08
Oct
10

a large vocabulary for corn

There’s a paragraph in the November/December Cooks Illustrated that delighted me and confused me at the same time:

Masa and masa harina are both made from hominy, which is dried corn that has been soaked or cooked in an alkaline solution of water and calcium hydroxide [sic] to remove the germ and hull. This process, called nixtamalization, imparts a distinctive flavor that differentiates masa-based products from other forms of dried corn like polenta and cornmeal.

There’s nothing wrong with the way that’s worded. Why was it reading so funny to me? I realized that it was because I could think so many other ways to word it, and I was thinking of them all at more or less the same time.

  • masa aka dough
  • masa harina aka maseca (a genericized brand name)
  • hominy aka nixtamal
  • corn aka maize
  • soaked or cooked in an alkaline solution… aka nixtamalized, slaked, limed
  • calcium hydroxide aka quick lime, cal, calcium oxide (all these synonyms name the substance before it is mixed with water)
  • nixtamalization aka slaking, liming

This sort of linguistic interference makes playing Scrabble very interesting sometimes, as I try to sort out whether a word is or is not part of the English vocabulary.

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