Nite, Bruite, is Ite — Na Prátaí (aka Fataí), That Is!

Posted on 05. Nov, 2013 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

While potatoes are a popular food year round and worldwide, they are especially popular at this time of year in the U.S. with Lá Altaithe approaching.   This is one of few times, at least i mo thaithí féin, when more than one kind of práta is typically served with a meal.

'S iomaí dath atá ar phrátaí! (Image: Scott Bauer, USDA)

‘S iomaí dath atá ar phrátaí! (Image: Scott Bauer, USDA)

In Ireland and with Irish-American friends I’ve had many meals where two or even three potato dishes were served as a matter of course.  But this is not typically true in general “American” cuisine, whatever exactly that is.

For Lá Altaithe many American families will have both prátaí (potatoes) and prátaí milse (sweet potatoes) or perhaps ionaim (yams).  After reading a lot recently about both sweet potatoes and yams, I remain confused about which is which.  I thought I had it sorted out, that what is often called “sweet potato” is a “yam” and orange in color, and that actual sweet potatoes are a pale yellow inside, and, in my experience, not as widely eaten.  But from what I’ve just read, not even what I know of as a yam is actually a yam, and I’m told they’re not sold much in the US, except in ethnic markets.  So I’m just going to rest with the Irish terms, as given above: prátaí milse (sweet potatoes) and ionaim (yams).  I’ll let the tomhaltóir decide which ainm to apply to which glasra.

Sweet potatoes (or yams) are often served “candied” or mashed with a marshmallow topping.  Checking the various Irish dictionaries for “candied,” all I find is “criostalaithe,” but, fad m’eolais, that wouldn’t describe “candied sweet potatoes.”  “Criostalaithe” also means “crystallized” and would describe various food which are a bit crunchy, like sinséar criostalaithe and sailchuacha criostalaithe, or at least solidly crystallized and chewy, like craiceann criostalaithe (candied peel, as used in cístí torthaí).   With “candied sweet potatoes,”  the candied aspect is more of an “anlann” (sauce), which is mostly made with the following ingredients: im nó margairín, siúcra rua (donn), cainéal, noitmig.  Sometimes the prátaí milse are mashed with the anlann blended in, the leamhacháin are sprinkled on top and the dish is baked until the marshmallows have a golden crust.  In my opinion, the dish is an-bhlasta but also an-mhilis.  It makes a very attractive addition to a Thanksgiving table since the orangey-brown color matches the autumn/harvest color scheme that is typical of maisiúcháin Lá Altaithe.

As for na gnáthphrátaí (prátaí bána), there are so many ways these can be prepared that it would take several blogs to cover them.  But we can at least mention the basics.  At a typical Thanksgiving dinner, the potatoes are either served as “brúitín” (mashed potatoes) or “rósta le lus mín” (roasted with dill).

And how about all the different forms of the word “práta,” including, for the sake of thoroughness, direct address, as if one were speaking to a potato (why not?)?  If we can have óideanna to  “síothla Gréagacha” and to “lúchair,” cén fáth nach mbeadh óid do phráta againn?

There are several dialect variations of the word for “potato,” namely “fata,” “préata” [PRAY-tuh], “preáta” [PRAW-tuh], and “buntáta.”  But for this blog, we’ll just concentrate on the standard, “práta.”  Here are its various forms:

an práta, the potato

(blas) an phráta [... un FRAW-tuh], the taste of the potato

na prátaí, the potatoes

(blas) na bprátaí [... nuh BRAW-tee], the taste of the potatoes

And for direct address, we have lenition again, after “a,” the particle for direct address:

A phráta! (O potato!, the “O!” is maybe a little extra poetic, but why not, since we’re talking potential ode here)

A phrátaí (O potatoes!)

Don’t forget the “flapped” Irish “r” in these words, similar to a mini-trill, so the initial consonants of the “fraw” and “braw” sounds here are not exactly like the English words “fraught” or “brawny,” although the vowel sounds are quite similar.

And finally, what’s the title of this blog all about?

nite, washed

bruite, cooked,

ite, eaten

Those words are all taken from the popular Irish saying, “Bheadh na fataí nite, bruite, agus ite ag an gConnachtach sula mbeidís ráite ag an Muimhneach” (The Connachtman would have the potatoes, here “fataí,” washed, cooked and eaten before the Munsterman would be finished saying the word).  It’s especially fun to say because “nite,” “bruite,” and “ite” all sound so similar.  Ní nach ionadh because they are all rangabhálacha caite (past participles, aka aidiachtaí briathartha, verbal adjectives), formed from relatively similar-sounding verbs, “nigh,” “bruith,” and “ith.”  Hmm, tá an blag seo ag cur ocrais orm!  SGF (slán go fataí?) – Róislín

Cén sórt prátaí iad seo?  Freagra faoin bpictiúr.
Cén sórt prátaí iad seo?   Is prátaí milse corcra iad.  (Image: 800px-Purple_Sweet_Potato-by-earth1000-wikipedia.jpg)










Arbhar (Indiach): Toradh, Glasra, nó Grán — or all three?

Posted on 31. Oct, 2013 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

We’ve just been discussing whether pumpkins and other edible plants are fruits or vegetables.  Another seasonal item is “arbhar Indiach,” as it is referred to in Irish, or simply “corn” in American English.

arbhar Indiach (ildathach) Grianghraf: Keith Weller, USDA

arbhar Indiach (ildathach)
Grianghraf: Keith Weller, USDA

Let’s look first at the term “arbhar Indiach,” which literally means “Indian corn.”  But “Indian corn” means different things in American and Irish/British English.  As for Béarla Cheanada, hmm, so often it incorporates elements of English from both sides of the “lochán” that I’d have to ask na Ceanadaigh what the usage is in their country.

And curiously, corn is technically a fruit (toradh), treated and cooked as a vegetable (glasra), and when ground, it’s considered a grain (grán).

But getting back to the different meanings of “Indian corn” (arbhar Indiach).

In the US, the general consensus is that Indian corn is a) dried, b) varied in color (ildathach), c) inedible (at least, it’s very bitter), and it’s used for decoration, not for eating.  It’s often hung on doors as a harvest symbol, usually in an arrangement of 3 or 4 cobs, typically one yellow, one a dark brownish red, and one blue, or some variation on that theme.  So if you use the term “arbhar Indiach” in the U.S., be aware that many Meiriceánaigh may not realize that you are talking about a food.

In Irish, the term “arbhar Indiach,” means “maize” or ‘edible sweet corn.’  When ground, it is referred to as “min bhuí,” lit. “yellow meal” and known as “Indian meal.”

As far as I know there’s no tradition in Ireland of hanging multi-colored corn cobs on doors as Fall decorations.  I wouldn’t expect there to be, since maize is a New World plant.  True, there are harvest ornaments called “corn dollies,” in both Ireland and the UK, but these are made of rushes or straw.   In other words, don’t mistake a “corn dolly” for a “corn husk doll”!

In the US, ‘corn” is understood to refer to maize, and it may be eaten as “corn on the cob” or removed from  the cob and cooked in a variety of ways (boiled, creamed, popped, etc.).  It is used to make succotash and corn pudding and may be added to chowder and other soups.  When ground, it is referred to as ‘corn meal” or “corn meal flour,” and used in cornbread, corn fritters, and corn pones, etc.  “Corn meal flour” isn’t the same as “cornstarch,” which in UK English may be called “cornflour.”

If you’re speaking Irish in America, this does present a bit of a dilemma.  Do you say “arbhar Indiach” when you actually mean the edible stuff?  If you include “Indiach,” it doesn’t sound like you’re talking about a food item.  But if you don’t add “Indiach,” you simply have the word “arbhar,” which means “corn” in the UK/Irish sense (edible grain) and can refer to cruithneacht (wheat), coirce (oats), eorna (barley), and seagal (rye).

One suggestion would be to specify to how the ‘corn’ has been prepared.  If you say you’re having “arbhar sa dias” (corn on the cob), I don’t think anyone would think you’re eating wheat fresh after harvesting.  Note that “arbhar sa dias” literally means “corn in the ear,” not “corn on the cob.”  I’ve only occasionally seen another word for “corn cob” used (coba arbhair).  “Dias” can also be used for ears of wheat and barley, but that usage would typically be specified (dias chruithneachta, dias eorna, etc.).  And that’s “ear” strictly for agriculture, not the ear of a human or animal, which would be “cluas.”

Let’s wrap up with the various forms of the phrase “arbhar Indiach“:

arbhar Indiach, Indian corn, maize

an t-arbhar Indiach, the Indian corn, the maize

(blas, etc.) an arbhair Indiaigh, (the taste, etc.) of the Indian corn, of the maize

And, although I doubt it would be used much in the plural, except, perhaps, if discussing different varieties, here are the forms anyway:

arbhair Indiacha, na harbhair Indiacha, na n-arbhar Indiach

What ever you do, don’t mistake the native Irish word ‘corn” for “arbhar Indiach,” since a “corn” in Irish is a horn, metal drinking cup, or a trophy as in “corn Francach” (French horn), “corn comhóil” (a quaich or loving cup, lit. co-drinking horn), and “An Corn Domhanda Rugbaí.”  Well, that’s one more fruit/vegetable down.  Scores more to go! – Róislín

Síolta, Ubhóiríní, agus Tiúbair … A Thiarcais! (Yet another “oh-my” meme, this time on a ‘biaphlanda” theme) Pt. 3 of 3

Posted on 28. Oct, 2013 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Seo an tríú cuid den tsraith (torthaí, glasraí, cnónna, glasraí pischineálacha /léagúim).  This is the third part of the series on “Seeds, Ovules, and Tubers,” and it will focus on na cnónna (the nuts) and na glasraí pischineálacha (the legumes).  So what exactly are these food items?

pónairí soighe (cineál léagúim) Image: Scott Bauer, USDA

pónairí soighe (cineál léagúim) Image: Scott Bauer, USDA

Again, looking at this more from the perspective of a teangeolaí rather than that of a luibheolaí, here are the words for some of the key features:

Cnónna (nuts) — is torthaí iad ach seo cuid de na difríochtaí idir chnónna agus thorthaí go ginearálta.  Tá siad a) tirim, b) crua, c) neamhoscailteach, agus d) níl ach síol amháin acu agus e) fad m’eolais ní itear an mogall. 

a) tirim [TIRzh-im], dry (also lá tirim, talamh tirim, srl.)

b) crua [KROO-uh], hard, re: surfaces, work, etc.  “Deacair” means “hard” or “difficult” regarding work, etc.

c) neamhoscailteach, indehiscent (not opening at maturity)

d) Ní bhíonn ach síol amháin istigh ann (sa chuid is mó de chnónna)

e) mogall [MOG-ul, yeah, almost like J. K. Rowling's "Muggle; at any rate, not like "movie moguls," since the English word "mogul" has an "oh" sound]  “Mogall” means “shell,” or “husk,” “shell,” or “pod,” depending on context.  It can also mean a “globular mass” in general and with the word “súil,” it can also mean “eyeball” (mogall súile).  It’s a trickyish word to use, sometimes, since “mogall cnó” usually means “nut shell” but “mogall cnónna” means “cluster of nuts.”  “Nutshells” would be “mogaill chnónna.”

Mogall” could be contrasted with 1) “blaosc,” used for uibheacha and portáin and also for cnónna, 2) “poigheachán” for seilidí (remember the song popularized by the Clancy Brothers, “seilide seilide púca, put out your horns”?), and 3) “sliogán” for ruacain, oisrí, srl.

Agus chomh maith leis an méid sin thuas, fásann cnónna ar chrainn (seachas an “Arachis hypogaea,” aka “cnó talún,” earth-nut).

Finally, I note, per Wikipedia that certain “nuts” (almóinní, cnónna peacáin, cnónna piostáise, gallchnónna, cnónna Brasaíleacha, srl.) are not nuts in the botanical sense but they are in the culinary sense.  All of which sounds like ábhar a lán blaganna eile.

Glasraí Pischineálacha (Léagúim).  Seo príomhthréithe na léagúm.  NB: Ní go díreach glasraí iad, ach torthaí.  Mar sin ní bheidh mé ag úsáid an téarma “glasra pischineálach” agus mé ag caint fúthu as seo amach.  Maidir le léagúim go ginearálta, tá siad a) san fhine Leguminosae (ach ní d’fhine amháin atá na cnónna), b) méanoscailteach, agus de ghnáth c) tá an fhaighneog atá thart ar na pónairí, síolta, srl. cineál bog (ach níl sí chomh bog le rud atá “laíonach”)

a) fine [FIN-yuh], “family” for scientific naming; it also means “family group” and “race” and can by used in the names of political parties, such as Fine Gael.   Maidir le bheith ag rá go bhfuil na léagúim san fhine Leguminosae, tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sin cineál athluaiteach (tautological) ach ní fheicim dóigh ar bith eile le sin a rá.

b) méanoscailteach, dehiscent (opening of its own accord upon ripening, usually splitting into two halves); literally, this intriguing word means “opening (n)-opening (adj)” (méan + oscailteach)

c) bog, soft.  Remember, “bog” has the Irish short “o,” as in “pota.” It’s not like English “bog,” which is more like “bahg.”  This word is also seen in “bogbhruite” ([BOG-VRIH-tchuh], soft-boiled) and “bogchroíoch” ([BOG-KHREE-ukh], soft-hearted), and many other compounds.  But it’s not the “b-o-g-” of “boglas” which means “ox-tongue” (the plant, that is, aka in English “bugloss,” which gives us the Irish).

Chomh maith leis sin, fásann a lán léagúm ar fhéithleoga (sin an pictiúr atá i mo cheann) ach fásann roinnt acu ar chrainn (an crann lócaiste agus an “Kentucky coffeetree,” crann a bhfásann pónairí air atá cosúil le pónairí caife ach ní pónairí caife iad) 

Looking a little further into it, I see that there are numerous “legume trees,” cinn ó Shrí Lanca, ón Astráil, agus ó Nua-Shéalainn, ach ní shílim go n-itear a bpónairí go minic in Éirinn nó i Meiriceá Thuaidh.  Ní raibh a fhios agam go raibh a leithéid ann go dtí gur thosaigh mé an blag seo a scríobh.  So writing any further about “legume trees” is going be way backburned for blog topics here.  Unless, of course, someone asks!

Tá saenna (an druga purgóideach) agus míomós san fhine Leguminosae freisin, ach níl a fhios agam an itear iad.  Le bheith cruinn, tá fine ag an míomós é féin (Mimosaceae), ach is cuid de “Leguminosae” iad na “Mimosaceae.”  Mh’anam!

Hmm, an cnó é an cnó cócó (coconut)?  Níl mé cinnte.  Tusa?  Ach níl spás fágtha; sin ceist do bhlag éigin eile (nó b’fhéidir do luibheolaí, nó Haváíoch ar an liosta). 

Well, all of this started with the question, “An toradh nó glasra é an puimcín?”  While it’s not always easy, especially for a neamhluibheolaí like myself, to classify plants in exact categories (i gclóiséidíní?), I hope this 3-part series has given you some terminology for discussing them.  Ábhar machnaimh, ar a laghad.

Maybe next up, ainmneacha torthaí agus glasraí iad féin?  Cé acu is fearr leat?  Cad iad na hoidis is fearr leat, go mór mór oidis don am seo den bhliain (Lá Altaithe agus an Nollaig i Meiriceá agus oidis Nollag in Éirinn agus i dtíortha eile).  SGF agus más maith leat a bheith ag cócaireacht, fan “tiúnta” — Róislín

P.S. Agus b’fhéidir gur mhaith leat leabhar nua Aedín Ní Ghadhra a fháil: Gourmet Ní Ghadhra (  According to this book’s blurba, it’s designed for Irish learners and also for those learning to cook.  And if you were ever wondering what the Irish for “gourmet” is, sin é.  Focal iasachta i nGaeilge agus focal iasachta i mBéarla freisin.