Macon

Mmmm… bacon. Salt, fat, protein… what’s not to like? But the question one inevitably runs into is, What kind of wine do you drink with it?

Aside from champagne, I mean. How about a nice chardonnay? I don’t mean one of those hello-sailor Australian or Californian oak-stick-in-your-face hyper-buttery chards – talk about gilding the lily. No, try something a little crisper to cut through the fat, maybe a little toasty, just a little edge of fried food in the nose. I won’t pussy-foot around this: you want a Pouilly-Fuissé, or some other chardonnay from the same region. I’m drinking one such right now: Louis Jadot Mâcon-Villages. The region is the Mâconnais, names after the city of Mâcon, in the Burgundy (Bourgogne) area of France.

You see? The name is perfect: Mmm + bacon = Macon. Of course it would be even more perfect (in word form if not flavour) for macon, which is bacon made from sheep (mutton + bacon), but who eats that outside of Scotland (or even inside of it, for the most part)?

Admittedly, you don’t want to build your culinary house on a masonry of graphemes (letters). It just happens that the wine in question does work nicely with the bacon. I’m sure, on the other hand, that far more bacon than Mâconnais is consumed in Macon. That’s Macon, Georgia, of course: note the a in place of â.

Does Macon, Georgia, have anything in common with Macon, France? Is it in fact named after it? Well, sorta and sorta. Both have hills on one side, so that’s something in common; in Georgia they have streams rushing down them that gave useful fuel to textile mills. In France they have grapes growing all over them. Those hills gave Mâcon it name; it comes from Ligurian mat “mountain” with the suffix asco, and that became Matisco in Latin, which became Mascon in French, and all those s’s that became silent over time got turned into circumflexes – that little peak on top of the a in Mâcon.

Macon, Georgia, was named after Nathaniel Macon, the sixth speaker of the US House of Representatives, a staunch opponent of the constitution and of a strong federal government, a man famous for voting “no” to practically everything (one may speculate bootlessly about sour grapes). His grandfather was Colonel Gideon Macon, an early settler who came from the Loire area of France. Which is where Mâcon is.

Of course Mâcon is pronounced the French way and Macon the English way, meaning the latter rhymes with bacon and the former does not. (Bacon, by the way, comes from a Germanic root cognate with back.) Another pair of words with the same sound pattern, different from this one only by having /s/ instead of /k/, is French maçon and its English translation mason, the English coming from an earlier or variant form of the French, which ultimately comes from a Germanic root probably cognate with make.

There is one other taste I get from Macon: in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, there’s this line: “No I was never in the Macon country! I’ve puked my puke of a life away here, I tell you! Here! In the Cackon country!” So… where is the Cackon country? Nowhere, actually. It’s a play on Macon, with a (frankly not obvious enough) reference to caca.

Does that seem like a stretch? Well, the thing is, Beckett, though an Irishman, wrote Godot in French first and then translated it to English himself. And in French the line is different: “Mais non, je n’ai jamais été dans le Vaucluse! J’ai coulé toute ma chaude-pisse d’existence ici, je te dis! Ici! Dans la Merdecluse!” You see, it’s not Mâcon, it’s Vaucluse – an area farther south in France. And the counterpart to Cackon is Merdecluse, which replaces vau with merde, the French word for “shit”.

Beckett also used puke in English where in the French he has chaude-pisse. It would be far too disgusting to relate that to chardonnay and bacon in some way, but I can’t help but be reminded by it of Pisse-Dru, which is a red wine made in Beaujolais, which is immediately south of Mâcon. I probably wouldn’t drink it with bacon. Maybe with a Big Mac, though.

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5 responses to “Macon

  1. If you can’t get to Madrid the next time you’re in Spain, take a trip to New Mexico and visit Madrid; you may like near-ghost towns. May-drid got rid of Ma, but I can’t vouch for Pa.

  2. You wouldn’t want to relate chaude-pisse to anything. It’s French slang for gonorrhoea. Beckett would probably have translated this passage with some bracingly filthy wordplay on ‘clap’ or ‘dose’ rather than the weak version cited here, but he couldn’t because of the Lord Chancellor’s rigid censorship of plays at this time.

  3. Mmmm…Bacon reminds me of Sir Francis Bacon, father of empiricism. Any ideas about his surname’s origins?

    “No I was never in the Macon country! I’ve puked my puke of a life away here, I tell you! Here! In the Cackon country!”

    Citation from Beckett’s work is hilarious!

    Thanks :)

  4. Pingback: Vichyssoise | Sesquiotica

  5. Pingback: Macaronesia | Sesquiotica

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