Stews and brothels: there’s a connection

Stews and brothels: there’s a connection

Beef stew is one of those fall and winter dishes that nourishes both the body and the soul. And the bawdy too, apparently.

But first: the simplicity of chopping up a few root vegetables and any other sort of veg that’s in your fridge, gently searing cubes of beef, adding some water and stock along with herbs and seasonings, and letting the melange simmer low and slow over several hours is a thing of beauty. The aroma fills the house and is pure comfort with a chunk of crusty bread.

It’s kind of disconnect, therefore, that the word stew is related to, well, a brothel. Stew first is a word related to “stove” which in ancient languages would be translated to something like “steam” or “heat.” If you’ve ever heard someone saying, “I’m going for a steam (as in a sauna),” then you might guess where I’m going with this. Eventually, centuries ago, going to a “hot house” sauna or steam room became aligned with visiting a brothel. This was one of the usages of the word until the 19th-century before the meaning faded to its culinary application of a thick soup — or stew.

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