Scouse (food)

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Place of originEngland
Main ingredientsBeef or lamb, root vegetables

Scouse is a type of lamb or beef stew. The word comes from lobscouse, a stew commonly eaten by sailors throughout northern Europe.[1] In English usage it is particularly associated with the port of Liverpool, which is why the inhabitants of that city are often referred to as "scousers".[2]

Origin of dish[edit]

According to The Oxford Companion to Food, lobscouse "almost certainly has its origins in the Baltic ports, especially those of Germany".[2] Similar dishes are traditional in countries around the North Sea, such as Norway (lapskaus), Sweden (lapskojs), Denmark (skipperlabskovs), and northern Germany (Labskaus).[2] 19th century sailors made lobscouse by boiling salted meat, onions, and pepper, with ship's biscuit used to thicken the dish.[3]

Scouse is strongly associated with the port of Liverpool and its hinterland, in the north-west of England. Other parts of the country were slower to begin growing potatoes, but they were cultivated in Lancashire from the late 17th century onwards. and by the late 18th century the potato-based lobscouse – by then also known simply as scouse – had become a traditional dish of the region.[4] A 1797 description records that potatoes were "peeled, or rather scraped, raw; chopped, and boiled together with a small quantity of meat cut into very small pieces. The whole of this mixture is then formed into a hash, with pepper, salt, onions, etc., and forms a cheap and nutritive dish".[5]

In the poorest areas of Liverpool, when funds ran too low for the purchase of even the cheapest cuts of meat, "blind scouse" would be made, using only vegetables.[6]

Origin of name[edit]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), "scouse" is a shortened form of "lobscouse"[1] and has also been written as "lopscourse", "lobscourse", "lobskous", "lobscouce", and "lap's course". Its oldest quote is from 1707, by the satirist Edward Ward: "He has sent the Fellow ... to the Devil, that first invented Lobscouse."[7]

The first known use of the term "lobscouse" is dated 1706, according to Webster's Dictionary.[8] Tobias Smollett refers to "lob's course" in 1750.[9] The roots of the word are unknown.[8] The OED states that the origin is unknown, and goes on to compare the word to loblolly, which means a "thick gruel or spoon-meat, frequently referred to as a rustic or nautical dish or simple medicinal remedy; burgoo" and "perhaps [is] onomatopoeic: compare the dialectal lob 'to bubble while in process of boiling, said esp. of porridge', also 'to eat or drink up noisily'".[10]

Friedrich Kluge also states that the origin of lobscouse is unknown, and that it was loaned to German in the 19th century where it was called labskaus.[11] Hjalmar Falk and Alf Torp states that lobscous originally was lob's course from a lob (a lump) and course (a dish) and that the word has travelled to Norwegian as labskaus and Danish as lobskous.[12]

The similarities with labs kauss in Latvian and labas kaušas is called gobbledygook (Kauderwelsch) of the mind in Der Spiegel by Petra Foede.[13] Foede translates Labs kausis to means a "good plate" in Latvian, and says that in Lithuanian they use labas káuszas for a "good plate".[a][13] According to Gerhard Bauer káuszas in Lithuanian means a wooden ladle or dipper or a wooden drinking bowl and is the same word as Lettish kauśis and this Baltic word have been adopted in German as Kausche or Kauszel which means wooden jug, pitcher or drinking bowl.[17]

Konrad Reich [de] claims that Labskaus stems from a combination of Lappen, Lappenstücke or Bauchlappen  [de] from the pig and a Low German word Kaus which he explains as a plate or platter and concludes that Labskaus is a paraphrase for a plate of minced pork.[18]:355 Reich does not cite any sources to his claim.[18]

By the end of the 18th century the term "lobscouse" had been shortened to "scouse" in Liverpudlian usage. In his book The State of the Poor: or a History of the Labouring Classes in England (1797) Sir Frederick Eden cites a report from the early 1790s listing expenditure on food in the Liverpool poorhouse. It included: "Beef, 101 lbs. for scouse … 14 Measures potatoes for scouse (420 lbs); and Onions for ditto (28 lbs)".[19]


In The Oxford Companion the food historian Roy Shipperbottom comments that as with many traditional dishes "there are numerous and fiercely disputed" versions.[2] He cites a typical basic example:

Lobscouse is made in a single pot and begins by frying or "sweating" in dripping, sliced onions, carrots, and turnips.[n 1] Stewing steak or mutton or corned beef is added: plus, when the meat is browned, salt, pepper and water. … Chopped potatoes are always included.[2]

Shipperbottom adds that some cooks add a cow-heel or pig's trotter to give a gelatinous body to the dish, and that others insist that ship's biscuit should be crumbled in or that pearl barley should be added.[2]

A survey by The Liverpool Echo in 2018 confirmed that for the majority of cooks the basic ingredients are as listed by Shipperbottom, but many advocated the addition of a stock cube, and a few also added other ingredients, such as peas, lentils or sweet potato, and herbs including rosemary, parsley and basil.[22] The choice of meat varied: some cooks did not stipulate a particular meat; among those who did, beef was chosen rather than lamb by a majority of nearly two to one.[22][n 2]

Global Scouse Day[edit]

In 2008 the first "Global Scouse Day" was organised, and at 2020 continues, as an annual event every 28 February. Bars, cafes and restaurants in Liverpool and around the world put scouse on the menu for the day, raising funds for charities.[24][25]


A version of scouse has been known on the Atlantic coast of Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador, from at least 1792. It is described as a sea dish of minced and salted beef, crumbled sea biscuit, potatoes and onions.[26] Variations in Canada may include root vegetables such as turnip and parsnip, or further additions such as cabbage.[27]

See also[edit]

Notes, references and sources[edit]


  1. ^ The root vegetable brassica navus was traditionally known as "turnip" in northern Britain and "swede" in the south, where "turnip" refers to Brassica rapa var. rapa.[20] Shipperbottom was from the north (Bolton, Lancashire).[21] The southern English usage has begun to prevail and later writers have referred to "swede" rather than "turnip" as the usual ingredient of scouse.[22][23]
  2. ^ A small minority used pork or tofu.[22]


  1. ^ a b Scouse. Oxford English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Shipperbottom, p. 472
  3. ^ Draper, p. 15
  4. ^ Wilson, p. 218
  5. ^ Pike, p. 160
  6. ^ Crowley (2017), p. 35
  7. ^ "lobscouse, n." Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  8. ^ a b lobscouse. merriam-webster.
  9. ^ Tobias Smollett (1750). The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. p. 59.
  10. ^ "loblolly, n." Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  11. ^ Friedrich Kluge (1989). "Labskaus". Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (in German) (22 ed.). Berlin ; New York: de Gruyter. p. 423. doi:10.1515/9783110845037. ISBN 3-11-006800-1. Labskaus n. (= Seemannsgericht), nordd. Im 19. Jh. entlehnt aus ne. lobscouse, dessen Herkunft unklar ist. [The first edition of the dictionary was published in 1883.]
  12. ^ Falk, Hjalmar & Torp, Alf (1903). "Hug". Etymologisk Ordbog over det norske og det danske Sprog (in Norwegian). Kristiania: Aschehoug. p. 439.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ a b Petra Foede (27 August 2010). "Hamburger Labskaus. Heißer Brei mit Ei". Spiegel Online (in German). Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  14. ^ "Schüssel, die". DWDS – Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. Retrieved 17 May 2018.)
  15. ^ "Schüssel". LEO GmbH. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Deutsch-Englisch-Wörterbuch Deutsch-Englisch-Übersetzung für: Schüssel". Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  17. ^ Bauer, Gerhard (2005). "Baltismen im ostpreußischen Deutsch Hermann Frischbiers "Preussisches Wörterbuch" als volkskundliche Quelle" (PDF). Annaberger Annalen [de] (in German). 13: 5–82. Retrieved 30 May 2018. Lit. káuszas hölzerner Schöpflöffel, hölzerne Trinkschale, lett. kauśis, kausts, kausinsch Napf, Schale, Becher, estn. Kause Schale, Napf, Schüssel, sanskr. koshas Behältnis zum Auf- bewahren, Tresor. Nsslm. Th., 68. Hupel, 107. Sallmann, 19a. Grimm,Wb. V, 362. Im Brem. Kausse hölzerner Schöpflöffel, in Pommern Kowse Schale.
  18. ^ a b Konrad Reich [de] and Martin Pegel. "Labskaus". Himmelsbesen über weißen Hunden (in German). Berlin: transpress VEB Verlag für Verkehrswesen. p. 352–355. Und so «erfand» ein ideenreicher und mitfühlender Koch dies pürierte Pökelfleisch. Lappen, Lappenstücke und Bauchlappen des Rindes wirden dazu verwendet. Die erste Silbe weist darauf hin: Das niederdeutsche ‹Kaus› ist eine Schüssel, eine Schale, so daß ‹Labskaus› eine Umschreibung fur «eine Schüssel Gehacktes» ist.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Crowley (2012), p. 158
  20. ^ Don, p. 318
  21. ^ Barker, Nicolas. "Obituary: Roy Shipperbottom", The Independent, 2 August 1997. Retrieved 22 October 2020
  22. ^ a b c d Davis, Laura. "Revealed: Liverpool's favourite Scouse ingredients" Archived 2019-12-18 at the Wayback Machine, Liverpool Echo, 27 February 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2020
  23. ^ Cloake, Felicity. "How to cook the perfect scouse – recipe" Archived 2020-05-02 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 30 October 2019. Retrieved 20 October 2020
  24. ^ "Global Scouse Day 2020: Everything you need to know" Archived 2020-07-17 at the Wayback Machine, The Guide, Liverpool. Retrieved 22 October 2020
  25. ^ "Global Scouse Day" Archived 2020-09-30 at the Wayback Machine, Global Scouse Day. Retrieved 22 October 2020
  26. ^ Clarke, p. 112
  27. ^ "Lob Scouce" Archived 2020-06-27 at the Wayback Machine, Saltjunk. Retrieved 22 October 2020


External links[edit]

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