Head Cheese

Sweetbreads, Prairie Oysters, and 13 Other Foods That Aren't What They Sound Like

Make sure you ask what something is before you order it!

Foods are under no obligation to have a name that makes any sense. For every spaghetti and meatballs out there, there’s also Welsh rarebit, whoopie pies, and chow chow. Some food names are pretty self-explanatory, but others are serious head-scratchers. And not only that; for some confusingly named dishes, the actual ingredients include things that… Well, let’s just say that they would be right at home on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods. We’ve tracked down 15 primo examples.

Sweetbreads, Prairie Oysters, and 13 Other Foods That Aren't What They Sound Like (Slideshow)

In a perfect world, we’d be able to identify a food item just by hearing its name. Restaurants really hate it when somebody sends back a dish because they didn’t know what one of its components was; we imagine that plenty of perfectly good dishes of sweetbreads went to waste because the person who ordered it thought that they’d be receiving, oh I don’t know, some kind of sweet bread. The benign-sounding bottarga is shaved on top of many fine Italian pasta dishes, but plenty if people order it without realizing that bottarga is pungent, salted and cured mullet roe that smells quite a bit like fish food.

Ordering something without knowing exactly what’s in it and being surprised by the results is a common mistake that even we at The Daily Meal have been guilty of; once while on a trip to Italy I overconfidently ordered an obscure dish called la finanziera, which was simply described as “Piemontese meat stew;” it wasn’t until it got to the table that I learned that its components included cock’s comb, rooster wattles, rooster and veal testicles, calf brains, calf veins, and sweetbreads. Lesson learned!

The moral of the story? If you don’t recognize the name of a component of a dish you’re about to order, don’t be afraid to ask. It won’t make you look dumb, and can definitely spare you from being embarrassed (and spare your server from being annoyed) later on.

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