My glorious and most understanding of Citizens! I hold out every hope that you have arrived to see this latest post with an open mind surrounding linguistic/dialectical quandaries – for that is indeed what the Monarch of Metaphor, the creative typhoon who ALONE is TFD! – faces on a momentous day of Destiny. For today, I share a recipe of ancient provenance and a most questionable name indeed in American English – I speak of the supremely tasty dish saddled with the most politically-incorrect nomenclature I know of: faggots!
…yes…get it out of your system…I’ll wait.
If you’re somehow unaware, the use of the word ‘faggot’ has caused misunderstanding due to its American English meaning as a pejorative term for a homosexual man. In 2004, a radio commercial for the UK supermarket chain Somerfield, in which a man rejects his wife’s suggested dinner saying “I’ve got nothing against faggots, I just don’t fancy them” was found to have been innuendo which breached the Advertising and Sponsorship Code and was banned by the industry regulator Ofcom.
I have been meaning to post this recipe for some time, but have been delayed repeatedly by My conscience and fear of offending many homosexual friends (several in the ‘best friends’ category) by sharing a recipe containing such a seemingly-vile term. I have meditated for a LONG time and decided that My need to be politically correct is outweighed by My need to share historical recipes of repute. Thus, we move forward with what is – outside of Lion’s Head meatballs and Salisbury Steak – the ULTIMATE expression of ground meat in gravy, IMHO!
The fact that His Royal Highness King Charles III – formerly the Prince of Wales – has just ascended the Throne also makes this a most timely posting indeed, and gives Me an even GREATER impetus to dispel the scurrilous and repulsive connotations this word has somehow picked up in modern English. The proud people of Wales also deserve to have a dish that is practically a national institution cleared of its negative import! In November 2013, it was reported that British Facebook users had been blocked temporarily for using the word, in its culinary sense.
So – first off, let’s get to the TRUE origins of the word ‘faggot’ – and it has NOTHING to do with being gay!
‘Faggot’ in point of fact derives from the Middle English word ‘fagot’, itself derived from the Middle French fagot (‘bundle of sticks’) in turn from the Medieval Latin and Italian fagotto. Other words with similar etymology include the Old Occitan fagot, the Italian fagotto, fangotto, and the Spanish fajo (‘bundle, wad’). Perhaps from a diminutive of Vulgar Latin facus, from Latin fascis (‘bundle of wood’).
The derivation of the word becoming a grotesque term for gay men, while possibly originating as a ribald interpretation of the shape of a ‘bundle of sticks’, could actually have been reinforced by the Yiddish word פֿייגעלע (feygele), meaning ‘a male who is or who is thought to be homosexual’. If so, the Jewish world owes the LGBTQ+ community an apology, and on behalf of all Jews, I offer one – having been called some horrifc terms related to My being Jewish growing up (one of which was a word that begins with ‘K’), I know the DAMAGE an insulting word to describe your sense of self can inflict.
As it happens, there are a number of current and mostly obsolete definitions of the word ‘faggot’:
- (chiefly Britain, collective) A bundle of sticks or brushwood intended to be used for fuel tied together for carrying. (Some sources specify that a faggot is tied with two bands or withes, whereas a bavin is tied with just one.)
- (obsolete) Burdensome baggage.
- A bundle of pieces of iron or steel cut off into suitable lengths for welding.
- (rare, dated in US) A burning or smoldering piece of firewood.
- (chiefly Britain) A meatball made with offcuts and offal, especially pork. (OUR use of the word today!)
- (offensive, vulgar, derogatory) An annoying or inconsiderate person.
- (UK, Ireland, colloquial, derogatory, obsolete) A shrewish woman.
- (offensive, vulgar) A homosexual man, especially an effeminate one.
- (offensive, vulgar) A man considered weak, effeminate, timid, pathetic, emotional, non-heteronormative in some way.
- (obsolete) A soldier numbered on the muster-roll, but not really existing.
- (UK, historical) A faggot voter.
Faggots themselves (once you get past the controversy around their name) are a delicious meal of meatballs made from minced off-cuts and offal, especially pork (traditionally pig’s heart, liver, and fatty belly meat or bacon) together with herbs for flavoring and sometimes added bread crumbs.
It is a traditional dish in the United Kingdom, especially South and Mid Wales and the English Midlands. Often, the faggot is cooked in a crock with gravy and served with peas and mashed potato. The mixture is shaped by hand into small balls, wrapped with caul fat (the omentum membrane from the pig’s abdomen), and baked. Faggots may also be made with beef, but TFD strongly prefers PORK!
Faggots originated as a traditional cheap food consumed by ordinary country people in Western England, particularly west Wiltshire and the West Midlands. Their popularity spread from there, especially to South Wales in the mid-nineteenth century, when many agricultural workers left the land to work in the rapidly-expanding industry and mines of that area. Faggots are also known as ‘ducks’ in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Lancashire, often as ‘savoury ducks’.
The first use of the term in print was in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of Saturday 3 June 1843, a news report of a gluttonous man who ate twelve of them. The dish gained in popularity during the rationing in World War II, but declined over the following decades. The ‘nose-to-tail eating’ trend has resulted in greater demand for faggots in the 21st century; British supermarket chain Waitrose once again sold beef faggots from 2014 onwards and in 2018 it was estimated that “tens of millions” of faggots were eaten every year.
Faggots are often home-made, and are found in traditional butchers’ shops and market stalls, though many UK supermarkets stock mass-produced frozen faggots, often made of liver and onions rolled into meatballs in a sauce, different from traditional faggots, which have a coarser texture and contain far less water. A popular dish is faggots and peas. This combination is common in the Black Country area of the West Midlands. It is still common to see small butchers’ shops in the area selling faggots made to their own recipe cheaply.
As noted on the website recipesfromwales.com:
Faggots, a speciality of Wales, are exactly the same as the French crepine or crepinettes and yet another link with Brittany.
As in France, faggots are always made around pig killing time, usually from not only the liver but also other intestines, and traditionally they were wrapped in a pig’s flead – that is, the thin, lacy membrane marbled with fat, from the pig’s inside. This is known as the “caul” (not to be confused with “cawl”, the Welsh stew dish). Faggots are oven roasted and traditionally, served with brown gravy, peas (most often, mushy peas) and Welsh bread spread with Welsh salted butter.
Faggots are still made daily in Wales, and can be found in many market towns. The most famed of all is Neath Market, where faggots and peas have been served since the 1920’s and still a favourite today, a Faggots and Peas Competiton is held every September.
Historically, both faggot and various pasties were eaten a lot in Wales, especially by miners, quarry and furnace workers, for they were easy to transport, could be made at least the day before and provided valuable protein needed for such strenuous work.
Now, as to My own interpretation of this classic recipe, which I have given the descriptor ‘posh’ – in British English, this means fancy or upmarket and My interpretation of this classic faggot recipe does indeed bring a bit of luxe to the dish, whilst simultaneously celebrating its humble origins by using the offal of the pig (liver, etc.) as the recipe in fact demands!
I (of course!) retain My trademark Ruthless Authenticity™ when it comes to interpreting the supernal light of this recipe through the prism of My inordinate genius – I have enhanced the TRUE flavors of the dish whilst adding in the touches that authenticate a recipe as having been blessed by My hand! First off – the pork should ideally be from an heirloom, well-treated pig (I prefer Gloucestershire Old Spot or Mangalitsa for their incredibly well-marbled and flavorful meat! This is My go-to source for Mangalitsa and this one for Gloucestershire Old Spot cuts of all forms!
You’ll also need some Maldon sea salt flakes (the only salt worthy of being included in a British recipe, IMHO!) as well as some caul fat to wrap the meatballs! This fatty membrane is traditionally used to wrap meatballs and other ground pork products to help them stay basted and juicy as they are being cooked. The fat in the membrane melts away and crisps up to form a tasty crackling around the meatballs. You can special order this from any reputable butcher or buy in quantity here. Modern recipes wrap with bacon, but I eschew that for its heaviness and stick with tradition!
The spices in this recipe date back to the Medieval period, and mace is a key ingredient here! I prefer to buy whole mace in an Indian grocery store – it is cheaper, FAR better quality and lasts longer. However, lacking such a grocery store nearby, you can order top-quality whole mace from here. Malt vinegar is a MUST in this recipe, buy it here – I also amp up the flavor quotient (and dark color of the gravy) by using some balsamic vinegar as well (you can use malt vinegar instead if you prefer to stick with tradition). Mushroom ketchup is a classic seasoning that I use in My gravy. Buy it here.
I also decided to amp up the gravy by calling for some Tawny Port wine (very popular in the UK during the 18th century) – it should be easy to find at any BevMo or liquor store. I also added in a highly-eccentric additional ingredient to the gravy – roasted garlic and onion jam, which takes the gravy to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL! Omit it if you prefer, but it really works in this recipe – buy it here. Lastly…proof that I am either a genius, smoking too much Crack (or both)…I also call for some finely-ground white cheddar Cheez-It crackers in the meatballs!
Why? One – they’re savory. Two: they’ve got a bit of MSG, never a bad thing when used in moderation. Three – they add a texture (in tandem with the breadcrumbs of which I am substituting a small part with ground Cheez-It) that really works with these meatballs. If you are sickened or grossly offended, just use an equal amount of breadcrumbs for the original recipe. Many modern recipes call for a small amount of finely-minced red chili pepper for spice in the faggots – I heartily endorse this upgrade and use it in My recipe as well.
Citizens – let’s reclaim the term ‘faggots’ as the proper name for this recipe and away from its odious repurposing against the LGBTQ+ community – this recipe DESERVES a place on your dinner table forthwith and I hope it brings a smile of contentment to all those lucky enough to sample this homey and delicious dish from the mists of history (and the misty coastlines of South Wales as well!). Serve it with – of course – the only proper accompaniment for this meal: mashed potatoes and peas!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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