November 19th, 2004

Fishy Circumstances

Bread products

The same food is often called by different names in different parts of the world, but bread products, I believe, are some of the worst offenders.

There are saltines, salted tops, soda crackers, and soup crackers, all of which are the same thing in some combination of Canada and the U.S. I have no idea what they are called anywhere else.

When I'm in Italy and want a croissant, then I order a "brioche", which is something slightly different in France, the place from which both words come. (And if I'm in Venice, then I know the "brioche" will invariably come jam-filled, but I like it that way.)

There is the product I first met in the UK as "French toasts", then in Italy as "fete biscotate", and only the other week here in Canada as "rusks".

"French toasts" aren't the same thing as "french toast" is in Canada and the U.S. "French toast" is "pain perdu" in France, or, literally, "lost bread", since it's a sensible thing to do with stale bread.

A pancake is a crepe in the UK, although I have occasionally seen recipes for "American-style pancakes". Thus, in the UK, "Pancake Day" aka Shrove Tuesday, is a day when crepes are eaten.

"English muffins" are neither muffins nor English. According to this note, they were invented in the U.S., perhaps a botched attempt at a crumpet, a variation on a tea cake.

And then, of course, there's the elusive, inclusive word "biscuit", which means something very different to the Brit than to an American. In the UK it's a cookie, or a cracker, or even a chocolate confection with a wafery center. A Kit Kat could be called a biscuit, as C. mentioned just the other day when we were discussing Green tea, Lemon cheesecake, orange, and mint flavored Kit Kats. In the U.S., "a small round bread leavened with baking powder or soda" is what comes to mind. An American biscuit has more in common with "English muffins" than with cookies. (Canadians see the word regularly on both cookies and crackers, thanks to the French translation available on all Canadian packaging, but what a Canadian actually thinks when they hear the word "biscuit", I cannot tell you.)