The world of food words
The culinary world always serves up a feast of new terminology, and the latest spread is no disappointment. The new menu ranges from the healthy—such as superfruit, a term used to refer to fruits considered to be particularly beneficial—to the markedly less healthy—such as shoestring fries, also known as shoestring potatoes, which are French fries sliced extremely thinly. If you order the Cuban sandwich frita (from the feminine of Spanish frito meaning ‘fried’), you’ll find a handful of these fries in addition to seasoned pork and beef. Should you require something a little more vegan, perhaps you’ll be tempted by aquafaba, a substitute for egg whites used in vegan cooking, with a name that translates from Latin to ‘water-bean’. This name is a reference to the substance’s origins as the water in which chickpeas, or other pulses, have been cooked.
Our lexicographical plates are loaded with foods from across the globe. There’s the Japanese takoyaki—made with chopped octopus formed into balls and cooked in batter—and tonkatsu sauce—a sweet and savoury sauce typically served with breaded pork. The Thai pad kee mao may also be known by its Anglicized name of drunken noodles; this spicy stir-fry consists of vegetables with meat, fish, or tofu served with rice noodles. There are many explanations for the origin of this name. Some believe that it’s a reference to the supposed drunkenness of the chef, leading to ingredients haphazardly chosen and thrown together; others think that it’s a reference to the eater’s drunkenness, either because the meal is a popular choice at the end of a night out, or because its spiciness leads you to drink alongside it until you end up drunk.
Hopping continents, we’ve also added to our dictionary ras-el-hanout, a spice mix used in North African cooking. Its name is derived from the Arabic raʾs al-ḥānūt, which means ‘top of the shop’, indicating that the spices chosen—sometimes up to thirty spices, typically including cumin, coriander seeds, chilli, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom—are the best the shopkeeper has available.
You can see why we need the rule of never defining food before lunch; it can truly whet the appetite.