Monday, August 11, 2008

There Never Was A Sweeter Word

gook

noun
1. any thick, viscous matter [syn: sludge]
2. (slang) a disparaging term for an Asian person (especially for North Vietnamese soldiers in the Vietnam War)
gook. (n.d.). WordNet® 3.0. Retrieved August 11, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gook

I was very surprised when I looked up the word "gook" at Dictionary.com. I'd never heard the word used outside of my family and certainly not in the ways defined there.

In my family, "gook" referred to a decadent dessert usually made with gobs of frosting. We're talking very intense sweetness here. A mere chocolate chip cookie would never qualify in the category of gook, unless it had a half-inch thick layer of frosting on it.

My mother was an excellent baker. Back when I was a child she used to bake (from scratch) two or three times a week. Her "regular" baked goods generally consisted of sweet rolls, cinnamon rolls, pies (apple, cherry, and lemon meringue were most common), bread, pineapple upside down cake, pound cake and the like. Cookies, fruitcake, and pumpkin pie were reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were all what I would call "moderately sweet" baked goods. It was the rare occasion when she would make something intensely sweet such as a layer cake with frosting, eclairs, or cream puffs (with sweetened home made whipped cream). These things were of course the rich and gooey stuff I liked the best.

We could always count on a layer cake with frosting for a birthday in the family. My favorite was dark chocolate cake with a double batch of white (vanilla) frosting, refrigerated, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Mmmmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! For other special days like Easter, Mother's Day, or if someone was coming to visit, my mom would make eclairs or cream puffs. She was also known for her home made doughnuts although those don't fall in the "gook" category.

I'm not sure how the word "gook" came to mean an intensely sweet dessert in my family. But as far back as I can remember that's what we called those special-day desserts. I can remember my mom telling me that my godmother would be coming over to bring my Christmas gift and I would say, "Oh good! Can we have gook?" When my brother enlisted in the Navy (during the Vietnam War), my mom wanted to make him a special dinner before he left. Top on the list of things to make was "gook".

When I was home from school, sick with a cold, my mom would say, "I know what you need, Vernor's ginger ale and potato chips". I'd reluctantly say, "OK". Then she'd say, "Or maybe you need some gook?" That would bring a huge smile to to my face and always made me feel better. Chicken soup had nothing on my mom's gook!

Scrapbook page made with the kit "Chocolates" by Julia of the Designs by Julia P. blog.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for the wonderful post on "gook"! We too used the word for yummy desserts my mother would bake. She was famous in our family and friend network for her "walnut walk-a-way" pastry, which of course walked away from people grabbing it and eating it. We too, had layer cakes for birthday's and special holidays. My favorite was double chocolate cake (throw in some chocolate chips PLEASE) and thick, creamy chocolate frosting. All homemade for in those days nothing was store bought. Oh, my gosh, I need to go to Pierre's bakery now! Thanks for the smiles.

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  2. I can always count on you for a chocolate break!

    Minus the calories - thank goodness.

    fM

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  3. Ok, I'll throw my "gook" in: Blackout Cake. This was a New York speciality that Katz's Bakery carried downtown. My mother was able to improvise her own recipe:

    basically you make a chocolate bundt cake. When cool, you make chocolate instant pudding but you leave out some of the milk so it is very thick like a frosting. Frost the entire cake. Then take the very thin chocolate cookies you'd use to make an Icebox Cake (remember those - they are almost black in color), crush them up and sprinkle all over until the frosting is covered.

    http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/blackout_cake/

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  4. My guess is that the derivation is from the first meaning - that the gobs of frosting are the 'thick viscous matter'. The American Heritage Dictionary says "A thick messy substance."

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  5. I noticed in your scrapbook page that you say it is pronounced like "book." That's a different pronunciation from either of the dictionary.com definitions, as far as I know. Any time I've ever heard it, it had a "long-u" sound, as in lose, moo, spook, etc., written diacritically as ü.

    Anyway... loved the post. :)

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