Confused? Read this:
Olive oil comes from olives, soybean oil comes from soybeans, but what does canola oil come from? Canolas? There are no such things. Canola oil comes from the rapeseed, of the rape plant. Certainly, you don’t expect it to be marketed as rape oil, do you? Now, what about baby oil?
Soy beans have a bad rap, because they’re in everything, and some people are allergic to them, so the soy industry calls them edamame. Now they are the most popular “new” product around. Earthy type people love them! but if you dare tell them that the salad dressing is made from soy oil, they will shoot you with their low emissions guns, made from recycled material, of course.
The food industry is well aware of the way you perceive food. The big companies spend fortunes on marketing, and study people’s buying habits. Likewise, the restaurant industry knows that the way something is worded will affect your pockets. For example, a really tasty soup called “Yellow Broth” was renamed to “Pot o’ Gold Soup,” and sales increased.
Certain types of food lend themselves to specifics, such as beef. The customer wants to know what cut he is getting, so the menu will mention tenderloin, or rib. Other foods, though, because of those pesky words, prefer to be eaten as general things. For instance, the typically consumed edible part of the scallop that we all know and love is called the adductor muscle. How do you want your scallops? Fried? What if the menu says, “Adductor in rape oil.” Doesn’t sound so pleasant.
A good menu tells the guests what they need to know. They need to know what the heck they’re ordering. If you order something at a restaurant because it’s the only thing you can pronounce on the menu, you should suspect the chef is maneuvering around some lousy ingredients with some artsy language.
Speaking of menus, the next time you go out to eat, with your kids or spouse, try to rename some of the entrees. Come up with the goofiest name, and the simplest name, and see which you would prefer. Sprinkle in some French words, and overlap it with some Italian. You are most likely to eat the thing you recognize and know how to pronounce.
It may sound something like this, “The chicken that didn’t make it across the road, on bread that didn’t rise, with one-year old solidified cow’s milk,” or Chicken Quesadilla.
If someone offers you Rocky Mountain Oysters, politely decline these bovine reproductive organs. Offer them instead some Humble Pie. That’s deer intestine pie, with apples, currants and spices, which used to feed servants in 17th Century England. The name comes from “numble,” meaning deer innards, and eventually became a slang term for someone who has been put into their proper place.
The slang has regressed further. On such an occasion, someone “just got served.” The new slang actually indicates the opposite of the original meaning, whereas the person being put in their place is the one receiving the meal from the servant.
When being served, most people know that Escargot is snail, but what if you’re offered Escamole—not Escarole (endive)—in your omelet while vacationing in Mexico? Before you refuse, Ant Eggs actually look pretty darn good.
The New Food Lover’s Companion, Third Edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst was used as a reference for this article—and just about everything I do.