English food names explained: A culinary journey through language

Charlotte Guest
Three young people sat outside eating pizza and smiling

Food is not just a means of nutrition; it can be a vibrant part of a culture's identity. English cuisine, influenced by its history, boasts a range of interesting and sometimes puzzling food names (some even puzzling fluent English speakers). Let's explore the stories behind some of the most well-known English food names.


English food names explained
Privacy and cookies

By watching, you agree Pearson can share your viewership data for marketing and analytics for one year, revocable by deleting your cookies.

Bangers and Mash

Let's start with this classic British dish loved and known by many.

The term "bangers" refers to sausages, which earnt its name during World War II when rationing caused sausages to be cut with things like extra water (to go further).

The extra water made them pop and bang when cooked. "Mash" refers to the creamy mashed potatoes that go with them.

Ploughman's Lunch

This traditional dish typically consists of a selection of cold ingredients, including cheese, cold meats, pickles, and bread.

The name originates from the idea that it was a meal enjoyed by ploughmen during their lunch break.

Bubble and Squeak

A dish made from leftover vegetables, usually leftovers from roast dinners. The name is said to come from the sound the vegetables make when they are fried—bubbling and squeaking in the pan.

Black Pudding

You might be thinking this is a nice dessert of sorts, but you'd be sorely surprised if it was served to you. Black pudding is a sausage made up of animal fat/blood and mixed with other things like oats and spices. This mix usually means its black in color. 

It's a very old dish with a written record of it as far back as 800 BC,  suspected to have come from the Romans.

Toad in the Hole

Despite its odd name, it is a lot nicer than it sounds. It consists of sausages baked in a large Yorkshire pudding.

The dish's name is thought to originate from the sausages poking through the batter, like toads peering out of a hole.

Scotch Egg

While you might think the name suggests a Scottish origin, the Scotch Egg is actually an English creation. It is a hard-boiled egg coated in sausage meat and breadcrumbs, deep-fried until golden brown.

The term "Scotch" here refers to the process of coating the egg.

Eton Mess

A dessert made with strawberries, whipped cream, and meringue. It’s thought that the dish was created at Eton College, a famous English school, when a pavlova dessert was accidentally dropped and mixed together.

The resulting mess became a beloved dessert and was aptly named Eton Mess.

Pork Scratchings

A popular pub snack, pork skin/rind is cooked to become a crunchy treat. They were originally made to make sure there was no part wasted of the pig.

The name's origin is up for debate, but it could be due to the rind that would have been scratched/scraped off.

English cuisine may have some peculiar dish names, but behind each one is a story, tradition, or nod to history. Some dishes have come about from hard times, needing to be resourceful and others have just been created by sheer chance or experimentation.

Exploring the names of food allows us to delve deeper into the country's cultural heritage and culinary traditions. Next time you encounter an unfamiliar English food name, remember there might be a story behind it.

Have a think about what food names from your country sound nothing like the dish, and why that name is used. You might find some surprising similarities.

More blogs from Pearson

  • A young child smiling in a classroom with a crayon in his hand.

    Young learners of English deserve more

    By Ehsan Gorji
    Reading time: 3 minutes

    Imagine a class of English language students aged 8 – 9 taught by a dynamic teacher they love. The young learners sit together for two hours, three times a week to learn English as a Foreign Language (EFL). The vibe they bring with them to the class, plus the dynamic teacher and the creativity she develops in her lesson plans, is fantastic.

    I have been observing trends in teaching EFL to young learners, and it is clear to me that school directors, syllabus generators, teachers, parents and learners are all satisfied with this image… “Hooray! Young learners sit together for two hours, three times a week to learn English as a Foreign Language. And the teacher is able to manage the class. Bravo!” But is it enough?

    What causes the lack of focus?

    It all begins with the coursebooks. If you take a coursebook for young learners and thumb through the ‘Scope and Sequence’ pages, you’ll see holistic definitions of language input in each unit. The school authorities then design a course based on the coursebook, and the snowball effect happens, whereby they design a course without specific details on what exactly to focus on.

    It is the teacher’s turn now. The creative and dynamic teacher provides an excellent classroom experience through which young learners can learn English together. She also assigns a piece of homework: write an email to a friend and tell her about your last holiday.

    When the teacher reviews the emails, she smiles as she finds many uses of the simple past tense—both in affirmative and negative forms. She then drafts an email thanking everyone and praising them generously. She includes a link to a PDF of other exercises to reinforce the grammar (the next day in class, they will review the completed handouts).

    This hardworking teacher tries to blend her style with digital literacy and applies creativity along the way. Everything seems perfect in her class, and she regularly receives emails from parents thanking her. Nevertheless, some questions remain: What was the task? What was the learning outcome? Which learning objective should have been tracked?

    Let’s reconsider the task – this time with our critic’s hat on – and analyze what has been taking place in this class. It is very nice that young learners sit together to learn English, and the teacher is able to manage the class successfully, but having fun and ease alone is not enough. We should aim for “fun, ease and outcomes”.*

    *Assessing Young Learners of English: Global and Local Perspectives, Dr Marianne Nikolov, 2016.

    Which important dynamics should be considered?

    The assigned piece of homework said: write an email to a friend and tell her about your last holiday. However, what actually occurred was a shift from this task to the students’ best performance in producing simple past-tense sentences. There are other important dynamics that have migrated out of the teacher’s focus. Did the students begin their emails appropriately? Was the tone appropriate? Did they pay attention to organizing their thoughts into sentences and paragraphs? Was the punctuation correct? Did they end their emails in the right way?

    If the coursebook had been equipped with clear and concrete learning objectives, the course directors would have employed them while designing study syllabuses, and the teacher would have used them when lesson planning. Consequently, the student’s formative and summative progress would have been evaluated against those detailed learning objectives rather than according to what some did better than the average.

    How can learning objectives be applied to tasks?

    With the Global Scale of English (GSE), publishers, course designers, teachers, and even parents can access a new world of English language teaching and testing. This global English language standard provides specific learning objectives for young learners that can be applied to tasks.

    For example, for our task, the GSE suggests the following learning objectives:

    • Can write short, simple personal emails/letters about familiar topics, given prompts or a model. (GSE 40/A2+)
    • Can use appropriate standard greetings and closings in simple, informal personal messages (e.g., postcards or emails). (GSE: 37/A2+)

    By applying language learning chunks – learning objectives, grammar and vocabulary – and identifying the can-do mission each one is supposed to accomplish, teaching and testing become more tangible, practical and measurable. Going back to my original scenario, it is excellent that young learners sit together for two hours, three times a week to learn English as a Foreign Language – provided that we know in detail which learning objectives to focus on, which skills to grow and what learning outcomes to expect.

  • A business woman and man sat at a long table discussing with eachother

    Improving employee engagement: The crucial role of language learning in business

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 8 minutes

    The ways we approach employee engagement are rapidly evolving and changing. For HR professionals and global business leaders, understanding these trends is essential to encourage a motivated, productive, and loyal workforce. A key yet often overlooked aspect of this engagement is the role of language learning and cultural understanding. Failure to adapt to the international market doesn’t just hinder growth—it can lead to significant financial losses.

    This blog post will delve into current employee engagement trends, provide suggestions for improvement, and talk about the importance of language learning and company culture in fostering a thriving global workforce through an effective employee engagement strategy.

  • A woman with headphones dancing in her living room

    Dance your way to fluent language learning and enhanced wellbeing

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Language learning can often feel daunting, with its endless vocabulary lists, grammatical structures and pronunciation rules. However, incorporating dance and movement into your study routine can transform this challenge into an engaging, enjoyable experience while significantly benefiting your overall wellbeing. This unusual approach is not only effective for language learners of all ages but also enriches the learning process with fun and physical activity.

    Engaging in movement and dance can substantially impact mental health, as evidenced by various studies and academic research. For instance, a notable study published in the American Journal of Dance Therapy highlighted that dance, particularly in structured environments, can reduce anxiety and improve mood among participants. This connection between dance and mental health improvement can be attributed to the release of endorphins, often referred to as happiness hormones, which occur during physical activity.