A La Mode

Meanings of “A La Mode”

This phrase “a la mode” means “in fashion” or in a fashionable way. The phrase is also used for an entirely different purpose in restaurant jargon. Hence, ‘a la mode’ also means a dessert served in style with ice cream. It is currently in use in the United States and also European countries in different restaurants

Origin of “A La Mode”

It is stated that ‘a la mode’ French phrase entered the English language in 1649 when John Selden used it in his book Laws of England. It was used with hyphens a-la-mode but later transformed into alamode used for black silk in The London Gazette in 1676. However, in 1903, Everybody’s Magazine used it in the sense of a dessert.

It is also stated that Samuel Pepys had used this phrase in his diary when he visited a French House of his friend, Monsieur Robins, in London. He calls it a piece of “then a piece of bœuf-a-la-mode, all exceeding well seasoned.”

Moreover, it is also reported that this French phrase appeared in the meanings of “according to the latest fashion” both in cookery as well as clothing and food. The phrase has been used in the sense of marriage according to fashion in some paintings of William Hogarth in 1673 and has been used by John Dryden as the title of his poem “Marriage a La Mode”.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Marriage a-la-Mode by John Dryden

Why should a foolish marriage vow,
Which long ago was made,
Oblige us to each other now
When passion is decay’d?
We lov’d, and we lov’d, as long as we could,
Till our love was lov’d out in us both:
But our marriage is dead, when the pleasure is fled:
‘Twas pleasure first made it an oath.

If I have pleasures for a friend,
And farther love in store,
What wrong has he whose joys did end,
And who could give no more?
‘Tis a madness that he should be jealous of me,
Or that I should bar him of another:
For all we can gain is to give our selves pain,
When neither can hinder the other.”

This is a comedy by John Dryden set in Sicily. He has presented two different types of marriages and commented on the idiocy of marriage vows. These two stanzas discuss how a la mode marriages elicit vows which seem stupid when marriages become outdated. It is a la mode to make vows when there are passions and then leave the partners when there is none. The second stanza also comments on the pleasures of finding a new friend and leaving the other person to set them free instead of hurting each other and creating hurdles.

Example #2

Marriage A La Mode by Katherine Mansfield

Written by Katherine Mansfield, this story presents the life of a solicitor, Mr. William, who is living with his wife and two sons in London. He leaves the commotion of the city to the countryside to make his wife happy. He stays away from his family for a week and meets them on weekends when they are already busy with friends. He then writes a loving letter to his wife that is not responded, because she is also busy with her friends. Later she remembers that she has to write him a reply. Such marriages have become a la mode in the humdrum of London that Mansfield has shown in this story. The use of the phrase “a la mode” in the title depicts that marriage is fashion, but there is no love or relationship between the couple.

Example #3

Love a La Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

The book narrates the love of food. Rosie Radeke enrolls into the mentorship of a celebrity cook, Denis Laurent, in Paris to learn cooking and to make people taste her dishes that she herself doubts. Her meeting with her classmate, Yi, and relations with Bodie make an excellent triangle of love and hate in Paris’ best culinary school. The love story revolves around the relationship between Rosie and Yi and the food they prepare. The use of this phrase in the title Loves a La Mode shows that although the story is about love, it’s setting, and thematic strand is about the culinary fashion. Therefore, it’s setting in Paris and food school and mentoring shows the theme of a la mode in the novel.

Examples in Sentences as Literary Devices

Example #1: “They are providing clothes with a la mode comfort. It seems they are in touch with the current trends in the market.” In this sentence, a la mode phrase has been used with stylish comfort. Therefore, it is a metaphor for the comfort that the clothes provide to the people.

Example #2: “Although various music styles have gone out of fashion following the 21st century’s dawn, it seems R & B is still a la mode and going to be in the air forever.” Here a la mode has been used as a metaphor showing a new trend in fashion.

Example #3: “As a great chef and ice cream maker, he can present thyme, ginger, and cobbler a la mode to his customers.” Here the phrase a la mode has been used in the literal sense as a metaphor.

Example #4: He can prepare Georgian style like a la mode trend and present different types of ancient fashions in a way that they blend with modern trends.” Here the phrase a la mode has been used as a simile as the word ‘like’ shows clearly that a la mode is being compared with Georgian style.

Example #5: “He has presented himself in such a way that any look suits him and is a la mode these days.” In this simple sentence, this phrase is used as a metaphor for the person and his fashion sense.