Food Euphemisms

The last blog post involved judging people’s health based on appearance. Not only do we judge people, but we also tend to judge our food based on appearance. We first eat with our eyes, so when something looks appetizing we tend to go for that option. However when reading a menu, not all the menu items contain pictures. Thus, we rely on the title and or description of the food item. The name that food is given does not always give a full picture of what that item truly represents. At times, we do not want the whole truth behind what we eat.  For our own sanity, we prefer to remain in the dark. For example, the delectable treats we know as doughnuts, were originally called “oliebollen” which translates to “oil balls”. Oil balls were introduced into the American culture in the 1700’s by immigrants of the Netherlands. The name oil balls sounds unappealing and unattractive, thus lowering its public appeal. Therefore by changing the name to something like “doughnuts” it makes the stigma of oil balls disappear. Can you think of any other food euphemism that has become common?

15 Responses to Food Euphemisms

  1. Carys says:

    What an interesting topic! I hadn’t really thought about it too much, but it is certainly true that pictures as well as names and descriptions play a big role in what we select. I have noticed that I much prefer cooking from cookbooks that have pictures of all of the dishes. If it doesn’t have pictures of all of them I have a much harder time picking something and often find that I don’t cook from those books as much.

    • smb07n says:

      I agree…I would want to see what I’m going to cook before I expend all that effort on a new recipe, but sometimes it is fun to experiment.

  2. Sara says:

    Many fish went through a corporate re-branding a few decades ago. The Oil Fish was renamed Blue Cod. The Patagonian toothfish is now Chilean Sea Bass. And if you are eating Orange Roughy, remember it was once a Slimehead.

    • smb07n says:

      Nice ones! There are a bunch of seafood/fish that have been renamed to increase marketability. When we go to the supermarket to buy fish we rarely get to see what the fish truly looks like, unless you fish yourself. Take flounder for example, this is an ugly looking fish. Flounder does not look like the Flounder from The Little Mermaid.

  3. Corey says:

    my guilty pleasure food: hot dogs definitely sound better as a euphemism than as ground animal biproduct encased! I definately dont want to give them up in the name of help but i can only eat them until i start to think about whats inside!!

    • smb07n says:

      That’s ok everyone has a “guilty pleasure.” A hot dog every so often is fine, enjoy especially at the ball park. Hot dog is a good one! Nothing like cylindrical meat AKA hot dog.

  4. Michael says:

    Here’s the easy one: Rapeseed oil, would you buy it? Canola, on the other hand, sounds much better. Except then you find out that just means Canadian oil – so it’s back to square one.

    My absolute favorites though are “natural flavoring” and “other spices”. Good luck getting a straight answer from the FDA.

    Honey we know and accept as bee spit. But royal jelly, its notably expensive cousin, is a specific fluid produced from only the cerebrum of worker bees (it’s okay to be jealous).

    Figs are great, but do they mention that the wasp that pollinated the flowers left its eggs inside.

    Perhaps more relevant is the increasing organic, fair-trade, shade-grown, locally grown labeling. What do those words actually mean… Is a deforested hillside planted with coffee and eucalyptus trees your idea of shade-grown? It’s one thing to disguise foods that may ultimately be bad to my health, but what about euphemisms that shade out the social costs those foods extract on the growers.

    Finally, soy. Where did your tofu come from? Your soy milk? If you’ve seen a picture of an industrial field, it looks idyllic a testament to modern row crops. But don’t be there when they spray and don’t ask about the South American Atlantic forests of Brazil and Paraguay that used to be there (the world’s number 2 and number 3 ranked soy producers).

    • smb07n says:

      Great points Michael! You happened to pick out my personal favorite of Rapeseed. I agree that the FDA definition of natural flavorings is quite vague, nut why should this government organization conduct itself different from any other?! I love the fact that you tied food euphemisms into environmental issues. I had written a paper (The Carbon Footprint of Meat Production) on this matter here is an excerpt:
      “By its nature, deforestation is the burning down of trees to gain needed land and open space (i.e. to raise cattle or grow crops). The destruction of forestry in this manner adds to carbon dioxide production, thus contributing to and further compounding the problem of global warming (1). Destruction of forested land in the Amazon is a prime example of this phenomenon. It has been estimated that 1.2 million acres of deforestation in South America’s Amazon occurred because of the growing demand for soybeans (2). Furthermore, it has been predicted that 97% of all soybean grown is harvested for the purpose of feeding livestock (2).”

      1. Lappe, Anna (2010). Diet for a Hot Planet. Bloomesburry USA, New York.

      2. Food and Agricultural Organization (2006). Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome, Italy.

      If this topic really interests you I highly recommend Francis Lappe’s Book- Diet for a Small Planet and her daughter’s book (Anna Lappe)- Diet for a Hot Planet .

      Thanks again for the wonderful contribution to the blog.

  5. Nick E. says:

    How about:

    Kiwi – A.K.A. yang tao, or Chinese gooseberry (native to northern China, NOT New Zealand which “Kiwi” makes us think about)

    Mahi Mahi – directly translates to dolphinfish. Most of us wouldn’t want to think about eating dolphins while enjoying this fish.

    Dried Plums – A.K.A Prunes. We all know what they’re for and why our grandparents ate them. Which is why the California Prune Board asked for and received permission from the Dept. of Agriculture in 2000 to start calling them Dried Plums. They promptly changed their name to the California Dried Plum Board shortly after.

    Corn Sugar – A.K.A High Fructose Corn Syrup. It started off as glucose, everyone thought “glue” so no thanks. Now HFCS is evil, so they’ve propositioned the FDA for another change. No decision yet, but don’t let them fool you.

    • smb07n says:

      Great food euphemisms Nick! I was just talking about Prunes with one of my colleagues the other day. Mahi Mahi is a good one that slipped my mind. This is a fish I enjoy but once someone asks me what I ordered and I reply “Dolphin,” I quickly have to explain my choice. I was waiting for someone to post the very controversial but not approved “Corn Sugar.” I do not understand why this term was not approved…maybe the FDA is afraid we would not know the difference between corn sugar and regular sugar. Just like back in the day when Margarine was required to be died pink so people would know the difference between butter and margarine. Thanks for taking the time to come up with these clever food euphemisms!

    • smb07n says:

      Good Point! People want vitamin water because of all the water soluble B vitamins/ Vitamin C it contains/ minerals. A multivitamin with 100+ calories = Vitamin Water. Thanks for sharing Felicia.

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