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Terry Pratchett used in his disc world novels the word "avec" as a common food ingredient for french (in his books named "quirmian" or "Quirm" for the country) food.

Excerpt from "Snuff" by Terry Pratchett:

Say what you like, the food in the Quirm Watch House canteen was pretty damn good, even if they did use a shade too much avec, thought Vimes; avec on everything.

I suspect that it means "garlic", deriving from an ellipsis on the french wording "avec ail" - "with garlic".

Is this correct? Thanks in advance & GNU Terry Pratchett :-)

Edit: Of course I'm aware that "avec" is the french word for "with", but that knowledge alone didn't help me here ;-)

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    In French, avec means with, so the implication is that the restaurant put too much stuff on a dish which is substantive enough on its own, and doesn't need garnish and decoration. Too many frills (for a steak-and-potatoes police officer). It's a play on the old trope that the French are fancy-pants and the English are solid salt-of-the-Earth. There's a lot of allusions to British culture and longstanding tropes in Pratchett. In fact, that (along with old Python sketches) is where we poor deprived Yanks get to learn about these things!
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 8, 2016 at 19:16
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    No, I think that it's just a play on stereotypical French restaurant menus, where dishes are often something-avec-something, avec of course being French for 'with'.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 8, 2016 at 19:17
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    In part it's a play on the use of French by people who don't understand it. It's not uncommon, eg, to go into a US medium-price restaurant and see some sort of beef dinner listed "with a side of au jus". (In fact, I've seen cans of beef broth sold by restaurant supply outfits and labeled au jus.) (And my wife and I still joke around about the time we were told of the merits of the "artesian" bread that a restaurant was serving.)
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 8, 2016 at 19:33
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    @DanBron The only problem here is that you will not see avec on a French menu, simply because, in descriptions, French does not use avec where English would use with. The girl with black hair is la fille aux cheveux noirs, and the boy with the broken leg - le garcon à la jambe cassée. Similarly chicken in red wine is coq au vin, and steak in béarnaise sauce is steak au sauce béarnaise. Coffee with milk and chocolate sprinklings would be café au lait au chocolat. On a French menu there is not likely to be an avec in sight anywhere.
    – WS2
    Feb 8, 2016 at 23:15
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    @WS2: I don't believe the satire is directed at 'restaurants in France' so much as 'French{-style] restaurants abroad' which are notorious for flowery, poetical descriptions with plenty of avec. Feb 27, 2016 at 11:03

3 Answers 3

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Terry Pratchett often used wordplay.

The word "avec" is mistaken by an English-speaker to be an ingredient. The failure of the Anglophone to realise that avec is not an ingredient, but just means "with", is the joke here.

Other times, for example when Vimes asks for a bacon sandwich without any avec, he means he just wants a bacon sandwich, no mayonnaise, lettuce or other complications. In this case without any avec, (without any with), is at the same time a humorous turn of phrase, a possible failure to understand that avec is not an ingredient, and as Dan Bron says, a typically British dismissal of the fussiness of French food, even in a canteen.

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    Yes, the joke here reminds me of the old cartoon where a diner reading a menu says, "'Soup du jour'—my favorite kind!"
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 14, 2021 at 18:57
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I think it probably means any type of garnish,spice,seasoning,or side dish. Because in Ankh-Morpork a meal is the food put in front of you, they're probably not used to the idea of having, say, steak with(avec) mashed potatoes, or parsley, or bearnaise sauce. Even in more upper-class homes, they'd probably just serve the steak first and potatoes later. So when a Quirmian chef suggests putting something other than meat on the plate with the meat, it's seen as a strange, foreign idea.

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I think avec must be an actual condiment. In Pratchett's book, "Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook to Travelling Upon the Ankh-Morpork & Sto Plains Hygienic Railway" (p.55), the description of Globerry's Cafe says "Traditional and substantial Ankh-Morpork cooking for those missing a taste of home who want food without avec or garlic." If avec means "with" then you would get the construction "food without with" which makes no sense. Also, Quirm exports "fancy foods with Avec, wine, art, education, dodgy seafood produce." Once again, Avec stands alone as an item.

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    "food without with" making no sense is the point of the joke. It's a joke about people not understanding the meaning of words from foreign languages.
    – herisson
    May 31, 2017 at 3:50
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    'avec' doesn't mean 'with' in Pratchett's joke. It is a nominative. Read the explanations again. May 31, 2017 at 3:52
  • Quirm exports "fancy foods with Avec, wine, art, education, dodgy seafood produce." Once again, Avec stands alone as an item.
    – Irv B
    May 31, 2017 at 4:06
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    I'm afraid you are just not getting the joke. Jan 19, 2018 at 14:11

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