There I am preparing Monday night's dinner. I’m making a ham. The package proclaims it to be a Toupie style ham. I’m thinking to myself, What the heck is a toupie ham exactly? Okay, I’m holding the thing so I know what it is, so perhaps the question is better express as why ? Why is this ham called a toupie ham?
So I think about it. The term toupie is similar to the name of a really cute cartoon mouse named Toopy partnered with some cat named Binoo that my daughter likes to watch. It’s similar to that oft-joked about rug worn on the head, the toupee. But similar is not exact and if a mouse and some hair have got anything to do with my dinner I'm done with it.
But this mystery is driving me crazy. The word won’t leave me alone. It’s bugging me so much that after we’ve devoured the dinner and done the evening thing and I have some time to myself, I do some research like the good nonfiction writer I am.
A toupie. Is it French? According to my French-English dictionary 'toupie' means a spinning top. Well the ham was definitely not spinning when I
a.) bought it
b.) cooked it or
c.) ate it
and if it was it would’ve been straight-to-the-dump-with-it-and-be-gone-forever-from-my-sight. But I digress.
So that’s no help. The package also describes the ham as smoked but I know that’s fumée (with one of those accents pointing jauntily to the right at a slight upward angle over the first ‘e’ in case it doesn't show up here). So I’m starting to feel a little fumée myself. I do what all modern people with burning questions do: I Google it.
Seems I’m not the only one to have pondered this question. Some say it means a ham sold with the bone in and fat on it but others profess to have purchased a toupie with no bone and little to no fat. I would concur. So I try The Source.
According to Pork Marketing Canada, a toupie style ham means that it’s a whole muscle ham with a high moisture content (in other words they inject it with water and stuff so that no matter how lousy a cook you are the ham still comes out moist and tasty). Thanks Pork People! But no mention of WHY it’s called toupie. So I asked them.
And I got a reply! They said it is probably a reference to the shape of the ham, because it looks like a toupie (a top). So using my stellar powers of imagination I can indeed picture a bone in the middle sticking out as a handle and picture the rounded ham as the spinning surface. Okay, I can actually see that the ham would resemble a spinning top. Hunh, learn something new everyday! So be sure to visit those pork people cited above for some mighty tasty-looking recipes for the next time you find yourself with a toupee--er toupie--on your mind.
And this brings to mind some other fun with French I’ve had over the years. I confess that I cannot think of “turkey” without the addition of “dinde” making it a Turkey Dinde. Two words. Always. Imagine me as a kid reasoning that it was a cutsie way to say dinner, you know, like din-dee? Get it? Oh well, just go with me on this one. I loved turkey dinde. Imagine then how let down I was to learn later in life that 'dinde' is just turkey in French and, because both French and English have to be on product packaging here in Canada, that’s why the two words always appeared together. Bummer. Turkey’s never been the same for me since.
But the food label thing that really bugs me, not because of the fact that there’s French on my package (I actually find it entertaining to try reading the French sometimes) but because of the way the French comes across in my English brain. When that big mega box of cereal sits on the table and stares me in the face during my bleary-eyed breakfast (I’m not so great in the a.m. until I’ve had at least 2 coffees) I swear it’s yelling at me. It says: Flocons de Mais.
Translation: Flakes of Corn. Corn Flakes.
Seem harmless? Nope.
To me there's this little voice from the box hollering at me: Flocons, Flocons, FLOCONS!
Yeah, well, Flakes to you too, pal!