Tittle World

10,000 people worldwide share the surname Tittle. This is the place for anything interesting connected to the word Tittle.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tittlewhack

Tittlewhack comes from the Isle of Man. One source says: The common name for mashed potatoes was tittlewhack - a word derived from the sound made by the wooden pestle used to mash big tubs of potatoes...tittlewhack was served in a dish along with a cup of cold butter.
But this description is far too prosaic. It seems that tittlewhack was not so much a dish as an institution, as this account by George Quarrie (known as the Bard of Kirk Bride) which appeared in the Manx Quarterly in 1921, tells us:
"In the North of the Isle of Man, where the land is dry and peculiarly adapted to the growth of potatoes, the long winter evenings, once upon a time, used to be occasionally whiled away by tittlewhack sprees. A case in point occurs to mind, where a large, stone flagged kitchen was the scene, its ceiling almost entirely hidden by hams, shoulders and flitches of bacon, among which, about the centre, high up and not too much in evidence, was a large Christmas kissing-bush, about a yard in diameter, gaily decked in country fashion with ribbons, rosettes, apples, oranges, etc. There were also the liberal 'hibbin and hollin ' decorations still around the walls and on the high mantelpiece, whereon about a dozen candles burned on their various heights of candlesticks-from the short bedroom ones, having trays, snuffers and extinguishers, to those tall, old-fashioned, ornamental ones from fifteen to thirty inches high-all of well polished brass. These lights, backed by several tiers of burnished dish-covers and various pewter drinking vessels, metal tea and coffee-pots, etc., gave a bright, comfortable appearance to the still extant remains of the old-time open fireplace. From the 'swee,' or crane in the chimney, on such an evening hung the big family pot, full to the lid of the favourite 'Bill-John' potatoes, boiling away with their skins on.
Around the room on the big, high-backed settles, on chairs, stools, forms, etc., and out in the long back kitchen adjoining, some dangling their legs from the long table there, and some seated on the stone 'bink' among the milk cans, were the farmer lads and lasses, all bent on fun and mischief,practicingg everlasting larks on one another, with frequent appeals to the high privileges of the big ' kissing-bunch,' as they generally called it.
"When the potatoes were done, they were emptied into many dishes along the tables, and all joined in at the peeling which, as the tubers were steaming hot and liable to fall to pieces, was quite a ticklish kind of work. When peeled, the potatoes were put back into the great pot, and this was set down on the floor on a sheet or tablecloth, which prevents the slipping of the three little pot-legs on the stone floor. All the young fellows now take turns at mashing or ' bruising ' the potatoes, until not the smallest lump is left in the whole mass. Into this, dish after dish of that night's milking, new from the cow, is poured, and then commences the long and brisk stirring by which that delightful dish 'Tittlewhack' is made.
"The pot-stick-a plain, round, wooden porridge stirrer-is briskly moved through the creamy mass so as to execute the figure eight, the operator all the time moving round and round the pot while so stirring.
The sound the pot-stick makes on the sides of the pot very closely resembles the words 'Tittle whack.' Hence the name of the toothsome dish
"It is utterly impossible satisfactorily to describe the fun and many drolleries accompanying this turnabout among a lot of rustics, male and female, old and young. Some of the old cottagers, particularly, provided great merriment. Old Juan-a-Beth, for instance, who, so far as the writer knew, was never seen by mortal man without the broad rim of his old weather-beaten stove-pipe hat resting on his ears and almost entirely hiding his eyes. As Juan put down his cutty clay pipe with the gravity of a man about to lay his neck on the executioner's block, and took hold of the pot-stick, everybody laughed at what was genuinely and irresistibly funny. It was the very farthest thing from Juan's wish or intention to be funny, but lie could no more help making you laugh than lots of others in this world can help making fools of themselves trying to be funny. The screaming stage was reached when Kerry-na-Coolyeh (who well knew Juan's awful austerity) actually attempted to kiss him as he stood right under the license-giving bush. Juan's resentment of this unparalleled liberty made comedy of the most enjoyable kind.
"John Willie's fiddle soon covered the floor with dancers. . . ."

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