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395 Topics: The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer; Famous songs: "Little Bunny Foo Foo"; science of versus knowledge of; good versus not bad

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 395.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 395. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Download a Learning Guide for this episode, an eight to ten page guide we provide for all of our current episodes that gives you some additional help in improving your English.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about a very well-known book, The Joy of Cooking. We’re also going to continue our series on famous songs. We’ll be talking about a children's song called “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

This Café begins with a discussion of a very popular book in the 20th century, a cookbook. A cookbook (one word) is a book filled with recipes, written instructions about how to cook certain kinds of food. Most cookbooks nowadays have photographs of prepared foods as well as general information, general tips, to help you cook something that tastes good.

Today, we're going to talk about one of the oldest and most popular cookbooks in the United States, The Joy of Cooking, which was written by Irma Rombauer. I say this is a popular cookbook and I really mean it. There were 18 million copies of this book sold, and the book has been updated continuously without a break since 1936! It is now in its “eighth edition,” meaning it's been updated and changed eight times. Obviously, not all of those updates were by the original author Irma Rombauer, who is now dead.

Irma Rombauer is an interesting person. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, located in the central part of the United States, and wrote the first edition of the book, the original book, in 1931. She published only about 3,000 copies, without working with a publishing company. She did it independently with a printer, not with a big publishing company. Her husband had died. In fact, he had committed suicide. He had killed himself the previous year and she needed money. So, the book was a way for her to get some money to live.

The book became popular, and five years later a book publishing company by the name of Bobbs-Merrill began to print the book and sell it to a larger number of people. Over the past 75 years, many recipes have been added to the book or taken out of the book, deleted from the book. The original book, I should mention, did not have photographs in it. Remember, it was printed in 1936. But it did have a wide spectrum of recipes that represented different kinds of American cuisine.

“To cover a wide spectrum of something” means to talk about a lot of different types of that something. “Cuisine” (cuisine) refers to a type of cooking, especially from a particular culture. So, The Joy of Cooking doesn't specialize in a specific type of food, but instead has information about lots of different foods that Americans make and eat.

Many of the recipes in The Joy of Cooking use foods that have already been prepared, to make things more convenient, although I have a copy of this book and I must say most of the recipes are not that way. There are some that are that way where they have you use a can of something or a package of something. However, most of the recipes are what we would call “from scratch.” “From scratch” (scratch) means that you make something without any cans or any packages or any prepared food. You just have vegetables and meat and whatever else you're going to use, and that is how you make the dish, that is how you make the food you are cooking.

The Joy of Cooking is not a cookbook for someone who's never cooked before. It does have a lot of information about ingredients, the things that you make a meal out of. It has a lot of information about how to cook, but it isn't a course in cooking. It's probably better to know a little bit about cooking before you try to read The Joy of Cooking and use the recipes.

My copy of the book is a couple of years old. I don't know if it's the most recent edition. It doesn't have any photographs and not very many drawings, and it - it's mostly just the recipes and descriptions about how to make the recipes, but it has almost every kind of food that I would think of eating in it, and that is of course one reason why it has remained so popular, because it is what we would call comprehensive. It includes all these different kinds of recipes. You will find this book in many homes in the United States. I'm sure my mother had a copy. It remains a common book that people will use when they need a recipe for a certain kind of food.

The popularity of the book led other people to name their books something similar. “The Joy of” – “The Joy of Photography,” “The Joy of Gardening” – other books like that became popular because that title, of course, gives you this idea of fun, of enjoyment. That's what “joy” (joy) is. It’s enjoying something. It's having fun with something. So, The Joy of Cooking is how cooking will give you a positive feeling.

Our next topic might also give you a positive feeling, especially if you’re a child. That's because we’re going to talk about the children's song called “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” I wasn't able to find any information about who exactly wrote this song or when it was first created, but it's one of those songs that almost every American child knows, at least, in the recent past – the last 25, 30 years. It's very common nowadays.

It wasn't as common when I was growing up. In fact, I didn't ever hear it until I was an adult. However, one reason probably why I didn't know it is because it's a song that is more popular in certain places like summer camps. A “summer camp” is when a child goes away from their house with other children, to a place, usually during the summertime – June, July and August in the United States – and they learn to sing songs. They, I don’t know, I guess go out into the woods or on a lake. They learn about how to do basic things for camping.

Since I'm not a big camper, I never really got into, or enjoyed, the idea of a summer camp. I did actually go to a summer camp a couple of times. I wasn't sent there by my parents. I went there representing my school for certain things, but it's not something I really enjoyed.

But back to our song – “Little Bunny Foo Foo” – normally, “Little Bunny Foo Foo” would be a song that children might sing together as a group, at a place like a summer camp. “Foo Foo” is just the name of the bunny. “Bunny” (bunny) is a small animal more commonly called a “rabbit” (rabbit). We often use “bunny” to talk about a small or very young rabbit. Bunnies are associated, at least in the United States, and in some other countries, with the Christian celebration of Easter. Here, however, we're talking about a little bunny, a little rabbit named “Foo Foo.”

I'm going to sing the song you in a moment, but I want you to understand that, like some other children's songs, there are a lot of hand motions that go with the song. A “hand motion” is when you put your hands or arms into a certain position as the song goes on. You change the positions of your hands and arms when you sing the song.

For example, when I sing about the bunny, I'm supposed to hold up two fingers in my right hand in an open shape, a “V” shape that looks like the ears of a bunny, and I move my hand up and down across my body indicating that it's a little bunny. It's a little rabbit. There are other hand motions for the song as well. It's a little difficult to describe them. Maybe I should make a video. Of course, you can actually find videos, if you go on the Internet and look for “Little Bunny Foo Foo.”

I'll sing the first verse of the song and then I'll talk a little bit about what it means.

“Little Bunny Foo Foo,

Hopping through the forest,

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head.”

The first verse then, talks about this little bunny – Little Bunny Foo Foo – hopping through the forest. “To hop” (hop) means to jump up and down. That's what a rabbit or a kangaroo does. They jump up and down. So, the little bunny is jumping up and down, kind of like running, hopping through the forest – a place where there a lot of trees. He, as he's running through the forest, is “scooping up the field mice.” “To scoop (scoop) up” is a phrasal verb meaning to pick something up with your hands, usually in one quick motion. “To scoop up” would be to remove from the floor or remove from the ground something, by using your hands.

Now, it's not really possible for a rabbit to scoop up mice this way since they don't have hands like you and me – well, like me anyway – but it's a children's song, so you have to think of the bunny having certain abilities that he may not have in real life. So, we have this little bunny, Foo Foo, hopping through the forest scooping up the field mice. “Field mice” are little animals. The singular for mice is “mouse” (mouse), like the famous character, Mickey Mouse. Well, we’re not talking about Mickey Mouse here, we’re talking about field mice – mice that are out in nature. So, the first part of the song again goes:

“Little Bunny Foo Foo,

Hopping through the forest,

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head.”

“To bop (bop) someone on the head,” means to hit someone on the head. So, the song is somewhat violent. You have this little rabbit picking up these mice and then hitting them on the head. Not a very nice thing to do, Little Bunny Foo Foo. The next part of the song is usually spoken. It goes:

“Down came the Good Fairy

And this is what she said:”

A “fairy” (fairy) is an imaginary creature, a female who has wings and can fly, with magical powers. We talk about the Good Fairy being the fairy who wants to be nice, who wants everyone to be nice. Well, the good fairy doesn't want Little Bunny Foo Foo doing what he's been doing. So, she says to him:

“Little Bunny Foo Foo

I don't wanna to see you

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head.”

Little Bunny Foo Foo is being told by the Good Fairy to stop scooping up the field mice and bopping them on the head. “I don't wanna to see you” means “I don't want to see you scooping up the field mice and bopping them on the head.” Well, the Good Fairy then, is trying to get bunny Foo Foo to stop doing what he's doing. And then she says to him, and again this part is usually spoken, not sung:

“I'll give you three chances,

And if you don't behave, I will turn you into a goon!"

So, the Good Fairy tells Little Bunny Foo Foo he has three chances, three opportunities to do the right thing. She says if he doesn't do the right thing – if he doesn't behave, if he doesn't act nice – she – the Good Fairy – will turn him into a “goon.” A “goon” (goon) is usually a negative way of describing someone. When an adult uses the word “goon,” usually they're talking about a violent person. We might also use the term “thug” (thug). But here, “goon” is probably meant to indicate a silly or stupid person – in this case, a stupid rabbit.

So, Little Bunny Foo Foo has received his warning, his notification, that if he keeps picking up these field mice and hitting them on the head, he's going to be in trouble. After we hear this news from the Good Fairy, then you sing the song three more times.

“Little Bunny Foo Foo

I don't wanna to see you

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head.”

“Little Bunny Foo Foo

I don't wanna to see you

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head.”

“Little Bunny Foo Foo

I don't wanna to see you

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head.”

Then, the Good Fairy comes down again and she is not happy. She says “I gave you three chances” – I gave you three opportunities – “but you didn't behave.” You didn't do what you were supposed to do, Little Bunny Foo Foo. So I, the Good Fairy, will turn you into a goon. I will transform you. I will change you into a silly or stupid person.

And then the Good Fairy says “poof.” This is an indication that the Good Fairy is doing something magical, something amazing, something miraculous. After the poof, then the children singing the song will say:

“The moral of this story is hare today, goon tomorrow.”

The “moral (moral) of a story” is the lesson of the story, and of course, children's stories often have a lesson that we’re trying to teach children about life. We call that the “moral of the story.” The moral of this story isn't really a moral at all. It's a joke. It's a play on words. “To play on words” is when you use a word that sounds like another word in English to make a joke.

The joke here is “Hare today, goon tomorrow.” “Hare” (hare) is another word for rabbit, but it sounds like the word “here.” You have to understand that we have a famous or well-known phrase, “Here today, gone tomorrow,” meaning you're here today and tomorrow, you're not here. You could be dead. You could be in Cleveland…I'd rather be dead than in Cleveland, but that's the idea.

In the song, instead of “here today,” the children say “hare today,” meaning you’re a rabbit today. Then the next part is “goon tomorrow.” The next day, you'll become a goon. That's what happened, of course, to Little Bunny Foo Foo. So “Hare today, goon tomorrow” is a play on words of the expression “Here today, gone tomorrow,” but instead of “gone,” we say “goon.”

If you have children and you want to teach them a violent song, then “Little Bunny Foo Foo” is for you.

Now let’s answer some of the questions you have sent to us.

Our first question comes Fatemeh (Fatemeh) in the country of Iran. Fatemeh wants to know the difference between “science” and “knowledge.” When we talk about science or the “science of” something, and the “knowledge of” something, what are we talking about?

Let's start with knowledge. That's a little easier to understand. “Knowledge” is having the facts about something in your brain, having information about something. When we say “knowledge of,” we mean information or facts about something. “Do you have any knowledge of cooking?” Do you know anything about cooking? For me, the answer would be no. “Do you have any knowledge of camping, of going out and sleeping outside, away from your house?” Again, my answer would be no. I have no knowledge of that. I don't have knowledge of very much, actually.

“Science” has a couple of different meanings. “Science” can mean this study of facts and general laws. This is usually a definition that we would use when talking about a class in school – science class. That could be something like biology or physics or chemistry. Those would all be considered sciences. You could say, “University of California, Berkeley, is known for its science departments” – the parts of the university that study science. Or, “Stanford University is known for its computer science department.” That's the use of “science” to describe an area of study, really.

Science can also be the knowledge that you get by studying something in a systematic way, in a way that is very organized and orderly. There is a science to keeping the fish healthy. There's a certain knowledge that you have to know about in order to do it. That could also be a meaning of science.

The “science of something” would be the complete study of a subject, knowing all of the different facts about a particular kind of activity. “Science of” doesn't always have to relate to something like physics or chemistry. We could talk about the “science of running” or the “science of podcasting” – if we thought that these were areas where you would have very specific and comprehensive knowledge about a certain topic. However, normally the expression “science of” gets used to describe something more traditionally associated with the kind of science that you would study in school, but not always. You can talk about the science of cooking, for example.

“Knowledge of something” is a more general term that can be used to describe almost anything. “Science of something” is usually restricted to, or limited to, things that are related to scientific study, of the sort that you would get in a university or school. If applied to some other topic, it would mean a complete or comprehensive knowledge of that topic.

Our next question comes from JC in Korea. JC wants to know the difference between something that is considered “good” and something that's considered “not bad.” So, someone says, “How was the movie?” They say, “Oh, not bad.” Someone may ask, “How was your food?” You say, “Oh, it was good.” Is there a difference between these two uses? JC also wants to know what happens when you add the word “pretty” to good and bad.

Let's start with “good.” “Good” means it wasn't excellent, it wasn't the best, but it was okay. It was good enough. “Not bad” means it wasn't great, it wasn't very good, but it wasn't the worst thing. “How is your food?” “Oh, it's not bad.” That means “Well, it's not very good, either.” You don't want to criticize it too much. You’re not saying it's the worst food you've ever eaten, but you’re saying that it's just okay, but it's not as good as “good.”

So if you say, “How was the food?” and the person says “Good,” they mean they liked the food. If you ask a person, “How's the food?” and they say, “Not bad,” depending on how they say, it could mean something similar to good or, perhaps more commonly, it would mean not as good as if you said the food was “good.”

You could think of describing something as being excellent, very good, good, not bad, bad. There is a scale. There's a range. There's a distance, if you will, between the very best and the very worst. And these adjectives are used to describe where things are between excellent and terrible.

Sometimes people will use the expression “not bad” when someone does something better than you expected it, when the food tasted better than you thought it was going to taste. Those could also be circumstances in which you would use the expression “not bad.”

If you add the word “pretty,” the meaning changes somewhat. If you say something is “pretty good,” you could mean it's okay. It's adequate, but it's not the best. You would have wanted it to be better. Depending on how you say it, “pretty good” could mean very good. “How was the food?” “Oh, it's pretty good.” The idea there would be perhaps again, you’re a little surprised at how good it is. As in all languages, it depends on how the person is saying it sometimes. “Pretty bad” is almost always a very negative way, something that is really bad, something that is very bad. “How was the movie?” “It was pretty bad.” You mean it was a really bad movie.

Finally, Heydar (Heydar) also from Iran, wants to know the difference between a “script” and a “transcript.” A “script” (script) is the written text of a play, or a movie, or even a podcast. It's something you write first, and then you say, then you speak.

A “transcript” (transcript) is when you talk, when you speak, and then you write down what was said. A “transcript” is a written version of everything that is said. Here at ESL Podcast, for example, we have a script for our dialogues that we do in our other podcasts. That's written in advance. That's written first by Dr. Lucy Tse, and then we record it. We each say the different lines in the script.

Then I explain what happened in the script and there, I don't have a script I use for explaining it. I just talk with some notes here on a piece of paper and explain what it means, just like what I'm doing right now. Then later we go back and we write down everything I said in my explanation. That's the transcript of what I said.

The script is what was written for me to say. The transcript is what I actually said. You'll often see the word “transcript” referring to a meeting or may be someone who gave a talk, a speech about something, or it could be used, for example, in a court of law, in a legal case with a judge. There is an official transcript of what everyone said during the court case.

If you have a question or comment you can e-mail us. Our e-mail addresses eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

cookbook – a book filled with written instructions for making different foods

* I can’t find my Mexican cookbook. Do you remember how much lemon juice I should add?

recipe – written instructions for making a certain type of food

* Hanley’s mother gave me her recipe for making her famous apple pie.

a wide spectrum of – many types of something; a large variety of something

* In this store, you’ll find a wide spectrum of plants for any kind of garden.

cuisine – type of food; a style or method of cooking, especially from a specific region or culture

* This restaurant is famous for its fine Cuban cuisine.

hand motion – shapes one makes with one’s hand(s), sometimes accompanying a song or other actions

* Gina’s little daughter wandered into the aisle and Gina made hand motions telling her to return to her seat.

to scoop up – to pick something up in one’s hands with an open, sweeping motion

* When Karem returned home, he scooped up his son and carried him into the house.

to bop – to hit something, probably a little bit hard, usually on the head

* Stop bopping me on the head! You’re hurting me!

goon – silly, stupid person

* Those children are behaving like goons, running up and down the street yelling and screaming.

poof – a small noise and maybe a little bit of white smoke, often as part of a magic trick when the trick is performed

* Watch this hat carefully as I perform this trick. Poof! Here’s a rabbit!

moral – lesson about what is right and wrong and how one should behave, usually as part of a children’s story

* The moral of this story is to think before you act.

play on words – pun; use of words that sound very similar to each other to be funny

* “See you noon” is a play on words using the expression “See you soon.”

hare – an animal that is very similar to a rabbit, but is a little bit larger

* The hares hopped across the field chasing mice.

science of – a complete study of facts from observation and practice

* I don’t really understand the science of breeding animals.

knowledge of – having facts and knowing about

* He has a thorough knowledge of the basic principles and can teach them to his younger brother.

good – satisfactory; not excellent, but above acceptable and not horrible

* Emil is a good piano player, but I don’t think he can become a professional.

not bad – not very good, but not horrible

* A: What do you think of my golf game?

B: It’s not bad, but it could be a lot better.

script – the written text of a play, movie, or broadcast

* Jolene only has two speaking lines in the script, but she’s glad to get the acting work.

transcript – a written version of something that was originally presented in another form, such as a broadcast or speech

* Does the government produce transcripts of all speeches given in Congress?

What Insiders Know
Famous Fictional Bunnies

There are many “fictional” (not real) bunnies that have become famous for different reason. (Bunnies and rabbits are the same animal.) The Easter Bunny (also known as the Easter Rabbit) is a fictional rabbit who brings eggs and toys to children on Easter, the religious holiday believed by Christians to be the day Jesus came back to life after he died. However, the Easter Bunny does not have religious meaning. Sometimes he is shown bringing colored eggs and candy in a basket that he leaves for children on Easter morning.

Peter Rabbit is another famous bunny. He is a character in many stories written by the author Beatrix Potter. These children’s stories were written in the early 1900’s. Peter Rabbit is shown as being very like a real person, rather than an animal. He wears clothes and lives with his mother and sisters in a home very similar to people. Many things happen to Peter and his friends and family that are often “adventurous” (with a lot of action and excitement) and dangerous. Peter often gets into trouble, but he is always safe in the end.

“Cartoons” are drawings that “animate” (are made to look like they are moving) characters. Cartoons are generally popular among small children. One famous cartoon bunny is Bugs Bunny. This rabbit is usually carrying a “carrot” (long, orange vegetable). He has a “distinct” (different and easy to tell from others) way of speaking that is easy to recognize and “imitate” (for others to try to sound like). Bugs Bunny is known for his “arrogant” (believing he is better than everyone else) personality. He is famous for tricking other cartoon characters. Bugs Bunny was a character created in the 1940’s and remains popular today