Remember the Great French Fries Controversy of 2003, when France opposed the U.S.’s decision to go to war in Iraq and so the House of Representatives stopped serving “french fries” in their cafeteria and starting selling “freedom fries” instead? And then “French toast” became “freedom toast,” and so on. Aside from the obvious silliness, it left a lot of people wondering why they were called french fries or French toast to begin with. Neither actually originated in France, the former hailing from Belgium and the latter coming from many countries across Europe in the Middle Ages.
So why are some foods named for places around the world? In some cases it may indeed boil down to the region of origin for that particular dish — buffalo wings, for example, are named after Buffalo, New York, where a local restaurant served the dish after a mix-up with their food orders forced them to improvise.
In other cases the dish may have been invented elsewhere but a noteworthy action involving the food somewhere else would raise its prominence and claim its name in the process: chicken Kiev, for example, is really a popular Russian dish (“borrowed” from France), and has been since Empress Elizabeth tasked her chef with mastering French dishes that were popular in the late 1900s. But when the dish of chicken, butter, and herbs was served to returning dignitaries in the Ukrainian capital, marking the end of World War II, it was officially renamed chicken Kiev.
Some dishes, on the other hand, had other names but were rechristened when travelers brought them back to their countries. Turkish Delight, known as lokum or rahat-ul hulkum in Turkey, was brought back to the U.K. by a traveler who could not pronounce the name and so simply called it Turkish Delight.
There are scores of dishes that have names showcasing their well-traveled lineage as well as the culture and history of the places from which they originated. Read on to find out more about some of the most famous of these dishes that were named for places around the world.
Also known as the Brussels waffle, the Belgian waffle had its humble beginnings in the Middle Ages as a mixture of barley and oats cooked in a “waffle iron” made from two metal plates connected by a hinge and attached to an arm with a wooden handle. Traditionally sold at church fairs and saint feast day festivities it was finally brought to America in 1964 for the World’s Fair in New York by Maurice Vermersch (Americans referred to it as the Belgian waffle because many didn’t know where Brussels was). Belgian waffles are eaten with a light dusting of sugar.
Baked Alaska is a “cake” made from soft sponge cake topped off with a layer of hard ice cream and covered with a layer of uncooked meringue. This creation is then popped into the freezer until serving time, at which point it is placed in a very hot oven, just long enough to brown the meringue. The name comes from Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City where it was created in honor of the newly acquired territory of Alaska in 1876.
Serusha Govender is The Daily Meal's Travel Editor. Follow her on Twitter @SerushaGovender