Dietary dialects: the English languages of cooking

George Bernard Shaw – critic, playwright and practising pedant – once wrote that “England and America are two countries separated by a common language”. He could well have had cooking terminology in mind.

Add Australian English into the stock-pot and the soup becomes stranger still!

Think of the innocent-looking word “tablespoon”. It refers to a different quantity in each country. As I have to remember when I am using a recipe written for American or British cooks. Just to remind you, dear readers, an Australian tablespoon (tbsp) is 20 millilitres, which, at two thirds of a fluid ounce, is 33% bigger than a US tablespoon (Tb). Our ‘cup’ is also bigger than that of America, but only by 10%.

Next is utensils. Whenever I mention a ‘frying pan’, this is the equivalent of a ‘skillet’ in the US. Followed by cooking methods – Australians apply the word ‘grilling’ to cooking, say, a steak by direct radiant heat, from below OR above; the word ‘broiling’ is not in our culinary lexicon.

And then there is the onion family, with different monikers for at least three of its members: ‘green’ onions in America are ‘spring’ onions in Melbourne but ‘shallots’ in Sydney, only 960km away (‘shallots’ are called shallots in my recipes, just as they were for Julia Child); an onion that is ‘yellow’ stateside, is ‘brown’ in Australia; and our ‘purple’ onion is called ‘red’ in America (perhaps we should meet halfway, at magenta?)

So, if you happen to decide to follow one of my recipes, please be sure to allow for these differences and, hopefully, it will taste just as good, in any language!


About rmgtravelsandfood

Maggie and I are both in our mid-60s and live in Melbourne, Australia. This blog is devoted to our shared passions for travel and fine dining at home. As cooks, we are skilful and adventurous within a framework of mainly traditional ingredients and techniques, and we aim to prepare nutritious food that looks good and tastes delicious. Our evolving repertoire is influenced by both our travels and Melbourne's vibrant food culture. While we are young enough, our priority travel destinations are overseas, although we do spend a few long weekends each year exploring parts of south-eastern Australia. As travellers, we are most comfortable with a combination of organised and independent touring. Our first overseas journey together was to Italy in the northern autumn of 2008. We later travelled in France (2009), Spain (2011), Singapore and Cambodia (2012/13). All trips from 2014 to 2016 are documented in this blog. When time allows, we will publish posts about our journeys - eight and counting - in 2017, 2018 and 2019
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