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Apr 25, 2009 07:17 PM

The US and the UK: Divided by a Common (Culinary) Language

In the "One more tea rant" thread on the General Topics board, Paulustrius floated the idea of a thread with this title to address food and cooking-related vocabulary/language differences in our respective transatlantic versions of English.

(It'd be interesting to note the differences in other English-speaking countries, as well. I know not all Commonwealth nations use the British conventions, and that Anglophone Canada, for instance, uses most of the same terminology the US does.)

So here are a few for starters.

From the tea thread:

US French press vs. UK cafétiere

A few more:

zucchini vs. courgette

eggplant vs. aubergine

bell pepper vs. capsicum

snow pea vs. mangetout

arugula vs. rocket

romaine vs. cos

cilantro (or fresh coriander or Chinese parsley) vs. coriander (for the leaf)

dark chocolate vs. plain chocolate

all purpose flour vs. plain flour

baking soda vs. bicarb or bicarbinate of soda

cookie vs. biscuit

french fries vs. chips

potato chips vs. potato crisps

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    1. re: KiltedCook

      Well, they go by both names in the US, but I gather only chickpeas in the UK?

      1. re: KiltedCook

        They are often chickpeas in the US, too -- which term is used predominantly is probably a regional variation (the Spanish word used more in the West/Southwest, the English word used more in the East/North East, perhaps). The same with cilantro/fresh coriander/Chinese parsley. It's only recently that "cilantro" has become used almost universally in the US. In England, it's still "coriander."

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          yes i'm from the northeast. sent hubby out with grocery list for chick peas in NC. apparently no one knew what they were, and finallyat the 2nd store someone suggested garbanzo beans.

      2. Good list -- however, since you're putting the American on the left and the English on the right, you have arugula and rocket backwards.

        Here's another one:

        Corn starch vs. corn flour

        26 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          It's called arugula in the US, rocket in the UK, so how is it backwards?

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            It's also called rocket in the US. In my experience, "arugula" has only come to predominate in the last 20 years or so, but that may be a function of geography and family background.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              Not disagreeing with you, but at the same time, I've never seen arugula sold in stores (NYC, DC, Miami, North Carolina) as rocket.

              1. re: MMRuth

                According to one of my reference books, it used to be called “rocket” in the U.S. many years ago. Then, after a long absence, it reappeared as “arugula” after the Italian “rugala.” I wonder if it’s possible that in some parts of the States “rocket” is just a holdover from that earlier time.

                1. re: JoanN

                  In Canada I had never heard of rocket before I saw it mentioned on a cooking show from the Kingdom of UK. Took a lot of digging before I found out it is arugula. Doesn't matter though. I can't get either in my hick town :-)

                2. re: MMRuth

                  I'd never seen it sold in stores at all until fairly recently. "Rocket" was one of those bitter edible weeds that I hated as a kid. Like nettles and dandelion greens. They were things that my granddad picked wild and tried to pretend were food. The notion of paying money for them would have been absurd.

                  I actually like arugula a lot now. And have even paid a premium price for a delicious bowl of weed - er, stinging nettle - soup at Alice's Restaurant. Haven't seen dandelion greens on any menus, but that could be opportunity for some aspiring chef - just call 'em "soffione," charge $4.99 for a little bunch, and don't tell anybody they grow in the back yard.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Dandelion greens are pretty common in France. They call them pisse-en-lit because of their mildly diuretic properties. How charmant.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      You probably know this but.

                      Dandelion is a corruption of another French name, dents de lion, lion's teeth after the shape of the leaf.

              2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Because I'm dyslexic? I don't know how I read the rest of that list correctly and not that one.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  You misunderstand. Those two are reversed -- in the wrongs column of your listing.

                  1. re: steve8rox

                    In my listing, the US terms are on the left, the UK terms on the right. I'm not sure I understand your meaning, as all the British cookbooks and media I've read call it rocket, and the US terms are discussed above.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      If there is any misunderstanding, Caitlin is right. We call it rocket. As with many culinary terms, we take a FRench derivation, whereas Americans appear to more often take an Italian derivation. I presume the latter reflects immigration patterns, while the former reflects the fact that France is only 22 miles away.

                      1. re: Harters

                        And the small matter of William the Conquerer and those pesky Normans. Didn't they speak French in the court for quite a long time?

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            Yep - they spoke French. Until we swapped dynasties and they started speaking German., Funny how German cuisine has never really caught on in the UK, isn't it. I wonder why?

                            1. re: Harters

                              I lived there for a while. It's absence is justifiable.

                            2. re: greedygirl

                              One really interesting thing about the English language relates to this. After 1066, the French courtiers brought their staff with them from France, including chefs. The Anglo Saxons did what they always did, tending to the animals. So the French were the indoor servants and the Anglo Saxons were the outdoor servants. This is why, in English, the word for the animal -- cow, sheep, pig -- is of Anglo Saxon origin, but the word for the meat -- beef, lamb, pork, is of French origin.

                              1. re: roxlet

                                lamb is agneau in French, the English word lamb is of Anglo Saxon origin according to the OED.

                                1. re: smartie

                                  Sheep and mutton / mouton are the respective words here, following roxlet's lead.

                                  Odd that this is not true of ducks, chickens and geese.

                                  1. re: smartie

                                    Sorry -- right you are on lamb! It is odd about the ducks, chickens and geese though!

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      Good book for CHers who are language nuts (there are a lot of us out there) - "Globish" - there was a segment on it on NPR Morning Edition last week and it was reviewed in the NYT. Goes into a lot of the origins and the state of the English language worldwide.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        Thanks for reminding me! The first time I tried to get the book, it wan't out on the Kindle yet, but apparently they have it now!

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            The one by Robert McCrum, who also cowrote The Story of English with W. Cran and Robert MacNeil (whose presence I miss on the NewsHour). Listen to the NPR thing, he has a very nice voice.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              I started reading it last night. It seems that the first part of the book rehashes a lot of what I know about the development of English (I was a Medieval lit major in college), so I haven't yet gotten to the development of "Globish." BTW, smartie, I should have said mutton, not lamb above. Right you are Paulustrious!

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                thanks. i'm gonna check our library.

                        1. I've only ever seen capsicum refer to the chemical that makes peppers spicy, not to refer to a bell pepper, and I've only seen coriander refer to the seed, not the leaf (aka cilantro). Maybe those are regional US things?

                          Not quite on topic, but in England a few years ago I gave my hosts a good laugh at my expense by not knowing the UK definition of "pants" and offering to show off my great new pair...

                          19 Replies
                          1. re: Emmmily

                            Good catch! I reversed the US and UK on bell pepper/capsicum and cilantro/coriander; I'll go back and edit.

                            ETA: fixed those in the OP.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              Funny, I just saw capsicum used for the first time. It was on a jar of preserved veggies in a chinese supermarket - "capsicum in oil" was the only English on the bottle. Interesting!

                            2. re: Emmmily

                              most are USA v UK. Capsicum v bell pepper is switched, as the corinander v cilantro

                              pudding and custard are used differently
                              In the USA, pudding is almost always a sweet, stiff sauce that is eaten with a spoon. Custard is a stiffer, almost gelled sweet. UK pudding (I think) has a very wide use; custard often means the same as the US pudding.

                              1. re: paulj

                                Yeah, I edited to fix that error.

                                My understanding is pudding is sometimes used to mean dessert generally, as well as for things like steamed puddings.

                                I've seen poured custard used in UK English where in the US we'd say creme anglaise.

                                US jelly vs. UK ? We both use jam, but is there a UK product equivalent to US clear jelly (jam without pieces of fruit)? Here, jelly, jam, and preserves are all variations on the theme, the difference being in whether there's solid fruit and how large the pieces are.

                                US jello (from Jell-O brand) or gelatin vs. UK jelly

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  Some preserves without fruit in them are called jelly - redcurrant jelly being the most common.

                                  Pudding = dessert. And custard is indeed creme anglaise, although it can also refer to a cream/eggs combo such as the base of a creme brulee.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    Grape jelly vs. grape jam very very common

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      except for black pudding and blood pudding

                                      1. re: thew

                                        We don't have blood pudding in the UK. It's just black pudding (and white pudding in Scotland and Northern Ireland)

                                2. re: Emmmily

                                  Most people just call them peppers and refer to them by colour (color!).

                                  Years ago when I was working in publishing I organised a book tour for the American children's author Judy Blume. She was highly amused to be appearing on a popular kid's TV show over here - Blue Peter! Equally, the students she spoke to found it hilarious that her daughter was called Randy....

                                  1. re: Emmmily

                                    It's capsaicin that makes peppers hot, not capsicum. Easy to get confused with those two.

                                    1. re: Emmmily

                                      I think there are very few people who use capsicum anymore. They are called bell peppers everywhere; on packaging at the supermaket, recipes, etc..

                                      1. re: nanette

                                        Or, more commonly, just "peppers".

                                        1. re: nanette

                                          Maybe in the States. Here in OZ they are always refered to as either a reg or green or yellow capsicum. If you asked the average Joe for a bell pepper, they'd have no idea what you were on about.

                                          1. re: purple goddess

                                            Also in Bhutan, who 99% likely got the term from India, and if they use it in India, that's a whole lot of capsicum!

                                          2. re: Emmmily

                                            Er...sorry but I think you mean capsaicin as the heat-causing chemical. Capsicum DOES mean the pepper itself, but it's generally used only in Australia, not England.

                                          3. As a Brit in Florida here are some more

                                            self rising - self raising
                                            chili - chili con carne
                                            baked potatoes - jacket potatoes
                                            scallions - spring onions
                                            coffee with cream - white coffee
                                            rutebaga - swede
                                            golden raisins - sultanas
                                            almond flour - ground almonds

                                            we could also do a section on foods that are not seen on shelves in both countries and I don't mean branded goods but things like sweet butter in the US which does not exist in the UK, the various types of cream that the UK has which America does not. I have never seen semolina in the US.

                                            15 Replies
                                            1. re: smartie

                                              Semolina is available in the US, but usually you must go to specialty grocers to find it.

                                              1. re: smartie

                                                Semolina is known in the US among profesionals, but not commonly found in groceries. I've found it in a health food store (bulk section), and import sections and stores (Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian).

                                                1. re: smartie

                                                  I didn't realise that almond flour was simply ground almonds. Who knew? No wonder I've been confused by the discussion about one of the cakes from COTM!

                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                    I only discovered this when I baulked at the price of almond flour and "substituted" almond meal (ordinary ground almond processed in my blender, just a bit). Worked fine.

                                                    1. re: LJS

                                                      Almond meal made at home in the food processor is coarser and oilier than almond flour purchased comercially. You can often substitute, but as a baker I consider them different things.

                                                  2. re: smartie

                                                    Chili con carne is loaded with kernels of corn, whereas chili here in Northern Ontario, Canada, doesn't -- it may have Roadkill in it !!

                                                    Question : How does a Brit order coffee, double cream, double sugar, in the UK ?

                                                    1. re: steve8rox

                                                      you order white coffee in England, they rarely put sugar in your coffee unless you go to a real caff (greasy spoon and get take out (take away) otherwise sugar is always at the table.
                                                      If you ask for cream for your coffee you would have to be somewhere upscale and then you would get single or double cream.

                                                      1. re: smartie

                                                        By double cream, do you mean what American's call heavy cream? Or just extra cream?

                                                        Actually, having cream in coffee is considered pretty old-fashioned these days. Most places serve milk. In the better places it will be hot. Cream with coffee is something I associate with provincial tea shops, when it comes in those little portion-sized tubs.

                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                          American cream isn't like English cream, just doesn't have the same viscosity and taste and colour. I guess heavy cream is as close to double cream as it comes.

                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                            Cream is dependent on diet and sterilisation. In general the UK's cream is not sterilised. UK double cream has more fat than anything I've seen in the US, clotted cream even more so.

                                                            Edit:: Wikipedia told me abunch of stuff I didn't know...

                                                          2. re: greedygirl

                                                            Since the OP is Canadian, I'll chime in:

                                                            A "double double" in Canada (the "coffee" is understood) is a coffee with two helpings of cream (usually 10%, sometimes 18%), and two helpings of sugar. Some, who are clearly neither diabetic nor cardio-conscious, order "triple triple".

                                                            The following conversation is repeated thousands of times daily across the country:

                                                            "I'm going to Tim's - want anything?" (Tim Horton's is a ubiquitous doughnut chain.)

                                                            "Yeah - a double double and an apple fritter/bagel/sandwich/sack of Timbits"

                                                            1. re: FrankD

                                                              Is the coffee so bad there that you have to adulterate it in such a way?

                                                              1. re: cathodetube

                                                                love me some adulterated coffee. very comforting! reminds me of my childhood, when my grandparents introduced me to milky coffee. i got some coffee with my milk in a pretty china teacup.

                                                              2. re: FrankD

                                                                in new york-ese a regular coffee used to mean "with milk and 2 sugars"

                                                                that usage seems to be dying out though

                                                                1. re: FrankD

                                                                  OP is Canadian? News to me, I thought US born and bred. Caitlin?

                                                        2. I'm not sure about the snow peas and mangetout. I also see snow peas in my UK supermarket and they are bigger and thicker than what's called mangetout. Maybe it's just a different variety. Being an American, living here was very confusing at the start. :-)

                                                          Something else that's different is chow mein. In the UK, it usually refers to a strictly noodle dish - not too many veggies like bean sprouts in it (at least at my local).

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: zuriga1

                                                            Do you mean sugar snap peas? They're usually bigger than mangetout?

                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                              Sugar snaps are fat, like regular peas in pods, but you can eat the whole thing. Snow peas are flat, and also fully edible. Which one is mangetout?

                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                  Makes sense, since for snow peas you "eat the whole thing"!