Finnish meatballs

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 14 13:56:36 UTC 2008

My apologies for the formatting problems with the post. My mail program
reverts to HTML automatically when there is any formatting and I did not
try to prevent it. Since some of the messages appear to come through
formatted, I simply failed to anticipate the problem. (I left the quote
commands in the text to identify quoted text.)

Below is the stripped version.

I also wanted to add that there is also an attempt to explain "filet
americain" on Yahoo Answers. There are two relevant comments in this
amateur etymology. One suggests something that I had assumed--FA is a
finer grind than ST and has flavoring agents added prior to packaging.
Two others are variants on standard urban legends--one that Americans
are such carnivores that they will eat any kind of meat and the other
claims cites a popular site that claims that origins of ST are Russian,
post-Mongol-invasion. Best I can tell, both are demonstrably false.

Victor wrote:

Matt Yglesias comments on some food terms derived from geography:

In Finland, they call Swedish meatballs "Finnish meatballs".
It brought to mind a very angry conversation I once had with a
Greek fellow about my description of a particular beverage as Turkish
coffee. He was quite certain that it was *Greek coffee*, thank
you very much.

Another item this brings to mind for me is "filet americain" in the
Netherlands ("americaine" in Belgium, apparently). For example

The one I liked was *filet americaine* in Belgium.
Turned out to be raw hamburger with some onions and other stuff on it,
spread on a baguette. Then there was *sauce americaine* as one of the
six million things to put on french fries, and that was basically a
ketchup/mayo mix.

 From what I understood from Dutch food labels, this is not quite
correct. "Filet americain(e)" certainly contains raw ground beef, but
if that were all it had (with some condiments on the side), it would
have been labeled "steak tartare" (not to be confused with "bief
tartaar", which is just high quality ground beef, often packaged in
small hamburger-style discs, but meant for cooking). Steak tartare,
however, is labeled as such in Dutch supermarkets. The difference
between "steak tartare" and "filet americain natuur" escapes me.

For Dutch speakers, there is a whole Dutch Wiki page (and a second one
that clarifies it further).



But I digress. The point is that, despite the name and like the
English-language term "French fries", there is no apparent connection
between the geographic identification in the food term and the food's
actual geographic origins. This is slightly different from "Swedish
meatballs" and "Greek coffee". And the significance of the "tartare"
(or "tartar" or "tartaar") does not escape me in this context. The
closest thing that I know to "steak tartar" is kibbeh (multiple
spellings), which is a mix of beef and bulgur that is often eaten raw
(with onions) when fresh (but is usually fried after that--commercially
available kibbeh is always fried, as is the Israeli version, kubebbah).

I wonder if anyone ever tried to compile a comprehensive list of such
food misnomers. The blog post mentioned earlier that had sprung the
"filet americaine" comment mentioned Swiss cheese, French toast and
English muffins--prompted by a discovery of a product referred to as
"American muffins" in England. There is also a (justifiable) rant
concerning cafe americano as an abominable Starbucks creation. This is
not quite accurate--at least, not with respect to Starbucks coining the
term. One urban legend has it that the name was coined because diluting
espresso with water was the only way to make normal coffee palatable to
American tourists. But I have no hard evidence on the subject.

So, I actually have two distinct long-term queries. First, a general
one, concerning food items (in any language, but English is a good
start) that are named geographically without any regard to the actual
geographic origin (so Greek coffee would not qualify simply because it
is also known as Turkish coffee; nor would Panama hat because it's not
food). Second, I would like to compile a list of items that are known
as "American" in other parts of the world (although not always in other
languages). I suppose, in this case, American cheese does not qualify
(and not simply because it is not really cheese).


The American Dialect Society -

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