The world of food can be a confusing place. If you find yourself confronted with a menu full of things that you’ve never heard of, sometimes the most sensible thing can be ordering something familiar. At least that way, you know roughly what you’re going to get. Right?
Unfortunately for nervous diners, food is never as simple as that. Everywhere you look are dishes that may share a name with something you recognise, but are actually totally different. This can make conservative ordering a whole lot more dangerous and potentially disappointing than you might think. To help you come prepared, we’ve prepared a list of foods that mean completely different things in other countries. At least now you’ll have an idea of what to expect.
In Britain, a biscuit comes in many shapes and sizes. They can be crumbly, fruity, chocolatey or sugary, but one thing remains consistent - they are always sweet. Not so in America. Order a biscuit here and you’ll end up with something dough, savoury and much less satisfying than their British counterparts.
Crossing the Atlantic seems to be a catalyst for confusing food names. In America, chips refer to any crispy, deep fried, bagged snack, such as Pringles or Lays. Go to Britain, on the other hand, and an order of chips will get you a plate of fatter French fries, usually with a side of salt and vinegar. Unlike biscuits, both of these alternatives are actually quite delicious.
Wherever you are, a side of gravy will get you some sort of sauce. From this starting point, the possibilities are endless. In the southern states of America, for instance, gravy means a coating of thick, white sauce, while in England, gravy is an almost always brown, meat based liquid that can be paired with anything from pie to chips.
If you’re in a jam over confusing food words, don’t order jelly. Signature American foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or jelly donuts all feature what most of the rest of the world would refer to as “jam”. To the rest of us, jelly is the clear, wobbly, gelatine-based blob that can appear everywhere from fine dining menus to children’s party tables.
5. Pigs in blankets
Wherever you’re eating them, pigs in blankets are definitely in the running for the world’s cutest food name. That doesn’t stop them from being confusing. Stateside, these snacks feature sausages wrapped in a blanket of flakey pastry, whereas the British substitute the dough for bacon. While both versions are definitely delicious, bacon clearly puts one on top.
Starting the day with a slice of toast is the most natural thing in the world for many early risers around the world. Be warned, however, if you ask for toast in the Czech republic. Here, “toast” actually means “toastie”, or “grilled cheese”, meaning your breakfast can quickly become heavier than you may have intended.
They may have become one of the most popular ways to package delicious food before popping it in your mouth, but there’s more to tortillas than meets the eye. In Spain, for instance, rather than referring to the soft corn flour wraps, a “tortilla” is actually an egg and potato omelette. This can make things extra confusing for anyone expecting a type of European Tex-Mex.
Menus are, most of the time, fairly self-explanatory. However, every once in a while you will come across something that has the potential to confuse. At least now you have a rough idea of what to look out for.