Everybody knows that eating crow or having humble pie means one is humiliated or embarrassed, but how did those curious culinary sayings once begin?
“Humble Pie” reaches back to the Middle Ages. It started as “numble pie,” a common food made from offal (undesirable internal organs and entrails of venison or other hunted animal). It came from the Old French nombles, which came from the Latin lumbulus, meaning “a little loin.” The word for loin was lumbus. (This is where the word lumbar came from.) Numbles were eaten as early as the 1300’s and, at some point, the N got dropped so the word numble became umble. One way of cooking umbles was to bake them into a pie. An umble pie, that is. By the 1500s, according to Webster’s Dictionary, umble pie became humble pie.
So what’s the backstory to eating crow?
Apparently, crow is rather unpalatable. Considering that crows are carrion birds, which means nature’s clean up crew, I can see why they would be rather unappealing. So admitting our faults, as in eating crow, is about as pleasant as eating something disgusting. The phrase is based on a historical incident dating back to the War of 1812, when a British soldier forced an American soldier to eat a crow.
So what about the saying, “If you have to eat crow, eat it while it’s hot?”
That statement is credited to Harry Truman’s vice president, Allen W. Barkley.
Barkley meant that when someone makes a blunder that he should quickly admit to the mistake and put the incident behind him. The idea is that the quicker you admit to a mistake, apologize, and show your regret, the less damage will be done and the quicker everyone will forget about it.
Excellent advice. But don’t quote me on any of this because I don’t want to eat crow, hot or cold.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of Anna’s Crossing, The Letters, The Calling, the Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner for The Search, a Carol Award finalist for The Choice, and a Christy Award finalist for The Waiting. She is the host of the Amish Wisdom blog, as well as a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She also offers readers a free downloadable app, Amish Wisdom, that delivers a daily Penn Dutch proverb. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her newest release, The Heart of the Amish released on May 5th.
Purchase Suzanne’s books here.