Heather's Monthly Articles
Funny British Food Names
February 2014
 

The British are renowned for many things. Food is not one of them. They do, however, possess a keen sense of humor, which they seem to have made good use of in the naming of some of their most popular food dishes.

Funny British Food Names
Singing Hinnies.

Take for instance "Singing Hinnies", which for me conjures up an image of a gaggle of apron wearing gals huddled together chanting to the heavens chorister-style. In reality though it's a dish of current cakes cooked on a griddle. The "singing" refers to the sizzling sound the cakes make as they cook in the fat, while a "hinny" is a northern term of endearment.

"Bubble & Squeak" is another "sizzler". It's all the left over veggies - Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, roast potatoes - from the Sunday roast dinner, thrown together in a shallow pan and fried up. Yummy!

Funny British Food Names
Bubble & Squeak.

Another of my all time favorite British dishes actually has the most unappetizing name; "Toad in the hole"; a dish of sausages cooked in Yorkshire pudding batter. During Victorian times, not just sausages but all manner of meats were used in this dish, including lamb kidney.

"Welsh rarebit", sometimes also called "Welsh rabbit", is none other than cheese on toast. The name for this cheap and cheerful dish was coined in the 18th century by the sarcastic Brits to imply that the Welsh were so poor they couldn't even afford to eat rabbits.

Funny British Food Names
Angels on Horseback.

A dish decidedly for the wealthy on the other hand is "Angels on Horseback", a traditional appetizer of oysters wrapped in bacon and grilled in the oven. Conceived in Victorian times this delicacy is the wealthy cousin of the popular Christmas dinner appetizer, "Devil on horseback", where the oysters are replaced with prunes or dates.

 

Funny British Food Names
Stargazey Pie.

If seeing the head of a raw fish makes you queasy, then try to avoid "Stargazey Pie"; a Cornish dish of pilchards baked under a pastry crust. When made the traditional way, the fish heads peek through the crust, appearing for all their worth to be gazing up at the sky. It's thought that the dish originated in the village of Mousehole (pronounced "mauzal") whose villagers were once saved from starvation by a fisherman called Tom Bawcock who braved the stormy seas to catch a second haul. Seeing as fish was such a rarity - especially given the famine - the pies the fish were baked in had slits cut into the top through which could be slid the pilchard's head, thereby showing off the rare find.

Funny British Food Names
Cullen Skink.

Fish is also the main ingredient of "Cullen Skink"; a thick soup hailing from the Scottish town of Cullen into which has been put what appears to be everything but the kitchen sink! As well as the haddock, the recipe calls for potatoes, and onions.

 

Funny British Food Names
Jam Roly Poly.

One of my earliest favorite puddings as a child was "Jam Roly Poly", so called because it involves rolling up a suet pudding, the inside of which is covered in jam. The pudding was often wrapped up to steam in an old shirt sleeve, thereby earning it the gruesome nicknames of "dead man's arm", or "dead man's leg".

Finally, "Spotted Dick" has to be the most well-known of humorously named British foods. This simple old-fashioned steamed pudding, with its "spots" of dried fruit, dates back to the 1800s and has been the cause of sniggers among schoolboys ever since. As a way of putting paid to the giggles that'd erupt in the Flintshire County Council cafeteria whenever it was on the menu, canteen staff decided to rename it. Spotted Richard though didn't have quite the same ring, plus it elicited even more uproarious laughter.

Funny British Food Names
Spotted Dick.

"Whoever has changed it needs to be told they are being silly", announced County Councilor Klaus Armstrong-Braun, whose name has a stronger ring to it than his bite. Then in a display of a bit of silliness himself, he backed up his objection to the new name by claiming it was "part of our birthright". Before long the chagrined lunch-ladies had put Spotted Dick back on the menu and the head of Flintshire County Council, Colin Everett, was able to report that "in future all dishes would be referred to by their proper name". Three cheers for tradition!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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