I was strolling through the grocery store and stumbled across a giant radish. I had no idea how to cook it, but I needed veggies and it was on sale. So, I bought it and consulted the world wide web about ways to cook and eat this massive radish. In my search, I came across a Japanese dish called Furofuki Daikon which roughly translates to ‘Simmered Daikon’ or ‘Daikon Steak’. While the dish seemed delicious, what intrigued me was the use of the word steak; something I identify with red meats, or in some cases thick slabs of fish. This strange adaptation of the word got me thinking about an article I had recently read in which a chef gave a tutorial for a Beetroot Steak. Of course, being the word nerd I am I immediately googled the definition of the word ‘steak’. The results were unsurprising. I was informed that “A steak is a meat generally sliced across the muscle fibers, potentially including a bone.” That definition seemed too simple, too shallow. I couldn’t help but believe that there was more to steak than that.
Believe it or not, ‘steak’ was originally a verb. That’s right. The food evolved based on an action: The act of sticking something. See, when people began cook mats they would stick the meats on an actual stick to roast it over the fire. They referred to the act as ‘steikja’ which (you guessed it) literally meant to roast something over a fire… Like on a spit. This comes from the concept of something being ‘stuck’ over a ‘fire’. See, steak is derived from the noun stick. Well a form of it, derived from the Proto-Germanic word stik, meaning, prick or pierce. This evolved from steig (stay-ig) which meant to stick or be pointed. This eventually translated into steik. A word meaning ‘roast meat’ which as it was passed through the linguistic ages was eventually transmogrified into the word steak.
When I interpreted that steak basically meant: large-chunk-of-flesh-stuck-cooking I immediately thought of how the English language uses the words flesh and skin in relation to non-meat foods. For example, you can bite into the flesh of an apple or you can peel off a potato’s skin. Following this pattern of logic, theoretically, we can make steaks out of any fleshy food: Radishes, beets, even mangoes. Isn’t language amazing?
Curious? Check out my sources :