The other day, when I was looking through the ingredients list for kosher marshmallows (don’t ask), I came across something called “isinglass.” I didn’t know what it was, but it had such a pleasant ring to it that I thought that it must be something delightful. Something like the frost that forms on the inside of your window on snowy Christmas mornings. Or maybe, since it was obviously some kind of food, it was a type of delicate sugar that makes marshmallows super fluffy and soft.
Curious, I looked the word up in the “Food Lover’s Companion,” where I saw, to my complete horror and disgust, that ‘isinglass’ is actually just another name for fish bladders. In particular, sturgeon bladders. (I don’t know why that makes it worse, but it does. And also, on another note, I really have to give it up for the cooks of yore. I consider myself to be a fairly frugal cook, but I’ve got nothing on the first woman who picked a bunch of fish bladders out of the trash and said to herself, “It seems such a shame to waste these; surely I can use them for something.”)
Once I finally got over my disgust (It didn’t take too long: I think my exact thoughts were, Meh, I’m sure I’ve eaten worse) I started thinking instead about the curious way in which we name things: the way that we often give the most disgusting products some of the nicest sounding names. And then, for perhaps the first time ever, I thought that maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea, and that maybe, instead of regarding the process of euphemistically naming things with suspicion and disgust, I should be embracing that very idea for my own life. After all, I was fine with the idea of fish bladders in my kosher marshmallows before I knew what ‘isinglass’ was. (And for all you out there who are feeling smug because you don’t have to eat kosher marshmallows, I have one word for you: gelatin. As in that stuff that is made out of hooves.)
So anyway, with my newfound tolerance for euphemisms firmly in place, I decided that what I really needed to do was to come up with suitably cheerful names for the disgusting substances in my own life; once I did that I could be as happy as I was the day before I found out about the isinglass. (Which, admittedly, wasn’t all that happy, but still. If ignorance is bliss, then willful ignorance must be even better. Or something like that.)
Keeping in mind that the best way to start a new project is to simply begin, I immediately decided that from that point on there will no longer be any such thing as mold encrusted cereal bowls stashed under the beds and couches in my house. Instead, there will be bowls filled with oatessences.
In the same spirit, there will no longer be little yellow dots of urine on the toilet seat: rather, there shall be bladder dots.
The fur that accumulates on a toothbrush head that has been lost under the bed for two months, and placed back, unwashed, in the cup on the bathroom sink? Dentafuzz.
The dirty socks that are so sweat-encrusted they are hard on the bottom? Pedicrumbs.
The spoons that have become glued to the table by a combination of spittle and milk? Cuttlebuts.
Perhaps, if I stick to this new program long enough, I can even come up with a euphemism for that time of life when you finally escape all of the above mentioned little bits and pieces of disgustingness, only to willingly go back into the pit once more for someone else. Oh wait, I think there already is a euphemism for that. It’s called “parenting.”