I’m taking a break from talking about ears, though there will be at least two more articles on that subject. Today it’s about food, probably because I haven’t had breakfast yet and my stomach is worried that my throat may have been cut.
Back in the 18th century, bubble and squeak was a dish of fried meat and cabbage. These days it is more often fried potatoes and other vegetables, usually greens.
The current dish is usually made from cold vegetables left over from a previous meal, often the Sunday roast. The dish is primarily a British invention and doesn’t seem to have spread much to other countries, though I have eaten a similar dish in California, where it was called simply “hash.”
It is apparently somewhat less popular in the UK than it used to be, which isn’t surprising as the Sunday roast is less common too. By 1951, probably due to the rationing in force in the UK during WWII, bubble and squeak lost meat as an ingredient.
Those who do bother to cook might be horrified to know that ‘bubble and squeak’ is now available in packaged, microwaveable form.
The first reference to the meal is from a surprising source – Thomas Bridges’ A burlesque translation of Homer, 1770:
“We therefore cooked him up a dish of lean bull-beef, with cabbage fry’d, … Bubble, they call this dish, and squeak.”
Francis Grose, a collaborator in the publication, gives a definition of ‘bubble and squeak’ in his Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1785, which indicated how the dish got its name:
“Bubble and Squeak, beef and cabbage fried together. It is so called from its bubbling up and squeaking whilst over the fire.”
Well, now we know.
And, in current rhyming slang, ‘bubble and squeak’ means ‘Greek.’ This is not common but was recorded in 1968 in a book about a comprehensive school. Apparently the Greek children who went to that school were called “Bubbles.”