Culinary names, menu names, or kitchen names are names of foods used in the preparation or selling of food, as opposed to their names in agriculture or in scientific nomenclature. The menu name may even be different from the kitchen name. For example, from the 19th until the mid-20th century, many restaurant menus were written in French and not in the local language.
Examples include veal (calf), calamari (squid), and sweetbreads (pancreas or thymus gland). Culinary names are especially common for fish and seafood, where multiple species are marketed under a single familiar name.
Foods may come to have distinct culinary names for a variety of reasons:
- Euphemism: the idea of eating some foods may disgust or offend some eaters regardless of their actual taste.
- Attractiveness: the traditional name may be considered dull, undistinctive, or unattractive.
- Kiwifruit: A rename of the Chinese gooseberry, which references its fuzzy brown skin, and has now become its standard name
- Mahi-Mahi: The dolphinfish is often referred to with this name to avoid confusion with dolphin (the mammal) meat.
- The Patagonian toothfish is marketed as the Chilean sea bass
- The African Cichlid found in many aquaria is presented as Tilapia
- The spinal marrow of veal and beef is called amourettes.
- Grouping of a variety of sources under a single name
- Tuna includes several different species
- Evocation of more prestigious, rarer, and more expensive foods for which they are a substitute
- Evocation of a specific culinary tradition
- Shrimp in Italian-American contexts is often called scampi
- Florentine refers to dishes that include spinach.
- Squid is often called by its Italian name, calamari on menus.
- Social differences
- "Culinary terminology" in Oxford Companion to Food, 1st edition, s.v.
- Andre Simon, A concise encyclopedia of gastronomy mentions 16 different 'culinary names' passim
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