25 November, 2008

Recipes Lost in Translation

Last evening, I was taking the pooch out for a wander in the front yard when our neighbor, Janet, dropped by. She has been thoroughly charmed by our sweet pup, but the dog seemed to be an easy entree into what she really wanted from us.

Janet is a lovely grandma of Scottish extraction, who lives to our left with her garden-mad husband, Eddie. She's often seen strolling across the street to visit those we believe to be her children and grandkids. It's a very closely knit neighborhood, aside from us.

We chatted a bit, and she rather timidly asked, "Are you American?"

"Why, yes I am," I answered, not finding the question unusual, in these parts.

Well, my reply seemed to relax her and set off a rapid-fire explanation that she is on a mailing list for recipes, but that all the recipes are in American terminology, leaving her a bit flummoxed on what ingredients to use and when.

I happily clarified a short list of foodstuffs, and she so kindly offered us a huge, beautiful pumpkin from her garden, for my Thanksgiving pie. But the exchange left me wondering how many folks out there struggle with this very thing. Google can be a great help, but what if you just can't find that ingredient you need?

So, in honor of Janet, I have built this small list of American-to-Aussie ingredient translations. I will attempt to freshen it up a bit, over time. Happy cooking!

CilantroThe green, leafy part of coriander plants
Coriander, seed or groundThe powdered coriander form, often used in curries
CornmealFinely ground polenta
CornstarchCornflour
Filé PowderGround sassafras leaves. Used as a last-minute thickener for gumbos and other Cajun/Creole dishes.
Graham CrackersSadly, there is no Aussie equivalent. Usually these cookies are crumbled for use in a sweet pie crust. You could substitute most types of tea biscuit. Gingernut works well.
Half and HalfA 50/50 mix of milk and pouring cream. Thickened cream doesn't work as well.
Ketchup/CatsupTomato sauce
Powdered/Confectioners SugarIcing Sugar
PumpkinIn the U.S., this specifically refers to an orange-shelled pumpkin, typically used for making Jack-O-Lanterns, and fall dishes like pies and breads.
Pumpkin Pie SpiceA blend of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice or ground cloves, used mostly for pumpkin custard pies.
Squash, summerSimilar to yellow and patty-pan baby squash varieties in Oz, but much larger and tastier. Can also include zucchinis.
Squash, winterPumpkin, including Butternut, Jap, Queensland Blue, etc.
Tomato SauceTricky! Aussies reading this in an American recipe should think of it as a bolognese sauce before the meat and veg are added.

2 comments:

Margo said...

Cornmeal is polenta!!!!!!!!! I could never work that one out!

Kelly the City Mouse said...

Margo: LOL! Yes, indeedy. Siena brand, sold at Coles, is a relatively inexpensive fine-ground polenta (around $2.50 per kg). I used it for fish frying and hush puppies last night and it did beautifully. Be careful of standard polenta, as it's a coarser grind.