I’ve been sick. I’m better. Better in part because I’ve been well fed. Kindly fed, thanks to wonderful friends and family. And I’ve been called on the phone. I hope you’re so lucky in this miserable time.

Pat knocked on my patio door and handed me a bowl of potato soup that she had just made. I barely took time to say thank you. Sat down immediately and scarfed it right down. It was delicious.

The same day, Lisa brought me a big dish of chicken and dumplings. That was delicious, too.

Dot called recently, and among the things she said was. “Thank you for all the good things you do.”

That’s when I snapped. I’m not that person anymore, and it’s hard to get used to. I’m the one other people are doing things for. And that’s not easy to accept. I guess there are lots of us out there struggling with a new persona.

Anyway, the soup was delicious. The chicken and dumplings were delicious.

Which brings me to the subject of today’s column. It’s words that describe good food that started out meaning something entirely different. Merriam-Webster’s latest collection tells about them.

Delicious, for instance, began in the 14th century meaning the same as alluring.

Another word used in praise of good food is succulent.

When I think of succulent, I think of the kind of plants that look fat and seem to hold water inside. They don’t need much water from their owners.

Sure enough, the dictionary definition of succulent is watery.

Now it also applies to something that’s juicy and good to eat.

Then we have toothsome. Not one I’d use much. Probably not many people do.

But it is a description of something to eat. The definition says, “of palatable flavor and pleasing texture.”

So, the texture part builds on the word tooth, referring to the business of eating.

When toothsome began, it was describing something visually attractive, not something pleasant to taste. Tooth referred to something as a fondness for something with a specific taste.

We all hear delectable, especially in ads, I think. It means highly pleasing and delightful, and at one time referred to anything that brought pleasure. Not necessarily food. In “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” John Bunyan refers to the Delectable Mountains.

Then there’s scrumptious, things delightful and excellent, which may have come from sumptuous, lots and lots of goodness.

Yummy comes from yum yum, which is anything that’s pleasant, not necessarily food.

If you’re lucky enough to have friends or family who’ve gifted you with food or favors or phone calls, all of which are guaranteed to make you feel wonderful, learn to accept, and return the favors when you can.

I’m learning to try not to feel guilty when I can’t be the giver.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at cathy.gillentine@comcast.net.


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(1) comment

Bailey Jones

I'm glad you are feeling better. Yes, the time comes when we need to grant the gift of being the helper to those we've spent our lives helping. It's selfish not to.

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