Funny food: translating Europe’s unusual food names
As well as its (unfair) reputation for being bland and stodgy, British cuisine is well known for its confusingly and often humorously-named dishes. Tourists are most likely to have heard of pub classics like toad-in-the-hole, a dish of sausages baked in batter, and schoolchildren never tire of tittering at ‘spotted dick’, a suet pudding containing dried fruit. If we have some cabbage and potatoes left over after our Sunday roast, we fry them in a pan with whatever else we have lying about and call it ‘bubble and squeak’. There’s also ‘Welsh rarebit’; not the rare delicacy it sounds, but cheese on toast with a bit of seasoning. Not forgetting the lovely-sounding ‘stargazy pie’; this Cornish dish is not quite so lovely when you realize it has several fish heads staring up at you!
However, the British are not the only ones who have food with interesting names:
Fans of the Great British Bake Off will have come across this pastry composed of two choux buns on top of each other filled with crème pâtissière and topped with chocolate.
Name: pets de nonne
Translation: nun’s farts(!)
Continuing with the religious theme, ‘pets de nonne’ are small balls of light choux pastry.
Translation: beggars or mendicants
Chocolate discs with dried fruit and nuts. The colours of the fruit and nuts used are said to represent robes of the mendicant religious orders. Members of mendicant orders beg for alms to survive.
This pastry consists of two round or oblong choux buns, one filled with chocolate-flavoured crème pâtissière, the other filled with coffee-flavoured crème pâtissière, stuck together with cream.
Portugal is another country with lots of amusingly-named pastry relating to religion. ‘Doçaria conventual’ – confectionery traditionally produced in convents – tends to contain a lot of sugar and eggs.
Name: papo de anjo
Translation: angel’s tummy or angel’s double chin
Small, round, eggy cakes covered in syrup.
Name: barriga de freira
Translation: nun’s belly
Pastry sweets made with almonds, cinnamon, egg, and bread.
Translation: stamping pot
A dish made from potatoes mashed with another vegetable.
Name: blote billetjes in het gras
Translation: bare buttocks in the grass
A variation on stamppot with white beans, French beans, and sausage. The name refers to the appearance of the white beans on top of the French beans.
Translation: farmer boys
Raisins soaked in brandy.
Translation: bear’s claw
This can also be called ‘berenhap’ (‘bear’s food’). Unlike the American ‘bear claw’ – a circular pastry with slits cut in it to look like a bear’s toes – it consists of a sliced meatball skewered with onion rings, often served with peanut sauce.
Translation: little pigeons
A cabbage roll made by wrapping cabbage leaves around different fillings. This dish and the name ‘little pigeons’ is common to many European countries, such as the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
Name: brændende kærlighed
Translation: burning love
Mashed potatoes with fried bacon and onions. Other ingredients, such as nutmeg, are often added.
Translation according to Liddell and Scott: name of a dish compounded of all kinds of dainties, fish, flesh, fowl, and sauces
Ok, so you would never really find this on a menu, but it’s interesting nonetheless. This is a fictional dish mentioned in Aristophanes’ play Ecclesiazusae and contains, among other things, crayfish, pigeon, and laserwort.