laboured away, but to slice the vegetables:
One of these mandolins is surely spottable in a kitchen or kitchen shop near you. Or perhaps a restaurant might oblige by giving you a glimpse of theirs.
The question, though, is, why have a musical instrument and a vegetable slicer got the same name?
You really want to know, too, don't you?
Spot the Frippet: mandolin (or mandoline if you prefer). This word comes from the Italian mandolino, diminutive of mandolo, lute, from the Greek pandoura, which is a three-stringed instrument. As for its connection with the vegetable slicer, everyone is curious but baffled. The most convincing idea (to me) is that the name was first given to a wire-type slicer (like an egg-slicer) and the name was transferred from there; but some say that the early mandolins were held against the body and the action of using them was very like strumming a musical mandolin.