You will rarely need to know what the Bisaro pig is. It’s a pig, which is more than our party knew at the Portuguese restaurant on Friday night, when we collectively failed to ask the waiter for a translation. None of us had it, nor its accompanying sweet potato mash and pickled baby onion sauce.

The Bisaro is not just a pig. It’s a central and northern Portuguese pig, part-boar, of Celtic origins. The breed was classified by J.F. Macedo Pinto in the nineteenth century as “Bizaro Type 1, or Celtic”. Supposedly, it originated in Gaul. Its labeling could hardly be more mythic, more Asterixian.

Bisaro pigs grow to a meter tall at the shoulder, and a meter-and-a-half in length from shoulder to tail. They look like this, approximately. Their iterations, for comparison, were studied for genetic origins in the c. 1999 article, “Genetic characterization and inventory of the Bísaro pig through visible effect genes. Their utilization in the genotypic comparison between populations and in the establishing of a nucleus for in vivo genetic conservation” (PDF). In the article, the pig is regularly referred to as the “ancient Bisaro”.

Since breeds were first systematically categorized in the nineteenth century, it’s rather hard to say just how much the modern version of the breed resembles the pig-boars known to what would have been Asterix’s companions. (Had he, y’know, been real.) As a living, breeding creature, however, odds are it has developed and changed over the intervening centuries quite a bit, if not as much as languages do.


Two brochures arrived simultaneously from two Indian restaurants located at the same address. One had decent copy editing. The other didn’t. Its earnest, well-intentioned descriptions are notable for their erraticness; I have no idea why a “Chicken Tikka Omelette” requires elaboration (“Chicken tikka comes with omelette”), while other, more vague, items, such as “Soup” do not.

Much of the shoddy grammar and phrasing quirks I forgive. This isn’t the work of a native English speaker who grew up unable to communicate effectively in his or her native tongue, but that of someone for whom English is a second language. The overuse of “succulent” I blame on indoctrination into the overdone world of food adjectives in lieu of actual description.

Typos are a different kettle of fish, so to speak, even when their intended spelling is obvious. Thus we have spent multiple moments in the last day talking about seabusses.

The seabuss is “stuffed with fragrant fresh herbs, and gently steamed toabsorb [sic] the fragrance of the herbs”. I suppose that means they don’t often take aboard non-herb passengers, there being no space for them. Perhaps schools of seabusses steam themselves over deep sea volcanic vents for spa-like refreshment. Perhaps they go to the garage at the end of the day for a tune-up.

In any event, seabusses sound like they’d be too large for my plate, even if they do only cost £12.95.


Industry. Industrial. Corpus. Corporal. Bride. Bridal. Right?

Until I read Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay, “Tiers and Laughers”, in his 2002 book It must’ve been something I ate, it never occurred to me that the -al at the end of “bridal” was anything other than a normal adjectival ending. Contrary to my every expectation, he confidently wrote that the word derived from “bride-ale”.

My education in food writing is nascent enough that this was the first time I’d read his work. An article in The Guardian, surveying food writers for the best food books of the last ten years, convinced me to give it a try. I brought it and a novel along to read on a train trip, and never made it as far as the novel. I was hooked on his compelling brand of food writing, investigative, honest, funny at his own expense, and knowledgeable. He wears his authority lightly, sprinkling deep insight in like ornament. No wonder his writing is so well-respected!

He was right. The OED confirms that bridal is an Old English alcoholic drink-turned-celebration, with its oldest known use to refer to a wedding party dating to around 1075. It supposedly comes from the tradition of the bride crafting a special brew to use in celebrating the wedding.

Friends, beer-lovers, were married last year. Pride of place went to the beers they’d commissioned from a local brewery for the event. I wonder if they knew how traditional, how bridal, their celebration really was?

*© S. Worthen 2009