Posted by Smokey Stover on February 11, 2004
In Reply to: Fried bread posted by R. Berg on February 10, 2004
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: : : : : : : : : Hi...can you please tell me what this means and how the term came to popularity? Thanks, Sax
: : : : : : : : It means working in a restaurant. Not sure about when it emerged.
: : : : : : : ".Such cheaper eating places also flourished after the Civil War and were being called 'hash houses' and 'lunch stands' by the late 1860s, 'lunch counters' by 1873, 'lunch joints' by the 1880s, 'snack bars' by 1895, and finally 'luncheonettes' by the mid 1930s. A dishwasher or kitchen helper at a cheap restaurant had been called a 'pot wrestler' as early as 1840 and a 'pot-walloper' by 1860, and a waiter or waitress was called a 'hash slinger' by 1868 and was said to 'sling hash' by 1872." From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982). Hash is "chopped food; specifically: chopped meat mixed with potatoes and browned," according to Merriam-Webster online.
: : : : : : Around the University of California, Berkeley, a kitchen or dining room worker, at least one in a fraternity or sorority, was called a hasher, and the job was called hashing. I don't know how wide a geographic range this term had. (Pancakes, by the way, were called hotcakes in Berkeley.) Chopped food had nothing to do with hashing, of course, except incidentally, as was the case with slinging hash. SS
: : : : : Hasher is a new one on me.
: : : : : I once saw a map where someone had drawn the (US) geography of where the name pancake, hotcake, flapjack, griddlecake, etc, prevailed. It was all in fun, as I remember a little island of Crepe.
: : : : I am trying to remember. We never had pancakes on White Oak Mountain, W.Va. My mother got up first and fired up the wood cookstove and made biscuits from scratch every morning. (That is, until she discovered canned biscuits.) We did have "fried bread," which is kind of like a pancake.
: : : In making pancakes the wood stove is no impediment; the batter is the thing. It's not difficult to make from scratch, but it's time-consuming and pancake mix is nowadays pretty cheap and very convenient. But the fried bread made by ESC's mother interests me. Give us the particulars, please. I'm sure you don't just mean bread that's been fried. SS
: : It involved a flour-based batter and was fried pancake-style in grease. If she didn't have time to make biscuits or cornbread and we were all out of "light bread" (store-bought bread) that's what she'd make. There was a different taste from pancakes. Not as sweet.
: SS wrote: "Pancakes, by the way, were called hotcakes in Berkeley." Berkeley drew students from all over, who no doubt brought their regional vocabularies with them.
: "Hash slinger" for a food-service worker looks like an example of humor achieved by belittling. Hash is cheap institutional food, perhaps incorporating leftovers and produced in vats, and "slinging" calls up an image of someone slapping a ladleful of it onto a plate.
Dast I make yet more comments? It's perfectly true that all kinds of people, with all kinds of food nomenclature, wind up in Berkeley. But I think all those lists of regionalisms refer to what the locals say, as evidenced by what you find in the places that cook and sell, for instance, hotcakes. Another cosmopolitan city is Boston (whose environs include, of course, Harvard Square), where if you order coffee the waitress may ask, "Black or regular, dear?" (If she is local she will say "dear" or "honey".) Regular means with cream and sugar. A previous posting has informed us that ordering a frappe outside of Massachusetts may get you nothing but a stare, rather than a milkshake. You can order a milkshake in Boston, and they will be glad to shake up some flavored and sweetened milk for you. (Yes, no kidding!) But elsewhere you would probably ask for a milkshake and get something made with ice cream. Well, not in Providence. You might get a stare, or perhaps a patient explanation that what you want is probably a cabinet. Before there were McDonald's and fast food franchises, there were diners and lunch counters with short order cooks. The waitresses would translate the customers' orders into a code of colorful and sometimes disgusting-sounding nicknames for the various dishes, none of which I can now remember. "Hash-slinging" and other seemingly disrespectful diner terms were part of a lingo used by those actually slinging the hash. They enjoyed down-to-earth and sometimes self-deprecating humor. And thanks for the dope on fried bread. With a couple of eggs and a little more work you could probably turn it into what a handful of idiots now call "freedom toast." SS