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How famous foods got their names may surprise you

We love the following dishes and beverages and consume them regularly. But do you ever consider how they came about and where their names derive from? Here are our favorites’ tantalizing histories.

Barbecue doesn’t evolve from the French ‘barbe a queue’ (‘beard to tail’) or from American roadhouses that offered ‘Bar, Beer and Cue’ but from ‘barbacoa’, a word used by Caribbean Indians to describe a wooden framework for smoking and cooking food as well as for storage and sleeping. The Spanish adopted barbacoa as an implement and a way of cooking – by the 17th century it was in the English language. Ironically, although barbecuing is seen as ‘masculine’ women barbecued while men hunted.

It’s easy to presume that the west’s favorite hangover cure is named after an executed Catholic English queen but as the vodka and tomato juice drink wasn’t invented until the 1920s, and in France, the chances are it was named after film star Mary Pickford who already had a red cocktail named after her. French chef Fernand Petiot also lays claim to the modern version of the drink, stating that he spiced it up and made it what it is today in a Manhattan bar in the late 1930s.

Buffets can seem a bit low-rent these days, associated with soulless hotels and all-you-eat gorging, but in the 18th century they were more refined and fashionable affairs. French for ‘cabinet’ or ‘sideboard’, the buffet’s similar to Sweden’s smorgasbord and held an array of dishes. It became popular in Great Britain in the latter part of the 19th century and is now part of the culinary landscape.

This frothy coffee – as it’s sometimes affectionately called – of espresso and a deep layer of steamed milk foam gets its name from similarly-colored habits that were adopted by Capuchin friars. However, the modern version we know today didn’t appear in Italy until between the world wars.

Portions are big and beautiful in the USA and so it’s no surprise that the Club sandwich, which boasts three layers of bread as opposed to the usual two, comes from America. This doubledecker chicken and BLT combo was the brainchild of some clever clogs at a late-19th century private gaming club (or possibly the Union Club) in New York – apparently the bread was toasted to soak up mayo, thus avoiding spillages.

Dutch settlers brought over the early version of this vegetable salad to America. Called ‘koolsla’ (‘kool’ meaning ‘cabbage’ and ‘sla’ meaning ‘salad’) it eventually became anglicized to ‘coleslaw’. Originally a dish of thinly-sliced cabbage mixed with melted butter, oil and vinegar, mayonnaise was added at a later date (after it was invented).

We have British traders to thank for bringing curry to our attention – when trading with Tamil merchants in southern India they embraced the local ‘kari’ (Tamil for ‘sauce’). The first recipe printed in a Western language is in a 17th-century Portuguese cookbook – Portugal had colonies in India between 1505-1961 and ‘vindaloo’ is an Indian version of the adobe-like dish ‘carne de vinha d’alhos’. In 1780, curry powder was created in Great Britain and a love affair with spice began.

It’s an ongoing bone of contention as to which country invented French fries. It could have been Belgium, which borders France and shares the same language. Whichever nation is right the world regards these revered fried potato slices as Gallic. The dish’s introduction to the States was down to one-time ambassador to France and Francophile Thomas Jefferson who, after becoming president in 1801, had “potatoes served in the French manner” for dinner at the White House.

In France, French toast is called ‘pain perdu’, which means ‘lost bread’ in typically romantic Gallic style. It got this name because, originally, the bread used was stale and ‘rescued’ by being dipped in eggs, milk and sugar then fried. For a while, Americans angry with French disapproval of the Iraq invasion changed its name to ‘freedom toast’ (French fries got the same treatment). It has since reverted back.

Intrinsically linked with the USA, hamburgers are arguably the country’s signature dish. There are at least half a dozen claims to their invention: Charles Nagreen from Wisconsin; Louis Lassen from Connecticut; Oscar Weber Bilby from Oklahoma; The Menches from New York; and German Otto Kuase to name some. It’s likely that a snack of ‘brötchen’ (bread roll) stuffed with ground meat was brought over by German immigrants who were nicknamed hamburgers after the Hamburger America Line they sailed on.

Predictably, the steamed pork sausages in hot dogs originated in Frankfurt, Germany, many centuries ago. But the term hot dog was coined much later. In the USA. It wasn’t unusual for sausages to be known as dogs – this was because, in the 19th century, it wasn’t unheard of for dog meat to be used. However, the first examples of (dog-free) hot dogs show up in American newspapers in the 1890s.

Ketchup’s etymology has its roots in the 17th Chinese Amoy dialect, deriving from the word ‘kê-chiap’, which translates as the brine of pickled fish. English explorers discovered it on their travels around Asia and the word developed, as did the sauce – from a fishy spicy blend, to a mushroom version, to the tomato variety we know and love (or love to hate) today

There are some nice backstories to the name of this potent cocktail – one is that the Brits named it after the feisty Martini-Henry rifle; another is that it was created for a drinker on his way to Martinez, California. The truth is that it was named after the family-owned company Martini (now Martini & Rossi), which manufactures the vermouth that makes up part of the drink.

Pasta is very old – it’s been eaten for millennia (certainly before Christ) – but was, until relatively recently, known by the individual names of each variety, of which there are many. The word ‘pasta’, which has become an umbrella term to encompass a huge range of products, is Latin and means ‘dough’ or ‘pastry’.

There are numerous ways the modern day word ‘pizza’ could have evolved – it could derive from the same word the Greek flatbread ‘pitta’ came from, or from ‘pizzo’ from the now-defunct Lombardic language, meaning ‘mouthful’ or ‘to bite’. What we can be sure of is that the pizza we eat today has it roots in Naples, Italy, where it was a peasant dish and one eaten on the go.

Like Earl Grey tea one of the world’s favorite light bites was named after a member of the British aristocracy – in this case John Montagu, the 4th Earl Sandwich (1718-92). Legend has it the sandwich was born because the corrupt official and notorious gambler started to eat meat between two slices of bread so not to mark playing cards with fat. Sandwich’s biographer N.A.M. Rodger, however, professed that it’s more likely the snack was created so his subject could continue working at his desk.

SOURCE: Lovefood


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