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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.)


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2004 08:00 am (UTC)
I've heard Brits call our french (or freedom) toast "eggy bread". They can be so doggedly, prosaically literal in their speech, with their lifts and toilets and rubbers and whatnots.
Nov. 19th, 2004 08:24 am (UTC)
Talkie Toaster
There was a character in Red Dwarf called Talkie Toaster and it was obsessed with making bready products for the people around him. He would name pretty much every bread you could think of before he was destroyed. Your post made me think of him.

Nov. 19th, 2004 11:44 am (UTC)
Re: Talkie Toaster
I remember the toaster! I haven't seen Red Dwarf episodes in ages.
Nov. 19th, 2004 11:44 am (UTC)
"Eggy bread"? I'd believe it. It's a very literal description, and I haven't been out to brunch much, if ever, in the UK, so I don't know my brunch terms there the way I do over here.
Nov. 19th, 2004 08:39 am (UTC)
I think of arrowroot biscuits: Mr. Christie ("Mr Christie, you make good cookies!") or Nabisco. I don't know that they have them here: I've never really bothered to look. Otoh I remember being amused to see Dare maple sandwich cookies, Peek Freans and the like in the supermarket here, billed as "imported".

Brioche--was very amused to hear my host mother in Italy two summers ago enjoining her kids to leave me a mass-produced breakfast treat in its little
plastic package: "Da lei non togliere il maaaaffin!" :)

There's a related story here about jelly doughnuts being called Bismarcks in this part of the world and doughnuts in general in their various permutations--but that seems like high speculative philosophy to me.
Salted tops I've never heard of in my life. I hope you're feeling better though ;)
Nov. 19th, 2004 11:43 am (UTC)
I haven't tried arrowroot biscuits. I eye the packages dubiously and buy other cookies, in my ignorance. What're they like?

I quite like Maple sandiwch cookies - they're one of the really good things about living here.

When you say jelly doughnuts are called bismarcks in "this" part of the world, which one do you mean - Indiana? They aren't called that in Iowa as far as I know, but an Albertan reports that they're called that in her home province.

Speaking of which, aerinah also mentioned that she calls saltines "Premium Plus crackers" which is indeed what they say on the side of the box, but I discounted that as company name, rather than recognizing it as a type of cracker. Does that ring any more bells for you?
Nov. 19th, 2004 08:39 pm (UTC)
I always thought premium plus was just the name for the cracker?

Arrowroot biscuits are great with tea. They're on the sweet side, but not overwhelming.

Bismarcks in Indiana, definitely not in Ontario.

Nov. 19th, 2004 09:02 am (UTC)
mmmm, biscuits! english variety. my mom used to bring back something called Olivers - little hard crackery things covered in dark chocolate. So good. She hasn;t been able to find them for a while, though. And then she went all Atkins.

had no idea about the French/ Italian/ Venice pastry thing - despite having been through chunks of the first two, and supposedly being somewhat observant.

One day, I will get to Venice. One day!
Nov. 19th, 2004 10:34 am (UTC)
My brain, my brain hurts.

Then there's "oyster crackers," served with soup and salad in various parts of the US. They are relatives of the saltine, but are smaller, six-sided, and denser.
Nov. 19th, 2004 11:40 am (UTC)
I like oyster crackers. It's funny - like seafood sauce, they have no seafood in them.
Nov. 19th, 2004 11:24 am (UTC)
A message from our sponsor
I am Albertan.

I eat Premium Plus crackers, not salted tops or soda crackers (although if you called them saltines I'd know what you meant.)

A holeless, filled donut is a Bismarck, not a jelly-filled donut.

A biscuit is a tea biscuit, made with flour and baking soda, and an Oreo or Chips Ahoy is a cookie.

I eat chocolate bars, not candy bars.

Smarties are little M&M-shaped colorful candy-coated chocolate pieces, not little disks of compressed powdered sugar (those are Rockets).

I don't cycle to the market, I ride my bike to the grocery store.

Pants aren't underwear; they're what you wear on top of your underwear - and your underwear is also your ginch, your gonch, your shorts, or your panties (if you're a girl).

And I am proud to be an Albertan.

[Okay, I think I'm done... :P]
Nov. 19th, 2004 11:39 am (UTC)
Re: A message from our sponsor
That was beautiful!

That also explained why my saltines had the words "Premium Plus" emblazoned in inch-and-a-half high letters on the side, with a discreet little "Salted Tops" underneath them. Premium Plus just didn't ring bells as a kind of cracker to me. Thank you!

I know what Smarties are since they're everywhere here and in the UK, but I'm not familiar with Rockets. I presume they're flavored, as well as being compressed little disks of powdered sugar?

I knew I should have consulted with a Real Canadian (or at least one Canadian from every Canadian timezone for comparison) before making assertions.
Nov. 19th, 2004 12:08 pm (UTC)
Though not quite a bread product, do beware that "pudding" is a cakey dessert in the UK, as opposed to the eggless custardlike substance shilled by Bill Cosby that we eat in the US (I was quite caught offguard when I first ordered a pudding in Edinburgh).
Nov. 19th, 2004 12:13 pm (UTC)
Very true! Although biscuits can be a light form of pudding, when pudding is used in its most generic British sense of "dessert". Then there's the whole jelly thing...
Nov. 19th, 2004 12:17 pm (UTC)
I'm from New Brunswick, as a preface (but my father is from New England, so some of his idioms may have crept into my speech :)

Those cracker with salt on top that you put in soup or have with peanut butter on them or whatever are called saltines, but I would also accept "Premium Plus crackers."

Biscuits are, as you say, more like an English muffin than a cookie. They're round, perhaps 2-3 inches in diameter, with straight sides, soft and doughy in texture, and they rise in the oven. Preferably consumed topped with butter and molasses.

Arrowroots are cookies, not biscuits. They're something like a digestive or a tea biscuit, though - a bit crisp but not hard, fairly bland and not overly sweet in flavour, good served with tea. Also often given to teething babies.
Nov. 19th, 2004 08:07 pm (UTC)
It sounds as if arrowroots should taste a great deal like a classic British tea biscuit. Or maybe a British digestive, if they're softer. Now I'll have to try one to find out!
Nov. 19th, 2004 03:14 pm (UTC)
"French toast" is "pain doré" in my (Quebec) household.
Nov. 19th, 2004 08:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Pain doré is more elegant than pain perdu, if still quite literal.
Nov. 22nd, 2004 10:11 am (UTC)
pancake vs crepe
I don't agree that pancakes and crepes refer to the same thing. Crepes are thin and ever-so-slightly rubbery. Pancakes are thick and absorbent. They taste quite different from each other. Visit your friendly local Golden Griddle and experiment for yourself. Here's a link to their menu [http://www.goldengriddlecorp.com/pages/newMenu/page2.html] you can see from the pictures how crepes and pancakes look very different from each other.
Nov. 22nd, 2004 11:00 am (UTC)
Re: pancake vs crepe
Personally, I distinguish between crepes and pancakes, Golden Griddle-style and I agree with you. In the UK, however, it has been my experience that when a Brit says "pancake", they mean what I could consider a crepe.

Thank you for the helpful illustrations! Hopefully they'll be useful to passing Brits who never knew that "pancake" doesn't mean the same thing in all places.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )