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Words new to me: кнель

January 12, 2015
2010 photo of pike quenelles/кнели из щуки by stu_spivack (CC license)

2010 photo of pike quenelles/кнели из щуки by stu_spivack (CC license)

Кнель is a culinary term that comes from the French quenelle (English and Spanish have also borrowed it in that spelling), which in turn comes from the German Knödel (‘dumpling,’ formerly also ‘meatball,’ per the online OED). A quenelle, still according to the OED, is a “seasoned ball or roll made from ground meat or fish, poached in water or stock”; translating the definition in Ushakov also gives “balls of ground meat or fish”; and Russian Wikipedia adds that their shape is distinctive and gives an old picture of how to form them with spoons. Liza Bakhareva’s family eats quenelle soup in book 1, chapter 16 of Leskov’s No Way Out (Некуда, 1864). There is a quenelle-making scene in the short story “Who Was Lying?” (Кто лгал?, this edition 1898) by Konstantin Sluchevskii, who was better known as a poet.

This word is not only new to me in several languages at once, but it also led me to learn about a recent/current French free speech (or free gesturing) controversy that had entirely passed me by. I see now that it was covered in the U.S. media, but mainly in sports.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 13, 2015 1:55 am

    Кнели is a rare word but one can still come across it in Russian cookbooks, especially in the диетическое питание sections. I suspect fewer Russians know the Russian word than its Czech equivalent, knedlíky. No one who has read The Good Soldier Švejk can forget the knedlíky. From my Austrian vacations, it’s clear that Knödel (pl = sing) are essential to rural Austrian and probably Bavarian cuisine. I have never seen such variety of Knödel elsewhere.

    Now клёцки seems a more common synonym of кнели (there’s суп с клёцками but суп с кнелями? not so sure), coming from Klöße, pl. of Kloß, pretty much the same as Knödel apparently but used more in the North of Germany.

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