Tom: We’ve been talking about the origins of the name of this sauce.
Kirstin: Yes, because that’s why I don’t cook it normally.
Tom: Why does the name put you off?
Kirstin: It’s all that whore business.
Tom: So, our googling has revealed an interesting new possibility.
Kirstin: Oh yes?
Tom: I mean, the usual theory that most cookbooks don’t want to mention is that the sauce gets its name from the fact that it smells like sex. But oh, no. Most books can’t possibly say that. So they use words like “pungent”, mention anchovies and generally wave their hands. Pah. Anyway, that’s a plausible theory. Also, there’s the idea that this is a dish that could be whipped up quickly between, er, clients. But it turns out that there’s another theory that even the Victorians would approve of!
Kirstin: Er… um… you what?
Tom: So the Italian word for whore—sorry, prostitute—sorry, “sex worker”—is puttana. Hence puttanesca, or whorish. But it seems to originate from the Latin word “putina” or stinky. So, suppose the Romans call prostitutes stinky because of all the perfume they wear…
Kirstin: Yes… where are you going with this?
Tom: When two things are similar there are two possibilities. One copied the other; or both were inspired by an unknown, third thing. Think of the synoptic gospels, for example. People used to think that the origin of the material in the gospels of Matthew and Luke that was not also in Mark came from a mysterious third source, called Q. But some people simply think that Luke copied Matthew, and there was no Q. It’s a much simpler theory.
Kirstin: Ah… bah…
Tom: So, suppose the opposite is the case for puttanesca? Suppose there’s a common origin to puttanesca and to puttana; both are just derived from putina? This just means stinky or pungent sauce? It’s not named after prostitutes; both they and this sauce are stinky. What about that? Though I suppose then it would have to be called putinesca. Hmmm. On second thoughts, scratch that. Whore’s sauce it is. It was great, though.
Kirstin: I liked it a lot, actually. It’s a good store-cupboard recipe. If you have all those ingredients ready to go. Yeah, I’d do that again.
Tom: Right. I’m having seconds.