the australian cook’s dictionary

I was given a copy of Denise Grieg’s excellent “the australian cook’s dictionary” yesterday by a dieting friend in a vicarious mood and it should go no end to helping the food vocabulary around here. So goodbye to my favourite dish “Cooked in an oven Cow Meat with a thingy poured over it” and hello – well I haven’t read it all yet. Two things have got my curiosity though.

The first is the sheer globalism of the entries, while still being representative of what we would consider “Australian” food. Although heavily weighted to French, almost every page is over 70% words of a non-English (and we could get into an argument over the definition of this) source. Eager social scientists or historians might make something of this and social changes of Australia.

My most ancient historical source is a 1970 copy of “The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook”. Again, French features reasonably heavily but a quick cruise through the comprehensive index barely yielded a double figure amount of non European terms whereas “tacd” has 26 in the “A”s alone – with a high representation of Japanese terms (might be the influence of her son working at Tetsuya’s). Not many SE Asian food terms though and if you have a look through some of the blogs in IMBB you’ll realise something serious is amiss.

The second point is that the singular of choux is chou. This would explain the dual spelling – if I’m not mistaken, it should be the singular form in chou pastry.

If either of these points even slightly interested you, you’ll enjoy Cooking Verbs at Language Log. LL are F1 engineers, I am the bloke in greasy overalls at the garage saying “yeah well it might be the diff'”.

Finally – one thing amiss is that it doesn’t have pronunciation. This is a big issue for a man who spent more than a short time walking around saying chianti and korizo. Is there any difference in pronunciation between chou and choux?

Also, is “chop suey” a real Chinese word? I’d heard otherwise.


  1. Anonymous’s avatar

    Chop suey is an American dish :)

    BTW, I also did my version of the Mahi-mahi fish with polenta. Didn’t look quite as good as yours but still very nice. I’ve posted a picture on my site as promised.


  2. John’s avatar

    Re “chou” or “choux” for the pastry. It is choux (from cabbages) because apparently the original choux buns looked like cabbages. Hence the plural form (a singular bun would be rather unlikely). That said, I haven’t the vaguest idea what a choux bun was, looked or tasted like. I just remember my mum telling me when I asked why you made pastry from cabbage (just after I’d started learning French a million years ago).

  3. Anthony’s avatar

    David – just been over, nice work. You’ve also just decreased the number of non-european food names in the TAWWCB” by about 15%

    John – Thanks for that, I never realised it also meant cabbage. It reminds me of when I asked a German friend if he thought it was funny that his Chancellor at the time (Kohl) was named after a cabbage and he deadpanned “no”. Ah well.

    I’m still confused though and am going to have to have a lie down before I can think of a similar example in English. The modifying noun is usually singular as in “bean bag” but then we have tricky post modifiers like “Governors General”, but then “crown of thorns”. Aarrgh help.

  4. Jeanne’s avatar

    The Language Log post is very cool – made me start checking how many Afrikaans cooking words there are… Answer: more than Carrier but fewer than English. But then that comparison holds true for most English/Afrikaans comparisons as Afrikaans is the younger language.

    I was also wondering about your “Governors General” and “crown of thorns” examples – are they not fundamentally different? In the first it is the generals who are multiple (like ladies-in-waiting), whiel in the second there is only one crown – if there were two crowns then the noun woudl also take the plural form, like the generals. Or am I being pedantic?? ;-)

    On the topic of choux – “mon petit choux” is a term of endearment – question is are you calling your beloved a little bun or a little leafy green vegetable??

  5. Anthony’s avatar


    Good research. I was going to get out my Japanese cookbooks but was too lazy. So instead I had a quick survey last night amongst speakers of about half a dozen languages. The results were the same for English but the oddest one out was sautee, half the languages didn’t have a single verb for it and I guess neither do we.

    Yep they are different, and I was being misleading as “General” is an adjective but it’s often thought of as a noun as in the military rank. “Crown of thorns” uses a preposition and is the way we use plurals to modify nouns. Consider “thorns crown” which would be the same as saying “choux bun”. So nah not being pedantic (which I thought for a long time was “pendantic”-such a dork) just making me need another coffee – I’m still grappling with “walkmen”.

    “Mon petite choux” – I don’t know it’s better from a male’s perspective to be called a “green vegetable” or a “cream puff” . I’ll give it a try next time the springboks are in town ; )

  6. Jeanne’s avatar

    Walkmen. Hmmm. Makes me think of the mongooses/mongeese debate. Another coffee? Make mine a triple espresso, with maybe some paracetamol on the side for my overworked linguistic lobe…

  7. Andy’s avatar

    My mother left me her copy of Mrs Beeton’s:all about cookery which has an added Australian chapter. Mrs Beeton states at the beginning of this chapter that;
    Cookery in Australia is of course English in character, while in the hotels the French cuisine plays a prominent part just as it does in England and elsewhere.

    One of the vegetables that features for Australia is the Choko, a vegetable that I remember as a child was commonly grown in many backyards but is rarely seen now. A lot of the featured dishes are for native game, there are recipes for Roasted black swan, Jugged Kangaroo, Baked Mallee Hen, Parrot pie, boiled terrapin and Bandicoot in milk among others.
    I don’t know if these recipes have any relation to what some Australians might have eaten in the past.

  8. Anthony’s avatar

    Jeanne – mongi?

    Thanks for the research. It looks on the surface that Mrs Beetson’s done a rebadged local version and just tried to find local equivalents. On the other hand there were some terrible privations in the bush well inside living memory so people may not have been too fussy. I remember my Dad telling me that mallee hens were delicious eating but they’re quite rare now due to over-zealous land clearing. If I could trouble you to send or post one of the more interesting/feasible recipes using native animals, I’d greatly appreciate it.

    Not Black Swan though. There’s a lake full of them down the road, combined with simmering desire for revenge for scaring me when I was a little ‘un. The temptation may be too great.

  9. Tasty Chicken Recipes’s avatar

    Greetings, my friend. Do you like cooking? Do you enjoy preparing a healthy and tasty meal for your family? It means we have something in common.

    When cooking for my 3 years old son I always try to balance what’s good and what tastes good. And I am sure you think the same.

    So… let’s join our efforts. See, alone I can only do so much. Together, with your help, we can make Tasty Chicken Recipes really useful.

    And, while you’re there, why don’t you send me your thoughts on how to make it a better place? A place where you’ll really enjoy being. A place that you’ll be proud of making better.

  10. Anonymous’s avatar

    The ingredients for all these receipes you will get at Online Shopping . All the best to you, on your cooking ventures.

  11. Pierre Quickle’s avatar

    Very interesting. thank you for sharing! You see, I’m currently working on my blog on similar subject to “manthatcooks · the australian cook’s dictionary” and I might quote this post in it. I hope you don’t mind

Comments are now closed.