Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog

Word of the Day: potpourri

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Potpourri can be a natural air freshener, with various dried flower petals and spices in a jar. With that in mind, it may seem unfortunate to learn that potpourri is French for “rotten pot.” The incongruity comes from Spain’s national dish, olla podrida, which has the same translation. This one-pot stew includes small chunks of beef plus vegetables and beans. The culture clash dates to the 16th century. At this time there were many battles between France and Spain, not to mention the Thirty Years’ War. At some point, the French brought the stew home with them. They called it potpourri, and it had a similar variety of ingredients thrown together. Today potpourri can be a variety of pretty much anything.

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