Bot(t) boi

An etymological curiosity. At Chez Pim there is an entry, with photo, on Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie, also known as bot boi. It appears that bot boi is regarded as archaic German, but I can’t see what it might have meant.

Still curious about the term bot boi, I texted Thomas the (real) German boy to see if he knew what it meant. “Potpourri”, he replied instantly. Hmm. Odd. “How about something regarding food, or perhaps something phonetically similar but not the exact spelling”, I tried again. “Ah, it’s an antiquated expression for a thick stew, which in modern German is eintopf”, he explained. Eintopf, according to Thomas, has a starch element from mashed beans, peas, potatoes, or lentils, which are cooked with chunks of meat to make a thick stew. I suppose when the Pennsylvania Dutch migrated here from Germany they imported the idea but adapted it to the more readily available ingredients, namely flour and corn.

This Thomas sounds like a few men I have known: he always knows the answer. But how exactly does he get the link from Eintopf (casserole, literally ‘one pot’) to bot boi?

Pot pie is a term I suspect is mainly American, but I may be wrong (am querying at wordorigins), meaning a doublecrust pie.

This Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is a stew with noodles made in a pot on the stove. Apparently such noodles are also called dumplings elsewhere – slippery dumplings as opposed to fluffy dumplings. (The English dumplings I know have a raising agent and are cooked on top of a stew in this way).

Wikipedia:

In the Pennsylvania Dutch region, there is a dish called “bott boi” by Deitsh-speaking natives and is mispronounced “pot pie” by English speakers in the area. This dish is sometimes referred to as “slippery noodle pot pie” to distinguish it from the true pie form of pot pie. Bott Boi is a stew, usually made of a combination of chicken, ham, beef, or wild game with square-cut egg noodles, potatoes, and a healthy stock of onion, optional celery and/or carrots, and parsley. Bouillon is sometimes used to enhance the flavor.[2] The egg noodles are often made from scratch from flour, eggs, salt (optional) and water. Some recipes use leavening agents such as baking powder.

LATER NOTE: I have come to the conclusion that the Pennsylvania Dutch borrowed the English term pot pie and adapted it to their dialect. At Wordorigins, Aldiboronti kindly quoted the definitions and first citations from the Oxford English Dictionary (mine is on my old computer):

pot-pie, n.

1. Brit. regional. A dish made from cubed meat, covered with a layer of dough and stewed in a pot. rare.

1702 J. K. tr. F. Massialot Court & Country Cook 268 Tunnies..may be bak’d in a Pot-pie [Fr. Pâté en pot], putting the Flesh chopt small into a Pot, or earthen Pan, with burnt butter and white Wine.

2. U.S. Originally: a pie filled with meat, game, fruit, etc., and cooked in a pot or a deep pie pan. Now also more generally: a pie, typically with a savoury filling of meat and vegetables.

1823 J. F. COOPER Pioneers i, The snow-birds are flying round your own door, where you may..shoot enough for a pot-pie any day.

3. U.S. A meat fricassee with dumplings. rare.

1890 Cent. Dict., Pot-pie,..A dish of stewed meat with pieces of steamed pastry or dumplings served in it; a fricassee of meat with dumplings.

I think the Pennsylvania Dutch were thinking of the third definition. It refers to dumplings rather than noodles, but Googling indicates that some noodles are called dumplings in some states.

3 thoughts on “Bot(t) boi

  1. My family is half German and half French, and pot pie (bot boi) is always served at Family gatherings. This was brought from Europe by my Great-grandmother’s family.
    It is simply chichen stock and square noodles, however, there are no vegetables in it. A homemade slaw is served on the side and it is even mixed by some. That is how I prefer it. Put it right in the soup. It also contains the liver, gizzard and heart. We are all taught to make the noodles.

  2. We always had either chicken or ham in our pot pie, depending on what might be left over, or my grandmother would buy a rotisserie chicken to make hers.

  3. We’ve always called it Bott boi and we make it with either chicken or ham. It’s a passed down recipe from my Botts line, who come from Pennsylvania-Dutch ancestry.

    For chicken, we make the egg noodles with eggs, flour, salt and water.

    For ham, we cook the ham with baby Lima beans, usually a bone- in ham, but I’ve used ham hocks when money is tight,, for about 3 hours. Then add dough squares made with shortening, flour, salt and water. When serves, we put diced raw onion on top.

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