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
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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.

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