A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 14, 2019
“What’s cookin’?” (What’s cooking?")

"What’s cooking?” originally meant exactly that. However, ‘What’s cooking?” (or “What’s cookin’?") has come to mean “What’s happening?” or ‘What’s up?” or “What’s new?” The food implication is often eliminated.

“What’s cooking?” became a popular saying in the United States in 1939 and 1940. “Preview shows what’s cooking”—a news article—was printed in The Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA) on July 20, 1939. “Here’s What’s Cookin’”—about dancing—was printed in the Racine (WI) Journal-Times on December 6, 1939.

The Hank Williams song hit, “Hey, Good Lookin’” (1951) starts:

“Say, hey, good lookin’
Whatcha got cookin’?”



Wiktionary: what’s cooking
Interjection
what’s cooking?

1. (idiomatic, informal) A greeting, similar to how are you?; what’s happening?; what’s up?; what’s new?
2. (idiomatic) Expression of concern, asking for an explanation, similar to what’s going on?; what’s the problem?; what gives?

(Oxford English Dictionary)
what’s cooking?, what is happening? what is in train?
1942 R. Chandler High Window 70 It stopped at six, I got out, and the old man leaned out of the car to spit and said in a dull voice: ‘What’s cookin’?’
1943 C. H. Ward-Jackson It’s a Piece of Cake 62 What’s cooking? What’s happening? What’s on?
1945 S. Lewis Cass Timberlane 113 It was part of their creed and time that every so often Eino and Jinny should say to each other, ‘What’s cooking?’
1956 ‘A. Gilbert’ And Death came Too xvi. 165 What’s cooking?.. Are you going to uncover the villain?

Wikipedia: What’s Cookin’?
What’s Cookin’? is a 1942 American musical film directed by Edward F. Cline and starring The Andrews Sisters, Jane Frazee, Robert Paige and Gloria Jean. The film is based on the story Wake Up and Dream written by Edgar Allan Woolf.

Wikipedia: Hey, Good Lookin’ (song)
“Hey, Good Lookin’” is a 1951 song written and recorded by Hank Williams, and his version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. Since its original 1951 recording it has been covered by a variety of artists.

Background
The Hank Williams song was inspired by another song by the same title, which was written by Cole Porter in 1942. The lyrics for the Williams version begin as a come on using double entendres related to food preparation ("How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?").

Wikipedia: What’s Cooking?
What’s Cooking? is a 2000 British/American comedy-drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha and starring Mercedes Ruehl, Kyra Sedgwick, Joan Chen, Lainie Kazan, Maury Chaykin, Julianna Margulies, Alfre Woodard, and Dennis Haysbert.

20 July 1939, The Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), pg. 1, col. 3:
Lend and Spend Bill Comes Up At Recess Time
Key to adjournment is key to deep new reform—Preview shows what’s cooking.


Newspapers.com
6 December 1939, Racine (WI) Journal-Times, pg. 9, col. 2 photo caption:
Here’s What’s Cookin’
Los Angeles housewives stopped dusting carpets and began cutting rugs to prove they really know what’s cookin’.

Newspapers.com
20 March 1940, Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen, pg. 11, col. 4 ad:
LOOK WHAT’S COOKIN’...
(An ad for the film The Road to Singapore.—ed.)

Newspapers.com
14 April 1940, Oakland (CA) Tribune, Magazine sec., pg. 2, col. 3:
What’s cooking on film row for Luise Rainer?

OCLC WorldCat record
[KMBC political advertisement. 1940-11-04, James A. Reed in support of Wendell Willkie for president. Part 1] : [KMBC special broadcast. 1940-11-05, Election day coverage in Kansas City. Part 1. What’s cooking?. 1940-11-05, part 1].
Author: James A Reed; Beulah Karney; Arthur B Church; KMBC (Radio station : Kansas City, Mo.); Marr Sound Archives.
Publisher: [1940]
Series: Arthur B. Church KMBC radio collection.
Edition/Format: Audiobook on CD : CD audio : LP recording : English
Summary:
KMBC political advertisement: On the eve of elections, James A. Reed talks about the issues in the Roosevelt administration, his personal experiences working for the Hoover administration, his personal experience with Wendell Willkie, and the differences between the current presidential candidates.

Newspapers.com
23 April 1941, Marshfield (WI) News-Herald, pg. 11, col. 2:
Beauty Parlors
HI, SI—What’s a’ cookin? Oh, Miranda’s at MILADY’S gettin’ good lookin’.

OCLC WorldCat record
What’s cookin’ in Indianapolis?.
Publisher: Indianapolis : Indianapolis Service men’s centers, [July 29, 1943-June 13, 1946]
Edition/Format: Print book : English

Urban Dictionary
whats cookin’?
it means or its the same as: whats happening? , whats going on?, whats on the ground?
hey, Rafa! whats cookin’?
ummh, nothing much just chilling!

#happening#going on#on the ground#t’sup#was’up
by taako August 16, 2011

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Monday, October 14, 2019 • Permalink