Culinary Misnomers or why Danish Pastries are not Danish

One of the many interesting things about living in another country is that you get to have your preconceived notions about things challenged fairly regularly. For example outside of Denmark the things in the photograph below are called ‘Danishes’ or ‘Danish Pastries‘. Neither will you find pastries like these in Denmark nor do they originate from Denmark. Though the Danes know about this misnomer, they actually call their pastries ‘wienerbrød’ (Viennese bread). The reason for this was that bakery workers in Denmark went on strike in 1850, which caused the bakery owners to hire in bakers from abroad. Several of these were from Austria and brought with them their viennoiserie pastry skills, especially Plundergebäck which then became popular in Denmark. Today’s wienerbrød in Denmark tend to be flavoured heavily with cinnamon and sugar, but very rarely with them ever will they contain creme patissiere.

Danish Pastries are not Danish

Danish Pastries are not Danish

There are many misnomers in the food world that can be confusing for visitors to other places when trying things for the first time ordering from a new menu. For example see ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters‘ below, which would certainly shock someone who didn’t know that it wasn’t oysters at all. From the Wikipedia article on misnomers, there are many reasons for why these misnomers occur including an older name for something continuing to be used, similarity of appearance, a foreign word being used for something, marketing terms, protected names, food name fails, difference between the popular and technical definitions, anachronisms, ambiguities, tautologies, contradictions, euphemisms and mis-association with a place as in the aforementioned Danish pastries.

Just like a previous list of culinary differences between UK & US English, I am sure this list will create plenty of discussion, and controversy as well as growing over time. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything.

The List of Culinary Misnomers,
Euphemisms, Misconceptions, Tautologies, Contradictions & Anachronisms

Albany Beef
A humorous name for the large amounts of Atlantic Sturgeon caught in the Hudson river near the town of Albany in the 18th & 19th centuries.
Alewives have nothing to do with Ale, but are a type of North American herring. The origin of the name seems to be lost in time, but it has been suggested that it may come from the French alose, used for river herrings or shad.
Apple Butter
Apple butter contains no butter or even resembles it. Instead it is very concentrated, dark brown, apple sauce made by slowly caramelising the apples with sugar and cider.
Bananas are botanically berries
Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs do not come from baby pigs, but are named because they are shorter compared to spareribs.
Baked Alaska
Baked Alaska is a dessert made of ice-cream covered in cooked meringue. It doesn’t come from Alaska, but it is claimed that it is was invented to celebrate the purchase of Alaska by the US from Russia, but no records exist to support the claim.
Black Pudding
Not a dessert but a type of blood sausage made from grains, spices and blood.  ‘Pudding’ is commonly used term in the parts of the UK for similar types of sausage including white, red & mealy. The name is believed to come from a Anglicised pronunciation of the French word boudin, for sausage.
Pudding is an Anglicised pronunciation of the French word boudin

Why is a blood sausage called a pudding?

The word biscuit comes from the French ‘bescuit’ meaning twice cooked, but in the US it is used for a savoury scone like bread, and in other parts of the world it is used to describe hard, crisp dry baked goods similar to cookies.
Biscuit in the USA, Biscuit is the rest of the world

Biscuit USA v Rest of the World

Boiled Eggs
To ‘boil an egg’ you don’t have to use boiling water, in fact you should in preference use simmering water, otherwise you can cause the egg whites to become tough and rubbery. Oven cooked eggs, i.e. cooked in their shells in the oven will be indistinguishable from boiled eggs, or should we say simmered eggs.
Bombay Duck
It is from India, but it isn’t a duck. Instead it is a fish. Again the origin of the name is lost in time.
Boston Butt
This meat cut doesn’t come from the rear of the pig, but instead it is a shoulder cut, but New England butchers packed cheaper cuts of meat into barrels for transportation, which where called butts.
Buffalo Wings
Nothing to do with bison, but a fried breaded chicken wing covered in sauce, invented in the town of Buffalo, New York.
Canadian Bacon
The name Canadian Bacon only exists in the US. In Canada bacon traditionally refers to un-smoked back bacon. Whereas Canadian Bacon in the US is made from pork loin and may have originated from peameal bacon (or cornmeal bacon) developed in Ontario Canada, which is un-smoked, cured pork loin, rolled in ground yellow peas.
Chicken Fingers
Obviously chickens don’t have fingers, just like fish.
Chicken of the woods
An edible shelf mushroom, that grows on the side of trees, that can be used as a chicken substitute.
Chilean Sea Bass
It isn’t a bass at all. It is related to cod. The name is purely a marketing invention, because the real name is the Patagonian toothfish, which doesn’t sound as appetising.
The majority of cinnamon used in the world isn’t cinnamon at all, but cassia instead.
An example of the difference between popular and technical definitions. A coconut is not a nut, but a fruit.
Colonial Goose
Not a goose, but roasted leg of lamb stuffed with onions, sage, parsley, thyme, & breadcrumbs. Early settlers to New Zealand wanted to recreate a dish from back home, but only had access to lamb and not goose.
Coney Island Whitefish
Certainly not something you would want to eat. Let’s just say you should read this on what a Coney Island Whitefish is.
Corned Beef
Corned beef refers to the curing process of the meat, i.e. ‘corns’ of salt and nothing to do with maize. There is also a difference between corned beef in the US and the rest of the world,
Crab Sticks
Crab Sticks have never seen a real crab. They are made from various types of white fish with crab flavouring, red food colouring and shaped to look like snowcrab leg meat.
Cream Crackers
Cream crackers are a savoury cracker usually spread with cheese, however they contain no cream. The name comes from the method of mixing the ingredients during their manufacture called ‘creaming’.
Cullen Skink
Cullen Skink is a creamy soup made from smoked haddock and potatoes from the town of Cullen in the North East of Scotland. The name is though to derive from the Dutch word for ‘shank’ being ‘schenke’. As far as I know, I don’t think haddock have shanks.
Danish Pastries
As above, Danish Pastries are not Danish, but Austrian in origin and are called wienerbrød in Denmark, literally ‘Viennese bread’.
Digby Chicken
Not poultry, but a smoked herring first coined after the town of Digby, Nova Scotia.
Dunbar Wether
In Scotland a Wether is a male castrated sheep, however a Dunbar Wether, is a salted herring from the fishing town of Dunbar.
Dutch Baby
A sweet popover style of breakfast pancake, very similar to Yorkshire pudding batter, sweetened and larger. The name implies that they are from the Netherlands, but they are an American invention, possibly derived from a German recipe and the name is a corruption of ‘deutsch’.
English Muffins
English muffins are one of the main components of Eggs Benedict and are American in origin, not English. Though to be fair it was an Englishman, Samuel Bath Thomas, that invented them after emigrating to New York.
English Muffins were invented in America

English Muffins were invented in America

In American English, entrée on a menu implies the main course, where as elsewhere in the world it means the starter. The term originates in France with the first course of a banquet called ‘entrée de table’ literally ‘entering the table’.
Not the pejorative term for a gay man in American English, but a meatball dish from the North of England made from pork offcuts and offal. To make things more confusing, in certain areas such as Yorkshire they are also know as ‘savoury ducks’
A Fitless Cock
A traditional Scottish oatmeal ‘pancake’ and nothing to do with chickens.
Florentine Dishes
Dishes that have Florentine in them such as Eggs Florentine or Quiche Florentine do not come from the Italian city of Florence, but contain spinach. The name is due to the to spinach being the favourite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici and when she moved to France from Florence she took her own chefs and the French term ‘al la Florentine’ came about.
French Dressing
Everywhere in the world except the US, French Dressing usually implies a simple vinaigrette made from oil, vinegar, salt and mustard used for salad. However in the US, French dressing is a oil and vinegar vinaigrette with the addition of tomato paste, ketchup and sugar. Many French people when visiting the US are shocked when presented something that doesn’t exist in France. The name in the US, probably arose from commercial product in the early 1900s, in the same way that French’s Mustard is not French.
French Fries
American soldiers stationed in Belgium during World War I and coined the name ‘French Fries’. However both Belgium and France argue over who first invented the process of deep frying sticks of potato the name is American in origin. In France they are called pommes frites.
French Fries are Belgian

These fries were invented in Belgium

French Toast
Though the dish of left over bread soaked in eggs & milk, then fried has existed long before the name came about. The name ‘French Toast‘ was first recorded 1660, though a slightly different recipe, but it wasn’t until the 1870s when the modern recipe and name became popular. Note in France it is called pain perdu, literally ‘lost bread’
French Toast is not French

In France this is called Pain Perdu

Fricot a la belett
Fricot a la belett is a French Acadian dish. The name translates as ‘weasel stew’, but contains no meat,. The weasel part is that the chef is as sly as a weasel for leaving out the meat.
Not related to a duck at all, but an anglicised version of the Lushootseed (the language of a Native North American tribe) word gʷídəq which means genitals for an edible saltwater clam.
German Chocolate Cake
This chocolate cake doesn’t come from Germany, but was invented by an American baker called Samuel German.
Gourock Ham
Gourock is a small fishing town in Scotland, but a Gourouk ham is a salted herring and nothing to do with pigs.
Grape Nuts
A breakfast cereal that contains neither grapes nor nuts. The name is probably because the finished product resembles grape seeds and are very crunchy like nuts.
Ground Cherries
Ground cherries are not cherries nor do they even resemble cherries. It is another name for Physalis or cape gooseberry. Note, they are not gooseberries either.
The owner of this well know ice cream brand claimed the name was Danish, however the umlaut above the first ‘a’ does not appear in Danish, nor do the combination of the letter ‘zs’
Contains no ham, but ground beef instead. The name possibly comes from a 1847 when a Hamburg steak was served between 2 pieces of bread. A Hamburg steak was a German frikadellen.
Hawaiian Pizza
Hawaiian Pizza originated in Canada and not Hawaii. The pizzeria owner, Panopoulos who invented it, claimed the name came from the brand of tinned pineapple he used . Other such dishes that have ‘Hawaiian’ in their name imply that they contain ham & pineapple, not that they come from Hawaii.
Head Cheese
Does not contain cheese, but is a terrine made from the jelly and meat from either a calf or pigs head, though the appearance does look similar to cheese.
Horseradish isn’t called such because it is a favourite vegetable of horses, but either because the German name is ‘Meerrettich’ (Sea Radish) and it became corrupted into English as Mare (a female horse), or it refers to its coarse nature which can be seen in other words such as horsechesnut & horsemint.
Hot Dog
Hopefully hot dogs today don’t contain dog meat, though in the past it was a common belief that sausage makers used dog meat in their products and the name stuck.
Jerusalem Artichoke
These strange shaped tubers are neither from Jerusalem or artichokes. One possible etymology for the name is that Italian settlers to the US called the plant girasole artichoke which means sunflower artichoke because of the plants yellow flowers. This was possibly corrupted by English speakers to Jerusalem artichoke. The artichoke part of the name is possibly to do with a French explorer who noted that the taste was similar to artichokes.
King Crab
King carbs are not crabs but a descended from crab like ancestors.
Kosher Salt
Kosher Salt itself isn’t kosher, i.e. blessed by a Rabbi, it’s that the coarse salt is used in the dry brining of meats in Jewish communities, i.e. ‘koshering’.
Not bread at all, but a Welsh delicacy made from boiled laver (seaweed), coated in oats and then fried. Called Bara Lafwr in Welsh
Lemon Sole
Lemon Sole is neither a sole or tastes of lemon. It is a flounder. The lemon component of the name is probably comes from the French word ‘limande’.
Liver Cheese
Leberkäse (literally liver cheese )is a German liver pate that like head cheese has an appearance that looks similar to cheese.
London Broil
London broil is an American method of broiling (grilling) marinated beef and has nothing to do with London. The name only refers to the method of cooking and not any specific cut of beef.
Long Island Iced Tea
An alcoholic cocktail made with cola, gin, light rum, tequila, triple sec and vodka, but no tea. However it does originate from Long Island, New York and it has a colour that is similar to tea.
Modern mincemeat contains no meat, but is a mixture of minced dried fruit, spices and alcohol usually as a stuffing for Mince Pies at Christmas time. In the past mincemeat would have contained meat such as mutton, beef or venison.
Monte Cristo
A Monte Cristo is an American fried cheese & ham sandwich similar to the French croque monsieur, but doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Italian island of the same name.
Open Faced Sandwich
Surely the word ‘sandwich’ implies that something is ‘sandwiched’ between two other things, therefore an opens faced sandwich can’t really be called a sandwich. Though I don’t really want to get into the debate again of what is a sandwich. Open faced sandwich are popular in many countries with smørrebrød in Denmark being the most well known.
The peanut (groundnut) is not a nut. Botanically it is a legume which peas are also.
Persian (roll)
A Persian roll is a sweet cinnamon roll with pink fruit icing that originates from Thunder Bay, Canada. They do not come from Persia, but it is probably named after the US general John Pershing.
Pfeffernüsse (Pepper Nuts) are small spiced cookies popular at Christmas in Germany, Denmark & the Netherlands. They do not contain either black pepper or nuts. The name comes about from their ‘spicy’ taste and that they are the size and have the crunch of nuts. Common spices include ginger, nutmeg, anise, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon & mace, but no pepper.
Poor Man’s Goose
Actual there are many different recipes, called ‘Poor Man’s Goose’, which are usually pork liver and vegetables cooked together, but none of them contain goose.
Generally used to describe a dessert, but certain parts of the world it is used for a savoury sausage. See Black Pudding
Botanically a raspberry is not a berry, but is an aggregate fruit instead. Similarly mulberries are not berries either.
Refried Beans
Refried beans are usually never fried once, let alone twice. The confusing name comes from the Spanish name for them ‘frijoles refritos’ which mean ‘well fried’, but the majority of the time they are just boiled and then mashed.
Road Apple
We suggest that you should never eat a road apple. They are not fruit, but a euphemistic name for horse droppings.
Rock Salmon
Rock salmon is a type of small shark and not a salmon. It is eaten in various European countries.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Rocky Mountain Oysters, prairie oysters, bull fries, dusted nuts, swinging beef or calf fries are euphemistic names for battered, deep fried calf testicles. Similar dishes such as lamb fries, pig fries and even turkey fries are made in the same way.
Rocky Mountain Oysters are deep fried calf testicles

Fill me up a plate of those Prairie Oysters

Russian Dressing
A purely American invention commonly used in Rueben sandwiches, but not known in Russia. Russian salad dressing originally contained caviar hence the name. Nowadays it has been usually be replace by Thousand Island dressing, which is very similar, but a little sweeter.
Russian Salad
Russian Salad as it is commonly known in many countries and French salad in others, was invented by French/Belgian Chef Lucien Olivier while working in Moscow. However the real name of the salad in Russian is ‘Salat Olivye’ (‘Oliver Salad’)
Scampi (Nephrops norvegicus) are a type of small lobster sometimes called Norway Lobster or Dublin Bay Prawns, but has Shrimp Scampi is a food that includes various types of different shrimps and prawns and not true scampi. During times when scampi has been scare, monk-fish tails have been breaded and sold as scampi.
Scotch Egg
Scotch eggs are not Scottish, but were claimed to be invented by the English Fortnum & Mason department store in 1738. Originally they were called ‘scotched eggs’ which was possibly a term for hacking as in the minced meat wrapped around the egg and over time the name has become shortened. Though Fortnum & Mason gave rise to the name there are many varieties of this dish around the world, including Nargisi Kofta from India and Eierbal from the Netherlands.
Scotch Eggs are not Scottish

These are Scotch Eggs

Scotch Woodcock
Scotch Woodcock is neither Scottish nor contains woodcock, a small bird. The dish is basically scrambled eggs on toast spead with anchovy paste. The dish was probably given it humorous in the same way as Welsh Rarebit.
Singapore Noodles
Singapore Noodles don’t exist in Singapore are most likely a Hong Kong invention.
Smoked Kipper
A kipper is a herring that has been gutted, salted and then smoked, so therefore a ‘smoked kipper‘ is a tautological misnomer.
Spotted Dick
Though the name sounds like a double entendre, it is not what you think it is. It is a British desert pudding made with suet and dried fruit such as raisins. The spotted part of the name obviously comes form the dried fruit, but the dick part is most likely a just a term used in Huddersfield, where is comes from, for a pudding. It is possible that it comes from the Dutch word ‘deef’ meaning dough.
Squab pie
A squab is a young pigeon, but this savoury pie from the South West of England contains mutton instead.
Botanically a strawberry is not a berry, but an aggregate accessory fruit.
Sweet Potato
Sweet Potatoes are not potatoes, but are part of the nightshade family that contains potatoes.
They are not bread. Sweetbreads are offal such as pancreas and the thymus gland. The name possibly comes from the fact that the thymus is rich & sweet, while the Old English word for meat was brǣd.
Swiss Cheese
Swiss Cheese in the US is the name given to American made cheese that has holes, not cheese that just comes from Switzerland.
Swiss Roll
A Swiss roll is a flat sponge cake, spread with jam, cream or some other filling and then rolled into a cylinder. It is most likely not from Switzerland, but Austria instead.
Swiss Steak
A braised meat dish with sauce, usually tomatoes or mushrooms sometimes called smothered steak. It does not come from Switzerland, but it is the method that by which the meat is tenderised by pounding it flat called ‘swissing’.
Tian Ji (Field Chicken)
A Chinese dish of frog legs, not chicken.
Toad in the Hole
Toad in the hole is a traditional British dish consisting of sausages and Yorkshire pudding batter (see below). It does not contain any toads.
The majority of white tuna sold in the US is not Albacore as many people believe, but a completely different fish all together. The fish that is usual marketed as white tuna is escolar, which is not related to tuna. Though escolar tastes great because of its high fat content, eating any more than 6oz can cause severe stomach cramps and rapid diarrhoea.
The turkey is a native from America and not from the country formally part of the Ottoman Empire. The name is most likely to have come about as the birds shipped to England didn’t go directly, but via merchant ships from the eastern Mediterranean and the name Turkey birds became common. In other countries there are similar confusion of the name of the bird. For example in France, Poland, Russia, and other countries including Turkey it is Indian bird, because of Christopher Columbus reaching the West Indies instead of finding India. In Danish, Netherlands, Indonesia, and many more it is named after Calcutta, the city in India. In the Khmer & Gaelic languages is is called the French bird and in Portuguese and countries that they influenced it is called peru and thought to come from the country of Peru. The are other places for the names of turkey that include the place names for Ethiopia, Spain, Dutch & Rome.
Vindaloo is an Indian curry dish with Portuguese origins. The original Portuguese dish, ‘Carne de vinho d alhos’ (meat with wine and garlic) after being introduced to India changed over time, with spices, different meats, chillies being added and the wine replaced with vinegar. The misconception over time, especially in the UK where a lot of Indian immigrants now make their home is that ‘alhos’ was the Hindi word for potato (aloo) and hence why potatoes are a common ingredient in restaurant Vindaloos nowadays.
A walnut is not a nut, but a seed of a drupe (stone fruit)
Welsh Rarebit
Originally this would have been spelt Welsh Rabbit, but instead of containing rabbit, it is basically cheese on toast. The origin of the name may have nothing to do with Wales either. Welsh was an old English word meaning foreigner. Rarebit is a corruption of the word rabbit and does not appear anywhere else in English. However why the dish was originally called rabbit has been lost in time.
White Chocolate
White Chocolate shouldn’t be called chocolate because it contains no cocoa solids. Though it contains cocoa butter, this is just essentially fat and contributes nothing to the taste. Also cheaper brands will even reduce the percentage of cocoa butter to 20%.
Wild Rice
Though it resembles rice, there are four different species of ‘wild’ rice and they are not related to rice at all. Also since ‘wild’ rice is commercially produced, it isn’t even wild anymore.
Yorkshire Pudding
Not a dessert but a type of savoury dish made from a batter of eggs, flour and milk. It is a common accompaniment to a roast dinner in the UK.
Essential Kitchen Supplies


    • ludmilla on May 17, 2018 at 2:15 pm
    • Reply

    Hello, I like your post and i’ve learnt many things today. About of French Toast in France we also do them with egg & liquid cream and with the tip of a knife, scrape the vanilla seeds on it.

    • Jennifer Outlaw on July 1, 2018 at 2:52 pm
    • Reply

    So much fun to read as well as informative!! Thank you for giving us a rundown of commonly misunderstood food terms from around the world. It reminds me of the old story of the woman cutting off the end of the Easter ham before roasting it since that was the way her mother did it. She finds out that her mother learned it from the grandmother, and then, when they asked the grandmother, she explains she cut off the end of the ham so it would fit in her small roasting pan. So many of these food terms are euphemisms, misunderstandings, or personal names. Here is one more: deviled eggs: not having to do with satan, but having the yolks spiced up, or “deviled”. These can be traced back to Roman times.

    1. Thanks for reminding me about devilled eggs. I’ll add that to the ever growing list of others that I’ve found. Your story of the Easter ham reminded me of a misunderstanding I had as child. I was with my sister and uncle who bought us some fish & chips and my sister found a bit lump of batter stuck together. She showed it to my Uncle who said ‘that’s lucky’. I went for years thinking that lumps of batter where lucky, just like four leafed clovers, etc. It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realised what he meant and felt so embarrassed for my younger self.

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