Snapshots from the UK: The English Foodstuff Lexicon

Photograph by avlxyz

Editor's note: Our intern Kerry Saretsky came back from a visit to England, where she'll be moving next year, with a lorryload of English-food blog posts. But before we continue with her Snapshots from the UK series, we thought a little English food glossary was in order. —Ed.


When I first moved to England, the dollar rang in at 2.1 to the pound, and every time I ordered at a restaurant, something entirely unrelated to what I had said to the waiter would emerge from the kitchen. Having purchased the equivalent 2.1 American meals, and eaten exactly none of it, I was both famished and frustrated. It seems that we, the English and the Americans, do not really speak the same language, at least not when it comes to food. Our pies are filled with cherries and topped with ice creams; theirs are filled with steak and topped with gravy. Our chips are paper-thin, deep fried discs of potato; theirs are long fried chunks of potato. Our jelly is a fruity preserve used to top toast; their jelly is a gelatin based substance, sometimes used to capture cooked eels. The list continues.

Needless to say, venturing into an English gastropub is dangerous business unless you are armed with the appropriate dictionary. Herewith, a preliminary lexicon to introduce you to the terms and traditions of English cuisine. They follow, after the jump.

Bakewell Tart

A scrumptious glazed pastry flavored like marzipan. Photograph by Flirty Kitty.

Bangers and Mash

Mash is simple; mashed potatoes. Bangers are sausages. The sausages and mashed potatoes are traditionally served with gravy, peas, and braised cabbage.

Black Pudding

Photograph by avlxyz.

Sometimes served in a full English (see below), this sausage gets its eponymous coloring from blood.

Bubble and Squeak

The cockney rhyming term for Greek, this usually vegetarian side is made from frying up mashed potatoes with cabbage, or any other vegetables found lying around.

Butties and Baps

Several items on this list err on the raunchier side of the secondary meanings of culinary items. Take butties and baps. A bap is a kind of bread, like an airy white roll. Used in the plural, it is also slang for a woman’s northerly attractions. Buttie refers to a bap that has been buttered and stuffed with something.

Clotted Cream and Scones

Photograph by *hoodrat*.

A scone is something like a dense biscuit, and is traditionally served with Jam (see below), and clotted cream, a spreadable rendering of the fat skimmed from the top of a pan of simmering cream.

Cornish Pasties

While pasties, with a long "a," contribute to a stripper's paraphernalia, pasties with a short "a" is the term for a traditional dish from Cornwall in which puff pastry is filled with such items as cheese and onions, or beef, potato, and onion.

Cumberland Sausages

Toad in a Hole (see below) can be made with Cumberland Sausages, but more than likely you'll find these served independently. They are large pinwheel sausages in casings, pork flavored with herbs and pepper.

Fish 'n' Chips

Photograph by Zesmerelda.

Here is something most everyone knows. Fish 'n' Chips is beer battered fish, usually cod, deep fried and served with thick fried potatoes, peas, and tartar sauce.

Fries, Chips, & Crisps

This is where Anglo-American food terms begin to intersect, diverge, and generally wreak havoc. Fries are thin, what we would call, French fries, like matchsticks. Chips are what we would call fries. Crisps are what we would call chips. Take notes, or you're bound to be disappointed when your order arrives!

Full English

Short for "a full English breakfast," also known as a fry up. The first of the five "traditional" English meals of the day (Breakfast, Elevensies, Lunch, Tea, and Dinner), it hits the ground running with bacon (English bacon is back bacon, not as crisp as our version), sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, eggs, hash browns, and toast.


Photograph by zoonabar.

A Scottish dish made by stuffing a sheep's stomach with chopped organs from the same animal, heavily spiced, and boiled for several hours. The casing is then split, and the steaming insides consumed.

Jellied Eels

Photograph by secretlondon123.

Eels that have been boiled, and then chilled so their juices congeal. God save the Queen—from this!

Jelly, Jam, and Jell-O

And the verbal trinities continue. English Jelly is American Jell-O. English Jam is American Jelly.


Photograph by Kai Hendry.

Kippers are simply smoked herring.

Macaroni Cheese

The English don’t put the 'n' in the Macaroni 'n' Cheese; they also put in less cheese, resulting in a looser, milkier dish.

Ploughman's Lunch, and Branston Pickle

Ploughman's lunch is the greatest relic of English cuisine. It consists of blocks, not slivers, of cheese (usually cheddar and stilton), served with apples, bread, butter, and pickle. Pickle, however, is not a brined cucumber. Branston pickle is a conglomeration of vegetables, including swede (see below), that form a sweet pickled relish.

Pork Pies

Lending their name to the style of men's hats, this dish is a cold pastry pie stuffed with pork and pork jelly.


Just as the term "coke" refers to any soda in the South, so "pudding" refers to any dessert, not just creamy chocolate ones, in England.


There are a series of American food terms that mean something entirely different in England. Scampi is one of them. It is not a garlicky Italian seafood dish, but is, what we would refer to as, fried shrimp, or popcorn shrimp. It is often served with the traditional accompaniments found with fish 'n' chips.

Scotch Eggs

Photograph by Unhindered by Talent.

A brunchtime favorite sold prepackaged at Sainsbury's, these are hard boiled eggs, wrapped in ground sausage, then breaded and deep fried.


Yes, squash could mean a gourd in England, but they use the term pumpkin more freely. Instead, squash is a concentrated fruit beverage, like Ribena, that you can dilute as needed.

Spotted Dick

Photograph by brandi666.

So the list of potentially sexual food names continues. This is a sponge pudding studded with dried fruits and served with custard.

Steak and Kidney Pie

Yet, it actually is what it says it is. A pie—full of steak, and kidneys.


The English word for golden raisins, popularized Stateside by Nigella Lawson, whose first name means black cumin seed.


Swede can refer to a blond Nordic person, or, more culinarily speaking, refers to what we know as a rutabaga.

Yorkshire Pudding, and Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole. Photograph by Annie Mole.

I know I said pudding means dessert, but Yorkshire Pudding, like Black Pudding, is not dessert, but is more like a popover, formed of batter poured into special tins full of hot grease. It is served with meat and gravy, more specifically in Toad in the Hole, where sausages are baked into the pudding.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today's lesson, boys and girls. Consider yourself educated!

Do you have anything to add to this list?


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