My head is spinning. I’m currently obsessed with Lazy Susans.
After spending the weekend with dear friends and sharing many joyous family meals whirling their slick, and custom build Lazy Susan I was hooked. I had to have one of my own. As it turn out it’s pretty easy to acquire one, in-fact all you have to do is go to LazySusans.com and choose from their great selection.
With my Lazy Susan on the way I was left with the conundrum of the name; no one seems to know where the title Lazy Susan comes from, or who invented it.
Wikipedia states a Lazy Susan is a turntable (rotating tray) placed on a table or countertop to aid in moving food. They are usually circular and placed in the center of a circular table to share dishes easily among the diners. Owing to the nature of Chinese cuisine, especially dim sum, they are especially common at formal Chinese restaurants.
In Smithsonian.com Daniel A. Gross writes:
“It describes a spinning platter that rests on the tabletop. Back in the early-1900s, however, “Lazy Susan”—previously known as a “dumb-waiter”—described not only revolving tabletops, but also revolving tables, as well as elevators that carried plates and food. All three devices were used in Europe and America to save domestic labor during meals. Basically, the idea was to buy a “dumb-waiter” so you could layoff your real waiter”.
Some believe that Thomas Jefferson invented the lazy Susan in the 18th century. It is said that Jefferson invented the lazy Susan because his daughter, Susan, complained she was always served last at the table and, as a result, never found herself full when leaving the table.
Jefferson construct a box-shaped rotating book stand and, as part of serving “in the French style”, employed a revolving dining-room door whose reverse side supported a number of shelves.
It’s also possible that “lazy Susan” was styled on previous combinations in English that use “Susan” (“black-eyed Susan” being the most common). There are many such words in English that use names in a generic way: “peeping Tom,”jim-dandy,” and “Jolly Roger” are just a few.
Finally the Oxford English Dictionary carried the first etymology of the term. The dictionary traced the mention of “Lazy Susan” to an advertisement in the December 1917 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. It was a two-page Christmas promotion that spotlighted a number of fancy household items as possible gift ideas.
This was no ordinary tray. Mounted on a mahogany base, it revolved on ball bearings “to help you serve things easily.” The copywriter came up with a clever description: “$8.50 forever seems an impossibly low wage for a good servant; and yet here you are; Lazy Susan, the cleverest waitress in the world, at your service!”
In the end I’m not so worried about where the name comes from because what I really love about a Lazy Susan is that communal dishes can be placed and displayed on the table at the same time, and everyone can serve themselves making it the perfect tool to share a meal with loved ones without reaching over, standing up and disrupting the conversation.
After spinning my wheels thinking about a good meal to test-drive my new Lazy Susan I settled on making my braised slow cooked fennel and cumin chicken. It’s a comforting easy to make dish that every one always seems to love. If you don’t believe me, just ask the U10 New Canaan soccer team parents!
This tender and loaded with good flavor chicken it’s the perfect dish on a fall or winter day when you have to cook for a crowd. The chicken it’s marinated overnight, and it’s cooked for at leas 1-1/2 hour in the oven. A slow cooker or a tagine would work really well too, but they are definitely not necessary.
I make this crowd-pleasing chicken at least a day ahead because the flavors fuse and meld together, giving depth to the dish. I serve it with saffron onions, a cilantro and dates relish, plus lots of good crusty bread. The chicken comes out melting tender; the saffron onions and the date relish are sweet, bright and a bit unusual.
Sadly, I’m usually left with no leftovers. I say sadly because this succulent dish would make a great midnight snack or an easy day-after lunch, but it doesn’t really matter because, ultimately, what brings me joy, it’s watching not only the smiles on people faces around my table, but also the many quick fingers grabbing seconds and mopping the bowls clean.
Speaking of fingers, lets’ keep them crossed my delivery will arrive soon because I cannot wait to give it a twirl and share the braised cumin and fennel chicken with my family and friends.