MED Magazine - Issue 16 - February 2004
Food and Cooking in American and British English
Fruit and vegetables
While most fruits and vegetables have the same names in American and British English, there are a few that differ. For example, the vegetable with a smooth, dark purple skin that is known as an aubergine in Britain is called an eggplant in the U.S. And those small, sweet berries with a dark blue skin that British speakers refer to as bilberries are called blueberries by Americans. Here are some other examples:
American and British English use the same words for basic, broad categories of meat: beef, pork and lamb. However, some American terms for specific meat dishes and cuts of meat might confuse a British shopper, and vice versa. For example, what the British call a joint (a large piece of meat, such as a leg of lamb or loin of pork, cooked in an oven and eaten with potatoes and other vegetables) is known as a roast in the U.S. Most Americans would be shocked to hear that the Sunday joint is a British family tradition. To Americans, a joint is not something that people roast, but something that they smoke: a marijuana cigarette. Here are some other potentially confusing examples:
Some varieties of seafood eaten in the U.K. and the U.S. are the same, but many are different. For example, the most popular shellfish in the U.S. what Americans call shrimp are called prawns in Britain, as in a prawn cocktail (quite naturally referred to as a shrimp cocktail in the U.S.). And whereas British shrimp are usually quite small, American shrimp come in a wide variety of sizes (from miniature through small, medium, large, extra large, jumbo, all the way up to colossal) and types, the most popular being the brown, pink, and white varieties from the Atlantic Ocean. Here are some other examples of differences in names for seafood:
Reading an American cookbook (called a cookery book in Britain), a British cook will quickly notice differences in the names for basic cooking equipment and terms for various cooking procedures. For example, when Americans want to bake a cake, they mix the dough in an electric blender (a liquidizer in Britain), and then set the dough in a cake pan (something called a cake tin in Britain) before placing it in the oven. And when yeast is added to American bread before it is baked, the dough rises (increases in size), whereas when yeast it added to British dough, it proves. Here are some other differences:
Types of restaurants
While both Americans and the British use the term restaurant to refer to a place where meals are prepared, sold and eaten, American English has some unique terms to describe places where you can buy meals that are quick, simple and cheap.
Ordering food in a restaurant
If you order breakfast in an American coffee shop
or diner, the waiter may ask, 'How do you want your eggs?' Assuming
that you want eggs, your answer can include any one of the usual possibilities
also available in Britain: boiled, fried, poached
or scrambled. However, if you choose to have your eggs fried,
you can be even more specific by using one of the following terms:
And here are some other shorthand terms that you are likely to hear in a coffee shop or diner:
Warning! If you ask for chips or potato chips
in an American restaurant, you will get what the British call crisps
(small, thin pieces of potato that have been cooked in oil).
A final note
If you are leaving an American restaurant and you want to know how much money you owe for your meal, you should ask for the check, the American word for what is usually called a bill in British English. Americans reserve the word bill for written statements showing how much money you owe for goods other than food, and services such as water, electricity or telephone.
Copyright © 2004 Macmillan Publishers Limited
This webzine is brought to you by Macmillan Education