Provenance is our passion….have you seen that somewhere on our emails, website or social media before? Yes, it is where the ethos of our company originates. I wanted to create something that educates people, makes them think about where their food and drink comes from. Before starting Origin Fine Foods I didn’t even know that wine was produced in Yorkshire or even that it COULD be produced in Yorkshire. Now, we have connections with not only one Yorkshire vineyard…but a few!
I also love that some of our products have strong connotations that we can debunk such as the clotted cream from Stamfrey Farm in Northallerton, North Yorkshire…not just Cornwall. Or what about our chorizo dandy sticks from Lishman’s of Ilkley, West Yorkshire…not just Spain. How about the fettle, a feta-style cheese produced from sheep’s milk by Shepherd’s Purse in Thirsk, North Yorkshire…not just Greece.
The information about our ‘Supplier Of The Week’ comes from the research I do about their companies, most of which is done before I even choose to contact them. It is important to us that we stock authentic, high quality artisanal Yorkshire brands that align well with our ethos and values such as sustainability. One of my favourite stories about how a brand started was the Three Little Pigs that was based in East Yorkshire, who made cured meats. The company started when the couple were gifted two pigs as a wedding present; I think I went wrong somewhere with my wedding registry gift list or I would definitely have put goats on it (called Latte and Caramel, if you needed to know!). Three Little Pigs went on to make award winning rare-breed cured pork products such as chorizo and salami. Sadly, like a few of our artisan suppliers, they closed permanently last year. It is sad to see how many of our suppliers have closed their doors for the last time and we endeavour to support as many small companies as we can. Luckily, every time you buy something from us (or interact on our social media or tell a friend about what we do), it not only supports us…but our suppliers too and keeps your hard earned money in the local economy!
Don’t get me started on the origin of different food dishes, I think that is for another blog post! For those that saw our last Breakfast Menu, you may have spotted the little note alongside the “Not French Toast” item that said, “Ask us about the name”. When we created our seasonal menus, we obviously only use Yorkshire ingredients but we also try and stick to Yorkshire inspired dishes like traditional Yorkshire pikelets, Yorkshire pudding wraps and even Yorkshire Pudding profiteroles (don’t knock ‘em till you’ve tried ‘em!). I love French Toast, my father-in-law used to make really yummy French toast for the kids and I would be sat in the queue too! But I didn’t think it sounded very Yorkshire, so did a bit of research on its origin…and…it’s not actually French! There is a French version called pain perdue, which translates to lost bread as it is best made with stale bread to soak up the mixture! However, legend has it that it was created in 1724 by a man called Joseph French in New York. It quickly became popular and so he named it after himself but, due to a grammar error, instead of calling it French’s Toast it simply became French Toast.
But food is not my only passion when it comes to origin and provenance. I am curious, inquisitive and sometimes straight-up nosy about where things came from. I never grew out of that phase of asking how things were made or where they arrived from; I am sure I probably embarrassed my parents on more than one occasion with random questions. As karma would have it, I went on to have two nosy children who have punished me in return.
Take words for example! After discovering the word etymology, which is the study of the history of words, it opened up hours and hours of internet research for me! In fact, you can even look up the etymology of the word etymology!
The word etymology derives from the Greek word ἐτυμολογία (etumología), itself from ἔτυμον (étumon), meaning “true sense or sense of a truth”, and the suffix -logia, denoting “the study of”. (in case you were curious!)
There are words that we use on a daily basis that have stemmed from meanings that become hidden in the everyday spoken word but often the origin is unknown or becomes warped over time. My favourite one that comes to mind is the word ‘threshold’. At some point in my life I was told that this word came from the block (or hold) that was used to keep the thresh (reeds or rushes on the floor) from escaping out the door. So, with the old tradition where a newly wedded wife is carried over the threshold but her doting husband, it meant to step into their home. I was only discussing the origin of this word with someone a couple of weeks ago. However, doing some further research to write this blog I actually learnt that this is a common misconception. Apparently, the words threshold first appeared as “therscold” or “threscold”, with the first part of the word meaning to stamp one’s feet when entering a building, e.g. to displace mud or snow.
It’s not just words where the origin can be misconstrued or become diluted over time. What about the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs”? From just a brief bit of research, I can see that there are various theories on the origin of this idiom that was first recorded as being used in 1651 by English poet Henry Vaughan, in the collection of poems Olor Iscanus. Here are the varying ideas on the origin;
· Heavy rain would wash cats and dogs off thatched rooves in the 16th century
· Nodin, the Norse god of storms, is pictured with dogs and wolves who became symbols of wind. Black cats became signs of heavy rain for sailors due to superstitions of bad luck. So could “it’s raining cats and dogs” come from a combination of the symbols for heavy wind and rain?
· There is a Greek expression cata doxa which means to contrary to belief, therefore the phrase could mean that it is raining harder than believable.
· Another belief is that it comes from the Old English word catapude (derived from the Latin word catapuda), which means waterfall, so could it mean that it is raining waterfalls?
· Lastly, the saddest theory is that after heavy storms and floods, the streets would be lined with dead animals including cats and dogs.
This leads me on nicely to the interesting origins of scientific names, especially those of animals (because plants and gardening are not my thing!). Most of you will know that Abbey is studying to be a zookeeper and this leads to a lot of interesting conversations, including appealing topics like the mating habits of polar bears! Where possible I try to help Abbey with her studies, usually in the form of quizzes and fun tests. My favourite topic was the scientific names of animals, for example Homo sapien, the scientific name for humans which stems from Latin and translates to “wise man”. Here are some of my favourite origins of animal scientific names;
· Western diamond backed rattlesnake – Crotalus atrox
Crotalus derives from the Greek meaning rattle or noisemaker and atrox is Latin, meaning fierce.
· Bald eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
This actually breaks down into 4 words, Haliaeetus is Greek for salt (hal) and often used metaphorically for sea and the rest means eagle. Leucocephalus means bright or white plus head. So…white-headed sea-eagle; which is actually a more accurate description that bald eagle.
· Indian rhino – Rhinocerus unicornus
A mix of Greek for ris meaning nose and keras meaning horn of an animal, plus the latin unicornus meaning one-horned, see unicorns do exist!
· Polar bear (of course!) – Ursus maritimus
Latin for maritime bear
Lastly, I have been reminded recently about understanding the importance of our own origins. Part of the task of organising my Nan’s cottage, following her passing away, was going through lots of paperwork and even more photographs. Between the periods of tears and the laughter, I learnt a lot about my Mum’s side of the family. I also got to visit my great-grand parents grave for the first time. It wasn’t until I was writing about my Nan on the Origin Facebook page that I thought about how some of her entrepreneurial streak has filtered down to me…including baking and decorating cakes! I guess they are right, the more you know about where you come from, the easier it is to decide where you want to go. One day I might even continue the tradition of trying to map together a family tree!
So, the word origin means more to us than just being a part of our name or something that makes us stand out from the rest. It is a reminder to be nosy. When you step through our door or head to our website and see the name Origin Fine Foods…think about where that food came from. Where did the ingredients grow? Were they hand-picked? How far did they travel to the next stage of their life? Who weighed them out? Were they weighed on a set of large scales in a purpose-built unit? Or were they weighed out in a kitchen using some scales passed down from someone’s Nanna? Why did we choose to sell it? Better yet…think of these questions when you pick up mass-produced items in the large supermarkets! Do you think they are made with love?
Behind every brand there is a story, some companies tell their story and others will hide behind professional, sterile websites. Behind our brand there are homes, kids, pets, families and the dreams of two owners, one of which is maybe a little nosier than the other!