The Origins of 7 Foods W/ Odd Names
FOODS WITH ODD NAMES – In this article, you will know the seven (7) foods with odd names and their history.
Whether you’re trying out a new restaurant or enjoying a meal cooked at home with friends, most of the dishes you come across are typically straightforward. Items like mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, or chocolate cake are easily recognizable even with minimal information.
However, even some of the well-established American dishes have unique names that might leave you curious about their origins. Let the intriguing histories of these seven peculiarly named foods provide a refreshing perspective for your culinary knowledge.
1. Hot Dogs
Even though their origin is in Germany, hot dogs have become an integral part of American cuisine, with an estimated 7 billion of them being consumed each summer in the United States alone. Despite the vast number of sausages grilling, the term “hot dogs,” referring to a food that doesn’t actually involve dogs, has become widely accepted. But where did this name come from? Some food historians speculate that early songs and jests contributed to the name “hot dogs,” hinting that sausage meat might have been derived from dogs. However, a more plausible explanation is that German butchers in early America dubbed the frankfurters “dachshund sausages” due to their resemblance to the long and slender dogs. This moniker eventually evolved into “hot dogs.”
Beware of the common misconception regarding sweetbreads: they are neither sugary nor baked. This is because sweetbreads are not a type of pastry, but rather a category of offal, which refers to organ meats. These small, tender cuts are, in fact, the thymus and pancreas glands of calves or lambs. Despite potentially sounding unappetizing to certain diners, many chefs recognize sweetbreads for their exceptional tenderness and subtle flavor, which might explain their deceptive name. The earliest documented mention of this British dish dates back to the 1500s, an era when “bread” (sometimes spelled as “brede”) denoted roasted or grilled meats. Given their delicate nature and superior taste compared to tougher cuts, the term “sweetbread” likely gained traction.
3. Head Cheese
The production of head cheese does not involve any dairy, contrary to what the name implies. In reality, this dish more closely resembles a meatloaf than a spreadable cheese. Head cheese is essentially an aspic, a savory gelatin containing bits of meat, molded into slices or blocks. As for its name, “head cheese” partly originates from the leftover meat scraps collected from the heads of butchered pigs. Despite not being a cheese, the dish probably acquired its name due to early recipes instructing the compression of boiled meats in a cheese mold. Head cheese is popular worldwide, particularly in Europe, where it’s known by less perplexing names. In the United Kingdom, butchers refer to it as “brawn,” while in Germany, meat enthusiasts know it as “souse.”
4. Pumpernickel Bread
Pumpernickel Bread, a term that might raise questions, has its origins in Germany. This dense and dark bread is crafted from a blend of rye flour, molasses, and sourdough starter. The dough is then baked at low temperatures for an entire day. In the United States, some bakers expedite the process using yeast and wheat flour, resulting in a lighter loaf that mitigates pumpernickel’s signature side effect: gas production. Historically, German bakers humorously acknowledged the bread’s gas-inducing quality with an unflattering nickname: “pumpern” meaning “to break wind,” combined with “nickel” signifying “goblin or devil.” This combination translates to “devil’s fart,” alluding to the bread’s potential digestive challenges.
5. Jerusalem Artichokes
Among vegetables, the Jerusalem artichoke stands out for its misleading name. This knobbly root crop bears no relation to actual artichokes and has no connection to Israel. In contrast to true artichokes that produce edible bulbs above ground, Jerusalem artichokes are the edible tuber roots of a sunflower species. These tubers were initially called “sunroots” by Indigenous Americans, who shared them with French explorers in the early 1600s. After reaching France, they were termed “topinambours.” Italian cooks later renamed them “girasole,” meaning “sunflower” in reference to their above-ground growth. The mispronunciation of “girasole” eventually led to the name “Jerusalem,” with “artichoke” added due to the vegetable’s flavor.
These oddly named foods demonstrate how cultural and historical influences, as well as linguistic quirks, can give rise to culinary delights that might sound unusual to outsiders but hold cherished places in their respective culinary traditions.