Sunday, January 3, 2010

Word of the Day

Macédoine is the French word for Macedonia (birthplace of both Aristotle and Alexander the Great). It's also used to refer to a salad of mixed fruits or vegetables. According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, "Historically, this area [Macedonia] has been home to a richly varied population encompassing many ethnic groups. Etymologists believe that the cultural heterogeneity of the region may have inspired people to use its name as a generic term for any kind of wildly jumbled mixture. English speakers borrowed "macédoine" early in the 19th century. The word took on its more specific "salad" sense later in the century."

Food writer Renée Kaplan writes at, "So where the hell is Macedonia? And how it is that chopped carrots and peas and pears and peaches can all somehow claim to be Macedonian? It turns out Macedonia is actually wedged way down in Southeastern Europe between Serbia, Albania and Greece, that the national diet tends massively toward barbecued meat, and that there wasn’t a single Macedonian salad on any of the menus in the many restaurants I sampled there." She concludes that a Macedonian salad is simply a mixed salad, and offers a recipe for Macédoine de Légumes.


Amyntas said...

I do not wish to delve into Balkan politics and the heated Macedonian naming dispute; however, I do have a problem with your inclusion of Renee Kaplan's description of Macedonia as located "way down in Southeastern Europe between Serbia, Albania, and Greece." This definition refers to the former Yugoslav republic and ignores the existence of a northern Greek region which defines itself as Macedonia. In fact, the birthplace of Aristotle and Alexander (in Stagira and Pella respectively) can be found in northern Greece (the Greek province of Macedonia) and not somewhere "wedged" between Greece and Serbia. The kingdom of Macedonia, which was ruled by Philip and Alexander, primarily lies within the borders of modern Greece and extends into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia by only 100km. Renee Kaplan's descriptor of Macedonia's location encompasses the ancient regions of Paeonia and Dardania, and not the Macedonian kingdom of Alexander. However, it should be noted that the geographic boundaries and territories of what is termed to be "Macedonia" changed throughout history. (I point out this distiction because this blog deals primarily with Alexander's Macedonia). One should be careful before linking the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (which is largely Slavic in language and culture) to ancient Macedonia, which spoke a bastardized Greek dialect, or a language closely related to Greek if not Greek itself.

The statement that Macedonia has been home to a "richly varied population encompassing many ethnic groups" is quite true. Macedonia, which became fully assimilated with Greece by the end of the Hellenistic period, would come under Roman and Byzantine rule, overrun by Slavs in the seventh and eighth centuries, conquered by Bulgars and Serbs in the Middle Ages, and settled by Turks and Jews during the Ottoman periods. The mixed population of the region resulted in the competing Greek and Slavic nationalisms in the region, and the present conflict over the name and ancient symbols of Macedonia.

Annabel Lyon said...

I appreciate your comment, Amyntas. I wanted to be cute and include Kaplan's recipe, but I certainly take your point that she's less than accurate with her geography. I've taken the liberty of posted your comment in full to the blog itself. Thanks for following the blog, and for getting in touch!