Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Food name weirdness

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is by a woman living in New York/New Jersey in America. In one of her entries recently she talks about a trip to the supermarket and her hunt for "arugula" and "romaine hearts". I wasn't sure if she was just making up random words to use instead of proper food names, but then I looked at the comments and people actually knew what she was talking about. "Hmmm," I thought to myself. "Perhaps these are real things." So I looked them up and sure enough, they are real. And stuff that we have here in Oz and can find in the supermarket most days. We just call them their proper names here ;). Arugula is rocket, and romain hearts are Cos lettuces. How about that!

Actually, it's something that I've come across before and had to search the web about. Another finslippy post mentions "clementines" and "applesauce". Okay, I'm sure the latter is just plain "apple sauce" with the space omitted (why do Americans do that?). But clementines? That one took me a while to find (here, we just call them "mandarins"... or maybe, by the description, something akin to Imperial Mandarins (which, by the way, are in season right now and oh so yummy. Atticus' favourite food at the moment. "'rin, 'rin," he'll say. A huge thanks to my friend Stephen who has a tree full of them and has brought me bags of them over the last few weeks.).

I find it incredible that there are so many names for the same foods, especially between overseas and here. My mother-in-law first discovered rockmelons in America and still calls them "cantaloupes". Other examples: augergines = eggplant, courgette = zucchini... I don't really know why I'm so surprised, growing up in a household with parents who speak more than one language (and hence have different names for all sorts of things). Even here in Sydney I remember reading that the Farmers Markets have decided on a standard naming scheme for Chinese veges, since there were so many names depending on what dialect people speak!

Anyway, thank goodness for Wikipedia, otherwise I'd live in a very unenlightened state (and would be even more irritated that I don't understand what people are talking about). Hooray for the information age!

1 comment:

Turning Japanese said...

How about Cilantro for corriander? My American friends here in Japan always call it that. Used to confuse me heaps.

I grew up in Melbourne and always used rock melon and cantaloupe interchangably...