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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Green Olives, Purple Olives, Black Olives, Oh My!



A friend posed this question to me over the weekend as we snacked on a plate full of various olives and cheeses: How many types of olives are there? This may be a question most people think about when poised in front of an overwhelming olive bar in a grocery store. It is more than likely quickly dismissed once a particular olive-of-choice has been decided upon. There are, in fact, several hundreds of olive varieties! The Olive Oil Source, a comprehensive resource for all things olive oil related, has a list of over 1,045 varieties.  Each variety depends on location, curing process, taste, oil content, ripeness, and so much more.

Here is a definition of an olive from Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts:

“The small fruit of a tree native to the Mediterranean region; has a single pit, high oil content, green color before ripening and a green or black color after ripening and an inedibly bitter flavor when raw; eaten on its own after washing, soaking and pickling, or pressed for oil; available in a range of sizes (from smallest to largest): medium, [jumbo,] colossal, [and] supercolossal…” (Labensky 279).

A supercolossal olive? Amazing!

Here are some other fun facts about olives:
  
v  The olive tree, olea europaea, is an evergreen.
 
v  They were brought to the Americas, specifically California, in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by Spanish missionaries (Smith 213).

v  Herbert Kagley, a Californian mechanic, developed a prototype for the first mechanical olive pitter in 1933 (Davidson 553).

v  Olive canning was developed in the early 1900s by Frederic Bioletti (Davidson 553).

v  There are several olive producers from around the world, but the main contenders are Spain, Italy, and Greece (Smith 213).

v  Italian pronunciation = o-lee-vay; German pronunciation = o-lee veh; French pronunciation = o-leev; Norwegian pronunciation (“olive” is spelled “oliven”) = ohl-eev-er (Labensky 279).

v  Glucoside oleuropin is the chemical that triggers the bitter taste in freshly picked olives (Smith 212).

v  California olives are said to have a milder flavor than those imported from the Mediterranean due to the difference in the curing and preserving process (Smith 213).

v  Usual fillings in olives are pimientos, almonds, anchovies, jalape├▒os, onions, and capers (Smith 213).

v  “Ten small olives are said to have the equivalent nutritional value of one hen’s egg” (Smith 213).


The number of olive varieties continues to expand as more producers from various regions become involved in this horticultural process. Please let us know if you’ve tried a supercolossal olive—we’re curious!


 Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print
 Labensky, Steven. Et al. Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997. Print
 Smith, Andrew F. et al. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Biography of the Bigwig

Johann Christoph Wagenseil
and his big wig
Yesterday morning a patron used our new chat service, Digsby, to ask us about the etymology of the term bigwig. (Want to use Digsby to ask us a question, too? Scroll up, choose a screen name, and type it into the message box.) According to my favorite dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary (impossible to resist so many volumes of words!), a bigwig is

a person of high official standing; a noteworthy or important person.

The OED 's first recorded mention occurred in 1703 in English Spy. Notice how bigwig is hyphenated:

Be unto him ever ready to promote his wishes..against dun or don-nob or big-wig-so you may never want a bumper of bishop.

By the way, the OED says that in this case, a bumper is a glass of wine filled to the brim; a bishop is wine mixed with sugar and oranges or lemons. I needed to clarify that because I had a completely different image developing in my head. Fascinating, but not the origin of bigwig.

I hit pay dirt in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. They say:
The term alludes to the large wigs that in the 17th and 18th centuries encumbered the head and shoulders of the aristocracy of England and France. They are still worn by the lord chancellor, judges and (until 2000) the speaker of the house of commons. Bishops continued to wear them in the house of lords until 1880.

So, if you've ever watched an British crime procedural or A Fish Called Wanda, you've got a pretty idea of the wigs being described. Large. Ludicrous. Ugly. Big. We here in the Reference Department do not recommend wearing these types of wigs. (Unless, of course, you have a part in an British crime procedural...)

Fast fact: Richard Adams named one of the rabbits in Watership Down Bigwig. He (naturally) had a fluffy mop of rabbit hair atop his head.

Big. (2009). In Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/brewerphrase/big
Bigwig. (2004). In Chambers Dictionary of Literary Characters. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/chamblc/bigwig

Bigwig, n.Third edition, September 2008; online version June 2012. http://oed.com/view/Entry/18902 accessed 13 August 2012. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1887.

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"Between the Covers” Summer Library Program Winners Announced

The statewide drawing and awarding of prizes for the 2012 Adult Summer Library Program was held at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC). Winners were selected from the 13 participating public library systems. MLC’s Executive Director Sharman B. Smith drew the names of the winners and Library Consultant Barbara Price recorded the results.

“Between the Covers” was this year’s theme and as an added incentive, twelve Mississippi casinos donated prizes to participating adults. Values of prizes ranged from $50 to $370, and included free nights stay at the hotels, meals, and spa services. Each library system or branch held different types of programs around the theme and awarded local prizes in addition to the statewide prizes. All adults were eligible to participate; however, to be eligible to win a statewide prize, the participant had to be 21 years of age or older.

The following are the winners’ names, library system affiliate and prizes:
  • Paula Barner, Sunflower County Library System
    Isle of Capri
    in Natchez two-night stay for two and buffet for two
  • Charlotte Gatlin, Waynesboro-Wayne County Library System
    Ceasars Entertainment (Harrah’s Resort, Horseshow Casino, and Roadhouse Casino) one-night hotel stay and buffet for two and two $50.00 Amenity Dollars certificates to be used at either The Willows, Cottonwood or Bellissimo Spa
  • Rachel Neal, Laurel-Jones County Library System
    Treasure Bay Casino and Hotel in Biloxi one-night hotel stay for two with dinner for two at CQ and a certificate for $100.00 refund for joining the Players Club
  • Robert Alexander, Jackson-George Regional Library System
    Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi two buffets
  • Angela Diehl, Covington County Library System
    Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi two buffets
  • Ashley Franklin, Central Mississippi Regional Library System
    Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi two buffets
  • Nancy Martin, Waynesboro-Wayne County Library System
    The Pearl River Resort certificate for Dinner for Two at the Chef’s Pavilion
  • Sandra Baker, Central Mississippi Regional Library System
    The Pearl River Resort one-night stay for two at the The Golden Moon or the Silver Star
  • Michelle Rollins, Pike-Amite-Walthall Library System
    IP Casino Resort Spa in Biloxi one-night stay and two free buffets
  • Debbie Carraro, The Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County
    The Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg one-night stay, two dinner buffets and a $25.00 coupon for breakfast
  • Danielle Holland, First Regional Library System
    The Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg one-night stay, two dinner buffets and a $25.00 coupon for breakfast
  • Michelle Parker, Laurel-Jones County Library System
    The Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg one-night stay, two dinner buffets and a $25.00 coupon for breakfast
  • Gwen Rogers, Lee-Itawamba Library System
    Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica certificate for two guests, one-night stay
  • Janie Moneyhon, Dixie Regional Library System
    Bally’s Saloon/Gambling Hall in Tunica Resort’s two guests, one-night stay
  • Celia Buford, Jackson-George Regional Library System
    Boomtown-Biloxi, Inc. in Biloxi buffet for two
  • Beth Jenkins, Sunflower County Library System
    Grand Casino in Biloxi certificate for two buffets.
The Adult Summer Library Program is part of the Mississippi Library Commission’s statewide initiative of summer library reading programs for children and youth.

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