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Nov 5, 2012 02:22 AM

Flexibility of food names

I've seen a number of posts related to sushi and thoughts of what should and should not be called sushi. I don't have nearly the emotional response to that - however when I hear terms such as "black bean humus", I bristle.

Humus (in Arabic) means chickpea, and in most humus places it is possible (and common) to order humus (the spread) with humus (the whole chickpea). Therefore the idea of humus made without chickpeas is no longer humus to me. I get the idea that the word brings to mind a "creamy spread" - but personally the expansion of the word doesn't work for me. In my world there will never be a white bean walnut humus. (Not that it can't be a tasty/yummy spread - but I won't call it humus)

What are the food terms where you hold onto the traditional definition of the word? Which ones are you less possesive of?

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  1. Using houmous as the example, I think it's simply menu shorthand describing a dish in a way that customers will readily understand. Most folk will know what houmous is, so to describe something as a "black bean houmous" is easier than describing it as a "black bean dip, similar in texture and seasoning to houmous"

    That said, folk who call a dish using beef "shepherd's pie" deserve to be taken down a dark alley and be given a good talking to . Or maybe worse. ;-)

    4 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      which is nearly as bad as using lamb in 'squab pie', or bangers in place of toads

      1. re: Harters

        I've had vegetarian shepherd's pie & vegetarian steak & kidney pie. At that point in time, the names is more of a distraction.

        1. re: Kalivs

          Given the American inclination to label any casserole with a mash potato topping, a shepherd's pie, it's not surprising that places make a vegetarian shepherds pie. TVP or even vegetarian chili would work as the base.

          It's harder to imagine what might be in 'vegetarian steak and kidney pie'. The only vegetarian thing that I've had that comes close to kidney in texture is Chinese gluten products (mock duck, etc).

        2. re: Harters

          I forgive myself for calling it shepherds' pie because I reckon the shepherd "borrowed" one of his neighbour's cows to make it rather than slaughter one of his own sheep.

        3. What if it is Humus (the spread) made with Humus (the bean) with additional Black Beans ?

          I think that Humus (spread) has become the generic term for a class of spread made with beans (different from a white beans dip).

          The same thing with Pesto (which is basically a "paste"), but "purists" will tell you that it is only made with such and such ingredients.

          Same thing with "Sushi" ... which as become a generic term for whatever is "rolled" (for the sake of simplicity) in nori with rice.

          Personally, I don't really care; as long as it tastes good, I'm ok with that.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Maximilien

            To me, if the spread was made with both chickpeas and blackbeans - I would be fine with that being called humus, as nontraditional as it would be. Chickpea just needs to be a significant component of the spread (by my definition).

          2. Im guilty of bastardizing quite a few food terms I must admit. The one that gets on my nerves is confit. ITS NOT POSSIBLE TO MAKE GARLIC CONFIT OR TOMATO CONFIT ETC ETC SO JUST STOP IT ALREADY. Ok, glad I got that off my chest. I realize that the meaning of the word has slowly changed, but to me a confit has to be cooked in its OWN fat.

            15 Replies
            1. re: twyst

              That is not true.
              You can make Confit of virtually anything. The word means to Preserve.
              I French you need to say what kind of Confit you are talking about Ie: Confit de Canard, Confit de Tomates,Confit d'échalotes. You can also in other things than fats, Confit au Vinaigre, Sugar or Honey

              1. re: chefj

                I don't have a good culinary source with me right now but I have to agree that the proper use of confit is to cook a meat in its own fat. Now over time that may have changed but I think those changed are a in conflict with the original meaning (the topic of the thread).

                1. re: thimes

                  You can agree all you want, but it doesn't make it so. Just think of "confiture," which is fruit preserves. To confit something is to preserve it.

                  1. re: PSZaas

                    The OED dictionary defines it as cooking meat slowly in its own fat, but also as coming from the French ‘conserved’, from confire ‘ to prepare’.

                      1. re: chefj

                        yeah, I'd posted it prior to that reply, but it's good to see people agree :)

                    1. re: PSZaas

                      Hmmm. Good point. I'm hanging my coat on the "not a French culinary language historian" on this one and bowing out.

                    2. re: thimes

                      Actually the opposite has happened. The word started off simply meaning "preserved" in any way, salt, fat, sugar, vinegar and has narrowed over the centuries.

                  2. re: twyst

                    if that's the case, you have a big job ahead of you, taking on half the prepared-foods industry in France.

                    The word "confit" is used to describe pretty much anything preserved -- and it's their word, so I reckon they're the ones who know how to use it.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      "if that's the case, you have a big job ahead of you, taking on half the prepared-foods industry in France.

                      The word "confit" is used to describe pretty much anything preserved -- and it's their word, so I reckon they're the ones who know how to use it."

                      While I agree that confit is used to describe everything now, unless I am greatly mistaken this has not always been the case. Cooking bibles like escoffier and larousse only contain recipes for confit that is cooked in its own fat, and its also how it is taught in CIA and le cordon Bleu curriculums.

                      1. re: twyst

                        Sorry to disagree,older editions in English,pre 90's and all of mine in French of Escoffier , Larousse and Le Cordon Bleu spanning decades use "confit",treat the word in proper French.

                        1. re: lcool

                          Then I shall defer to you as my newer versions only list duck and goose confit.

                          1. re: twyst

                            Interesting,my 2006 and 2008 editions of garde manger & professional chef add,one for salmon and one for pork.Using a phase ,meat,traditionally goose or duck,to include X,as above.

                            1. re: lcool

                              They are American Books and it is a French technique and word.

                              1. re: chefj

                                going back up to twyst's post above and mine I was remarking about the inconstant,fickle differences between two modern US editions,not about older US or French books discussed above that.

                  3. I am fairly pissy about it,it is a long list.Just a few here.
           a charted,butcher cut of BEEF.....skirt steak
                    London Broil a recipe.....NOT a cut of beef
                    Sushi ..... is rice

                    At my age I've seen the marketing gimmick bastardization of much.As globalization continues to play a larger and larger role,with every manner of ingredient and culture cross pollinating I think to expect more and get used to it,as long as AVA's,DOCG's and other historic heritage designations are respected totally.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: lcool

                      'fajita' is a little strip (diminutive of faja).

                      But it is a good example of the evolution of a name, from a regional use of beef trimmings (e.g. skirt) to something that is common in restaurants around the country


                      The first time I had it was at a catered conference meal in Austin in the mid 1980s. There is was the whole grilled piece of meat (I can't guaranteed that they used skirt or not), sliced thin, and served with tortillas and the fixings. Strips of beef (much less other meats) grilled and served on a hot skillet is definitely an evolution from that.

                      1. re: paulj

                        Like nearly everything listed in this thread,we just have to get used to it.

                    2. I had an almost-visceral reaction last year when someone posted a question about "Meat Hamentaschen." Now, I don't have a problem with someone calling latkes "potato pancakes." Chopped liver? Call it that, or call it chicken liver pate. Hell, call it Gehatke Leiber, if you want to. But Meat Hamentaschen? No, no no. That's just WRONG. So wrong it can never be made right. :)

                      9 Replies
                        1. re: mamachef

                          Now I want to eat Hamentashen.

                          1. re: mamachef

                            Why would there even conceivably be a problem with calling "potato pancakes" "potato pancakes?" I accept that some people call them "latkes." :)

                            1. re: Wawsanham

                              No. They're called Kartoffelpuffer.

                              1. re: Wawsanham

                                I said I didn't have a problem with it, but some people do. Different strokes. Peace.

                                  1. re: Wawsanham

                                    You mean nobody's mentioned Rösti yet?