i was flipping through my copy of john thorne’s pot on the fire today, looking for his griddlecakes recipe (i’m on a serious blueberry pancakes kick), when I came upon his chapter on fagioli al fiasco, or beans in a flask. “fiasco = flask”? that seems rather curious. thorne acknowledges this with: “i had garnered enough experience as a cook at least to suspect that cooking beans in a wine flask was less a culinary method than an invitation to disaster — as the very name of the dish suggests. fagioli al fiasco — that last word is not a misprint.” he doesn’t make much more of the word, but it got stuck in my head, as all intriguing etymologies seem to. i just made nelson look up “fiasco” for me in the OED, as i no longer have the bonus subscription service that mit tuition covered:

{trli}1. A bottle, flask.

1887 Athen�um 12 Nov. 635/3 A fiasco of good Chianti could be had for a paul.
2. A failure or break-down in a dramatic or musical performance. Also in a general sense: An ignominious failure, a �mull�.

that’s somewhat less interesting than’s entry:

fi�as�co Pronunciation Key (f-sk, -�sk)
n. pl. fi�as�coes or fi�as�cos

A complete failure.
[French, from Italian fare fiasco, to make a bottle, fail, from fiasco, bottle (perhaps translation of French bouteille, bottle, error, used by the French for linguistic errors committed by Italian actors on the 18th-century French stage), from Late Latin flasc. See flask.]

oh wait, nelson weighs in with an emendation:

[a. (in sense 2 through F.) It. fiasco (see FLASK) lit. �a flask, bottle�.
The fig. use of the phrase far fiasco (lit. �to make a bottle�) in the sense �to break down or fail in a performance� is of obscure origin; Italian etymologists have proposed various guesses, and alleged incidents in Italian theatrical history are related to account for it.]

i was hoping for something more compelling. in other news, i made a little pesto today — a little recipe-testing for my next “eat this” column (due out in the 02.25.03 tech).


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