Where does the wonderful phrase ‘Holy Moley’ come from? I searched the web and the only answer came from Evan Morris’s nothing-other-than-brilliant web resource, The Word Detective.
How we benefit from students with time on their hands….
A highly intellectual letter on the subject is written to Morris by a student of St John’s College. Oxford or Cambridge I pondered? It turned out to be a college in the US where the writer of the letter, Elizabeth Lightwood, explains that “while reading the Odyssey a friend and I ran across a mention of a plant called “moly” which is sacred and harvested only by the gods.” Naturally enough the intellectual curiosity of these classics scholars was piqued. And happily as the pique struck they happened to be in a seat of learning. “We were in the library. Our first stop was the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which was sadly lacking in information on the subject. We tried the Dictionary of Regional English and The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. All we uncovered was a reference to a comic book character…”
“Holy Moley” usually uttered by Captain Marvel
Morris strives heroically to satisfy Ms Lightwood. He does a little of his own coffee-fuelled research in dictionaries and discovers that the phrase is sometimes spelled ‘Holy Moley’ and he further reveals that the comic book character is none other than Captain Marvel, the hero born in 1940 and now due to reappear on our screens in a couple of years’ time, no doubt having undergone considerable plastic surgery.
There are signs, Morris says placatingly, that the writers of the strip knew their myths and might have had the only-for-gods plant in mind. But on the whole he’s less than convinced.
“There is solid evidence that “holy moly” was already widely in use in the late 1920s as a jocular euphemism for “Holy Moses,” an oath that, at that time, might well have been offensive to some people. The writers of Captain Marvel simply picked it up and ran with it.”
And there is further erudite speculation in the comments section of the post, well worth perusing if you’re having a bad day or stuck at the bus stop…. but I digress.
Mole is really a Mexican dish
Of course the real way of spelling mole, is mole, as I should know having studied Spanish (adopting, I regret to say, much the same all-encompassing approach to my studies as Ms Lightwood). Inspired by this month’s guest contributor to look into Mexican cooking I find that mole negro – chicken with chocolate – is one of the two most well-known moles.
This version is anything but authentic
I am sorry to say that I have positively frolicked with the original, authentic method and this is a Wholly [sic] Saucy Dressings’ Mole and really nothing to do with Mexican food except in its use of chocolate to flavour savoury. Why stray so far from the genuine? The ‘correct’ way of making it – that adopted, for example, by Rick Bayless for a White House dinner – uses at least twenty different ingredients! In my fifteen minutes between work and bath I wouldn’t even have time to find all these, let alone meld them into a fragrant stew. Additionally, about a quarter of the ingredients are different types of chilli, and since I enjoy a good glass of wine or two with my food, it seems a shame to load the food with hot flavour.
So here’s my version of Mexican mole, which, I’ve just realised also has twenty ingredients…. but all the type that are very easy to find!
I also recommend anointing your avocado and iceberg (or baby gem) mix with a simple mix of fresh lemon, olive oil, smoked salt and freshly ground pepper.
Remember to tell your guests that this salad is intended to be eaten with the mole – not as a separate salad afterwards.
This dish freezes well.
Recipe for Mexican mole negro – chicken with chocolate
For 6 – serve with basmati rice
• 2 red onions, one peeled and cut into quarters
• 240ml/cup cider
• 1 chicken stock cube
• 8 cloves garlic
• 10 cloves
• 1 stick of cinnamon
• 6 pieces of chicken – or some leftover cooked chicken
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 100g munchy seeds (pumpkin, sesame etc)
• 2 red peppers
• 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
• 3 tbsp raisins (soaked if possible in Earl Grey tea)
• 1 packet of fresh coriander, chopped
• 400g tin good quality plum tomatoes
• 50g dark chocolate (more than 70%)
• 3 avocadoes
• 1 small iceberg lettuce, or 2 baby gem
• 300 ml greek yoghurt
• 6 spring onions
• Smoked salt
1. Make a mug of tea and soak the raisins in it
2. Then poach the chicken – or if you are using leftover cooked chicken you can skip this stage and just make up 300ml/1⅓ cups chicken stock. In a casserole put the onion, two of the garlic cloves (still whole) and the cloves and cinnamon. Pour over the cider and sprinkle over the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about twenty five minutes.
3. Leave to cool and then take the meat off the bones, saving the stock but taking out the onion, garlic, cloves and cinnamon
4. Meanwhile, begin making a sort of mild chipotle sauce. Peel and slice the second onion, and deseed and chop the peppers
5. Dry fry the paprika for about 30 seconds and then fry the onion and pepper until the onion is translucent.
6. Crush the remaining garlic with some smoked salt and add this to the now-soft onion and pepper also adding the seeds
7. Add in the raisins, the coriander and the broken up tomatoes together with 300ml/1⅓ cups of the reserved stock. Cook for about five minutes, then turn down the heat.
8. Add the broken up chocolate and melt it into the sauce.
9. Make a sauce of the yoghurt, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, crushed with a bit more smoked salt, and about six finely chopped spring onions (include some of the green)
10. At the last minute chop up the avocados and mix together with the rest of the coriander, and some finely shredded iceberg or baby gem lettuce – anoint as I suggest above with a little plain lemon and olive oil dressing.
11. Serve the chicken, together with the yoghurt sauce, and the lightly dressed avocado and lettuce mix.
The best song on Lila Downs’ album Balas y Chocolate isn’t the one about chocolate… so instead, below you can listen to her singing Cuando Me Tocas Tú