When we are little, we often end up pronouncing foods in a funny way.
My younger brother used to love “pas-getti and meatballs”. Even adults can make funny names for food. My dad called Kraft Singles “plastic cheese”, perhaps because of the individual wrappers, or maybe more because of the very processed taste they had. This kind of stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.
In many languages there are dishes that have names that seem odd, sound funny or are just plain weird. I mean really, when you think about eating hot dogs, doesn’t that sound strange? There is no firm evidence to confirm the geographic origin of the sausages we eat in those long buns. There was also never any proof that they contained anything besides pork or beef.
Hot dog sausages could have come from Vienna (the meaning of wiener) or Frankfurt (you guessed it – a frankfurter) or they could be related to many other variations made in that part of the world. It is likely German immigrants to North America were the inspiring force behind this quintessential American food.
The idea of using animal names in dishes isn’t uniquely American. In the U.K. there are a few variations of a dish that uses small wild animals in its name. But none of them contain the meat of those animals—or of any animal.
“Welsh Rabbit” never had rabbit meat, not even in its inception in the 18th Century. Many people say the adaptation of the name to “Rarebit” was to avoid this confusion. It is simply a mixture of cheese with a bit of beer and maybe an egg to make a sauce, then spread over toast and baked to melt the cheese.
“Scotch Woodcock” is a similar affair. It has no poultry at all, least of all the not-so-common woodcock. This dish is scrambled eggs over toast with anchovies (recipe link: https://www.food.com/recipe/victorian-scotch-woodcock-savoury-scrambled-eggs-228846). Perhaps the name comes from fans liking the taste of it so much. It is said woodcock is a delicious game bird to eat.
My favourite funny-sounding dish has to be “bubble and squeak,” or so the English call it. The Scottish version is called “rumbledethumps” and the Irish one is “colcannon.” All of them have their own twist of course, as ingredients are regional and tastes vary from one nation to another. But essentially this is a way to dress up the leftover veggies from a roast dinner, perhaps adding a bit of cheese on top (if you’re Scottish).
In French, there are no lack of equally entertaining names, so just to be fair I will include a few.
“Pouding chômeur” is a Depression-era recipe, hence a name that translates to “Poor Man’s Pudding”. It is a simple cake batter cooked over a caramel sauce. It is simply delicious.
“Pet de sœur” is pastry who’s name demonstrates well the French sense of humour. In English, we would just call these cinnamon swirls but if you translate the French name to English, it means “Nun’s Farts.
In Spanish, I find it interesting they are more matter-of-fact. There is no euphemistic phrasing, but rather a very direct description for dishes. Maybe that is cultural?
“Manitas de cerdo” is pig’s trotters, usually boiled for hours with herbs and spices. At least if you had to translate this, you would know exactly what you were eating. (I’m guessing anyone who wants a recipe for this might already know how to cook them.)
“Migas” is stale breadcrumbs sautéed in a pan. This is another “cook with what’s in the pantry”type of recipe. Usually a bit of bell pepper and bits of sausage are added. In Mexico, the base is tortilla chips, not bread crumbs.
Food always appeals to our sensibilities. The Spanish seem to be comfortable calling a spade a shovel, as my Gramps used to say. In French, they like to show a bit of tongue-in-cheek, even sarcastic humour. Across the pond, our English-speaking friends love to play with sounds and puns and references to get their point across.
Here in North America we have been influenced by the many cultures that have added to the overall tapestry of flavours and tastes.
Does it matter what we call our food, as long as we enjoy it? Just don’t forget to pass along the recipe if you want it to become a classic.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.