Thursday 31 December 2015

Language Barrier

George Bernard Shaw once said: 'England and America are two countries divided by a common language'.

I've lived in America for 14 years and with some common sense, imagination and watching Dukes of Hazard as a teenager, have rarely had a problem figuring out what people are trying to say or making myself understood. Yes, you have to pronounce water as if it is spelt with a "d" and avoid saying garage unless you want to spend the next 15 minutes repeating it while people giggle, but on the whole it's not a problem.

This New Years eve it all came crashing down and it became apparent that not only was I in a foreign country, I couldn't understand the language. My wife had asked my to prepare a recipe which she had helpfully printed from the internet, it may have well have been in French for all the help it was. It started like this:

"A cheesy scalloped cabbage and ham casserole. Great for potlucks."

My initial thoughts were something like a seafood and vegetable stew, but why is there a random chance element? Further reading revealed it was actually a baked dish with cheese on top, nothing to do with casserole and there were no scallops, in fact no mollusks at all.

I started researching and discovered that "casserole" has a totally different meaning and now means baking something in the oven with cheese on top (I thought we already had a word for that?) although the dictionary definition is exactly the same as the English one "stew cooked in a pot". And "scalloped" apparently refers to "scalloped potatoes" which again means cooked with cheese on top although originally referred to the fact the potatoes were sliced so the edged appeared scalloped or curved , but now has been corrupted and refers to anything baked with cheese on top.

So, what we are actually trying to cook is baked ham and cabbage with cheese, baked in the oven with cheese on top, not a medley of gulf coast seafood, spring vegetables and prosciutto served au-gratin. Disappointing to say the least.

Oh, and a potluck is actually a social gathering where each guest brings something to eat, so the menu is "pot luck". At least it doesn't mean baked with cheese on top, like everything else.

Happy New Year

Doug "baked with cheese on top" B

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. I will try to follow it up soon with the meanings of "Black Friday" and "Black Eye Friday" which are equally unintelligible after they cross the Atlantic.