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All the Things Called “Tartar”

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Lael in Heartland, Iowa, wonders how tartar sauce got its name. The answer is a complicated etymological story that combines cream of tartar, which derives from the Latin tartarum, or a residue left on the inside of wine casks, and the story of the fierce 13th-century warriors known as the Tartars, also known as the Tatars, led by Genghis Khan. These rough-and-ready fighters were known for softening and marinating meat for eating by placing it under their saddles during a long ride, the result of which eventually inspired the German dish steak tartare, which in turn inspired the modern meat patty we call a hamburger. This is part of a complete episode.

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