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Sunday 10 June 2012

Sunday Rest: Word Not To Use Today: asafoetida.

Surely no one would ever eat anything called asafoetida.

Well, if you've ever had a dash of Worcester Sauce in your tomato juice then you have. It's used in Indian cooking a lot too.

It's difficult to imagine why anyone ever decided to eat it, though, because the stuff smells so awful that you have to keep it in a sealed container, and even then it's recommended that you keep the sealed container inside a couple of bags.

You get asafoetida from a plant called Ferula asafoetida, which is a sort of fennel:


The asafoetida is gummy stuff which oozes out of the root (lovely). You cut the plant down, cut a slit in the root, and eventually a walnut-sized knob of stuff looking like this:

asafoetida clump

will be produced.

If its foul smell, its appearance, and its name put you off, then you could try wearing a clothes peg on your nose, closing your eyes, and thinking of it by its other name, which is devil's dung.

It's also called Food of the Gods (a marketing ploy if ever I saw one) and, pleasingly, ting.

On the plus side, asafoetida has proved to be effective against 'flu (hence the former custom of hanging some in a bag round the necks of sniffly children), and is said to be useful in cases of intestinal worms, hysteria, and, in Jamaica, evil spirits.

It's certainly loved by Texan wolves, and some moths, pike, and catfish.

As for me...I don't think I'd knowingly eat asafoetida very enthusiastically, but I'd be very happy to eat something flavoured with ting.

Word Not To Use Today: asafoetida. This word comes from the Persian asa, which means resin, and the Latin foetida, which means smelly.

1 comment:

  1. Yup! I've avoided it like mad all my life. There was a desperate hunt for it on Twitter...people asking where you get it, etc. but I have always given it a miss. What Indian restaurants do is up to them of course but I think the fact that it's not readily available in Waitrose and the like speaks for itself. Very well named all round. But very pretty, the plant. There's a metaphor there somewhere...or an analogy. Or something!


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