Oh The Confusion


Food may be universal, but the name for foods is not. The confusion can be both frustrating and amusing. We also eat foods differently in different parts of the United States and the world.

Hero - It's what it's called in New York.

  • My husband tells the story of a relative, outside of New York, who picked up another member of the clergy at the airport. He was visiting from a foreign country.

  • "Do you want to stop for a grinder?" my husband's relative asked?

  • The visitor became visibly uncomfortable and responded with a firm no.

  • "Aren't you hungry after your long trip?" hubby's relative asked.

  • "I'm starving," he replied, still confused.

  • "Would you rather stop at a restaurant instead of the deli?"

  • The visitor explained that a grinder is a prostitute in his country! Hence his hesitation.

  • There are many names for this sandwich; hero, sub, grinder, hoagie and the list goes on. But boy can a single word be misconstrued.

  • The family still laughs at that story.

Pop - Here on Long Island, pop can mean several things. The name you call your grandfather or an ice pop or lollipop.

  • The first time I traveled down South, I was very young.

  • Every time we walked into a restaurant, we would stand and wait to be seated. Customary here on Long Island. A waitress would yell out to sit anywhere.

  • When the waitress would great us, she'd ask, "Would you like a pop?"

  • My answer was always no. This went on about four days in a row at various restaurants for lunch and dinner.

  • Why are all these people asking me at my age if I want a pop I wondered. How odd.

  • On Long Island, at family restaurants, small children are often given paper menus, crayons and lollipops aka a pop. This keeps them occupied while they await their meal.

  • I thought they were offering me a lollipop at each restaurant. I finally realized, they were offering me soda!

Suckers - In my part of the world, a sucker is something you call a person.

  • I was watching a vlog a few years ago and the man was talking about a sucker.

  • It confused me.

  • I realized, he was talking about what we call a lollipop.

Bagel - When I was young, a funny commercial ran here on Long Island. Not sure where else in the country it ran, but it was a hit here and often quoted. The commercial is actually for cream cheese, but the line most quoted is about a bagel.

  • On my first trip down south, still confused about the pop question, I asked for a bagel for breakfast one morning in a diner.

  • The waitress looked at me and said, "What's a bagel?"

  • I giggled thinking she was joking like we always did, quoting the commercial.

  • She was dead serious. Back then, she had no clue what a bagel was.

  • Here on Long Island, it was a Sunday morning family tradition since I was a child.

Breakfast Sandwich - I'm not sure this exists outside of New York or at least not what we know as a breakfast sandwich.

  • On Long Island, they are a staple and you cannot get them anywhere else on the planet outside of downstate New York.

  • People who moved from New York complain they can't get a decent breakfast and when they come back to visit, the first thing they do is get a breakfast sandwich and pizza!

  • There are long lines at neighborhood delis on weekday mornings full of people buying their sandwich before work.

  • Often entire offices or departments will place an order for 40 or 50 sandwiches to be delivered by 9 a.m. for the staff.

Spaghetti/Pasta Sauce/Gravy - Is it sauce or gravy? Italian Americans have been arguing over this for decades.

  • When I was growing up, every Sunday, we had dinner at my paternal grandparent's house. My grandmother called it gravy meat, meaning the big pot of red liquid that would cover the pasta and be served alongside all the various meats that she had simmered in the gravy.

  • Today, we refer to it as sauce, but terminology changes through the years.

  • Bottom line, it tastes amazing and who cares what it's called, just serve me up a big bowl!

Pizza - Coming from New York, I assure you, it is impossible to get delicious pizza anywhere else in the country. FACT. Amazing New York Pizza - East Village Pizza!

  • Here in New York, we often refer to pizza as pie. It comes from the term pizza pie. "Should we order three pies or four for the pool party?"

  • Someone was visiting from out of town and asked, "Can we get an apple pie when you order?"

  • About 10 sets of native New Yorker eyes fell upon this poor young lady and she was still confused when the crowd erupted in giggles.

Mustard - I actually wrote a short story around this elementary school trip.

  • Living downstate New York, when you go to a fast food restaurant or a diner or family place, your burger comes with ketchup, never mustard.

  • We do not put mustard on burgers here. "Why don’t McDonald’s hamburgers come with mustard in NYC? — Steve, Manhattan Unlike most of the rest of the country, mustard is indeed not standard on an NYC McDonald’s burger."

  • It seems parts of the tri state area also don't like mustard on burgers.

  • We were on a school trip and our busses stopped for lunch. We were a huge crowd. The teachers and chaperones forgot to tell us to ask for our food with NO mustard.

  • We received our burgers with mustard on them and we were all shocked and appalled.

Ravioli - People from other parts of the country don't recognize this dish.

  • I once posted this picture to a former blog and someone from somewhere else in the country couldn't identify ravioli.

  • It was so odd to me to have someone ask what this meal was.

While food is a necessity in all our lives, it literally keeps us alive, we have very different norms across the country and the world. It is still the heart of all we do, regardless of where we are from and what we call it.



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