The Melted Pot

Yesterday I made French toast for breakfast and I asked myself once again that question I ask every time I make it: if you want French toast in France do you just ask for toast? Of course the answer is no. French toast in France is called pain perdu which actually means lost bread and I assume it makes no more sense to Paris diners than it does to me. And it would indeed make no sense to breakfasters there since it’s likely to be served as dessert not as breakfast. Where did we Americans go wrong?

To complicate my breakfast matters I actually had Canadian bacon (not really bacon) and Florida orange juice (all Florida, all the time) with my French toast. (I really should refrain from tart juices with such sweet breakfasts and not challenge my taste buds so dramatically in the morning.)

In America we often herald the origin of a dish in its name because we came from so many different places. Even food classically American is prefaced with its originating locale except in said locale. Although it may be a Philly cheesesteak anywhere else, in southeast Pennsylvania it’s just a cheesesteak. Nashville hot chicken is on Tennessean menus just hot chicken, and Wisconsin brick cheese can be ordered just as brick cheese in Milwaukee. But it doesn’t always hold true as even in Buffalo if you want their classic version of the buttery hot wing you probably need to specify Buffalo wings.

Some of the modifiers make sense. When someone on American soil decided to make an eggy potato salad, the vinegary version had to be differentiated so calling it German potato salad made clear it was of the sort a Bavarian immigrant brought over the Atlantic. And that’s surely also why Irish stew kept its identifier to distinguish it from other stews. Although that doesn’t explain why Swedish meatballs kept their moniker but Italian meatballs are now just meatballs nor why we still call Hungarian goulash Hungarian without knowing any other goulashes. It’s no wonder we have such schizophrenic menu choices.

So those of you elsewhere and those who have traveled elsewhere, what are these and other Somewhere Somethings called in their home-wheres?




  1. All I can confirm is that Friday Night fish frys occur every Friday of the year here in Wisconsin, as opposed to just during the Lent season like the rest of the country.

    Just my luck that I hate fish.

    1. Oh, I’ll take your portion. I love fish. And other than Chilean sea bass which is really Patagonian tooth fish, they have easy names.

  2. In Oklahoma we serve Shit on Shingles. It is some kind of meat goulash gravy over toasted bread. Surely it must have another name in a more sophisticated state? Or maybe it was a family name and not about Oklahoma. This is highly likely. We called it SOS in mixed company.

    1. Oh yes, I remember that. Officially known as creamed chipped beef on toast I believe. One of my favorites actually. Not to sound stereotypical but I first had it in the army. True. While evertone else was lamenting it I thought it was great. And their miniker for it was indeed the more colorful sobriquet you mentioned. Even in mixed company.

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