Convergent etymology: paella / pilau

The other day in the London City out of scientific interest I ate from a hipster stall a portion of /pʌɪˈɛlə/. It wasn’t paella – it looked and tasted like sewage sludge, black, oily, foul – but I couldn’t work out (and didn’t dare ask) what method had led to this madness.

A couple of days later, somewhere in NW, I paid a Moroccan street vendor a fiver for a fine piece of chermoula-marinaded sea bass, which came with rice, sold again as /pʌɪˈɛlə/. The rice was fine, but prepared and spiced like a generic Ottoman pilav, so I deserted the grunting Slav street alcoholic on my table, and gently cross-questioned the entrepreneur.

Firstly, Spanish branding works. So far, so obvious.

Secondly, paella-the-dish is a miserable Iberian copy of a great Maghrebism, and paella-the-word is merely the application of a Spanish ll marinade to pilau, or whatever. That’s amusing bollocks, so it should do quite well on internet.

Thirdly, the only difference between /pʌɪˈɛlə/-palou and risotto is that you stir the latter. Sounds like Caliphate cookery.

Then I had a pint of Doom Bar for 3GBP – not bad for a neighbourhood where three-bed ex-council flats go for a million.

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