cooked on a slither of a wire gridiron

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Ashibaal

Senior Member
French
Hello everyone,
This is another extract from Patrick White (Australian, Nobel Prize in Literature)'s The Tree of Man (1955) (page 38). The action is set in Australian colonial era.

"And the stranger with the Bibles rubbed his hands as greed began to ease through his humility and relief, as he smelled the meat the young woman was grilling at the hearth. There were three chops and a kidney, that she cooked on a slither of a wire gridiron. The chops spat fat, and the kidney swelled and shone with little drops of blood."

I believe that I understand the noun "slither" (a sliding movement in the manner of a snake), but I have absolutely no idea what "a slither of a gridiron" is. Have you?

Bonus question : what is a "wire gridiron"? A gridiron has metal bars. Why "wire"?

Thanks a lot!
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Is it possible that this writer has an idiosyncratic tendency to misuse words? Clearly there is no such thing as a slither of any sort of gridiron, and no gridiron is made of wire. Perhaps he means she is using a fragment (a sliver) of a wire cooling rack to support her meat over the fire. Even then, a sliver (a small piece) of a rack wouldn't support three chops and a kidney - unless the meat source was a rat or other small mammal.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's also possible that the meat is being cooked on a skewer made from a piece broken off a wire gridiron that was originally intended for some other purpose. But cooking chops on a skewer seems a bit odd.
     

    Ashibaal

    Senior Member
    French
    Perhaps the 'gridiron' is more like a stiff wire grill, you can cook with, over a fire.

    a frame of parallel bars or beams, typically in two sets arranged at right angles.

    I think of 'gridiron' as a flat piece of metal (as a counter in a restaurant), for frying; no different from frying in a pan.

    =

    wire gridiron:

    Stock Photo - Fresh mushrooms and vegetables grilling in gridiron, picnic in summer outdoors
    Oh, ok. I am surprised you understand it primarily as a flat piece of metal. For me it makes no doubt that this is some sort of grill, put on the hearth of the fireplace. Which is why I don't really understand the precision "wire" in "wire gridiron".
     

    Ashibaal

    Senior Member
    French
    It's possible that by "slither" he means "sliver" (see Sliver, slither, or have they converged?). The "wire gridiron" would seem to be some kind of grilling surface made up of intersecting metal rods (the "wires"), perhaps adapted from another use.
    Ah, thank you very much, I was not aware of this linguistics debate:p Could "slither" mean a "corner" of our here gril then? I fail to see how it could be "a piece cut from" a gril.

    Perhaps he means she is using a fragment (a sliver) of a wire cooling rack to support her meat over the fire. Even then, a sliver (a small piece) of a rack wouldn't support three chops and a kidney - unless the meat source was a rat or other small mammal.
    I agree, this doesn't seem to work.


    It's also possible that the meat is being cooked on a skewer made from a piece broken off a wire gridiron that was originally intended for some other purpose. But cooking chops on a skewer seems a bit odd.
    Also agree, that seems odd indeed.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm surprised too. I don't understand it as a flat piece of metal. It's as defined in all the dictionaries I have checked - a utensil of parallel metal bars, used to grill meat, fish, etc
     

    Ashibaal

    Senior Member
    French
    OK, the wire issue is settled.
    Not really, because if a gridiron always has bars, I fail to see why the author found it relevant to say "wire gridiron".

    So then "slither' is misspeaking for 'sliver,' and it just means small (but not so small as to make cooking the items--possibly not all at once-- possible). End of story. :)
    Everything in this passage indicates that the four items are cooked at the same time.
     
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