As someone who makes his living utilizing words, I am continually amazed at how much I have yet to learn.
For instance: During my live shows I've always made it a point to present myself with an air of humility and humor. I would be quick to point this quality out to an audience by telling them that I was "self-deprecating."
Unfortunately, for years I used the words "self-defecating."
That is, until a good friend pointed out that what I was actually telling people was that I was really good at soiling myself.
I'm glad she had the courage to tell me. I just wish she hadn't waited three years (and who knows how many umpteen demos) before doing so. No wonder I got so many laughs.
So, yes. Words can be funny. And those of us who misuse them can often be funnier.
In many of my cooking demos, I feature Shrimp Scampi as one of the entrees. At a performance north of Tampa a few years ago, a little old lady in the front row asked me if I knew what the word "scampi" meant.
Well, being a professional speaker/chef and not knowing the answer, I did what most professional speakers/chefs do.
"Yes," I said authoritatively. "It's when you sauté shrimp in some garlic and olive oil or butter until it is temptingly delicious."
Then I took a step back and basked in my ability to dodge yet another stray bullet fired from the audience. But she was not impressed, because she frowned, shook her head, and said, "Nope."
"Oh?" I said.
She smiled and said, "Scampi is the plural for the Italian word, scampo."
"Which means?" I said, feeling a bit uneasy.
Her smile broadened. "Scampo is the Italian word for...shrimp."
As the laughter in the audience died down, I said, "Really?"
"Yes," she replied. "Although technically it refers to the crustacean that we catch in the Meditaranean to make this dish. But it is very close to your large shrimp here in America."
"So what you're telling me is that Shrimp Scampi is actually Shrimp Shrimp?"
She smiled and nodded. "It's a lot like your "Pizza Pie" here in America. You see, "pizza" in Italian means..."
"Don't tell me," I said. "Pie..."
"Yup. Pizza pie is actually pie pie."
After the laughter died down, I continued with my show but I will never forget the laughter in her eyes.
I still enjoy making Shrimp Shrimp as well as Pie Pie. I've just learned to spare a few words in the process.
And here's a great recipe for shrimp and pizza. In fact it is so good, you just may want to say it twice.
SHRIMP SHRIMP PIE PIE
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red or sweet onion, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese (or mild Swiss)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons crumbled goat or feta cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 9" - 10" prepared pizza crust (i.e. Boboli or Pillsbury)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Heat olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the oregano and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink, about 3 - 5 minutes.
3. Brush pizza with olive oil. Spread shrimp/onion mixture evenly over the pizza and sprinkle with the mozzarella and Fontina cheese. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle with the goat cheese and Parmesan. Drizzle olive oil over all and sprinkle with parsley.
4. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until crust is brown and cheese is melted.
Serve with a nice Chianti Chianti.