Menu Misnomers: The True Origins of Misnamed Food

English Muffin“English Muffins”

These “muffins” are so named because during England’s Victorian era, servants settled for these muffins made from leftover bread and biscuit dough scraps and mashed potatoes. When the elite got taste of the bread, they demanded more for themselves. Muffin men became so prominent in the streets, that they gave way to the popular phrase “Do you know the muffin man?”


These pastries do not come from Denmark. They originally come from Austria. in 1950 when some of Denmark’s bakers went on strike, Austrian ones replaced them, and they caused a frenzy when they began making “Danishes” that swept the nation. Even after the Danish bakers returned, they were swamped with orders for the sweet delicacy.

Swedish Meatballs“Swedish Meatballs”

Common in the whole Scandinavian area, meatballs were not particularly indicative of Swedish dishes. What may have separated them from their European brethren was the size or their flavor. Regardless, the meatballs made a big impression on Midwesterners when Swedish immigrants arrived in America.

French Toast“French Toast”

This breakfast dish is older than you probably think. In fact, it predates the founding of France, going all the way back to Medieval times. Recipes through the ages refer to it as both “Spanish Toast” and “German Toast.”  One popular legend states that the “French” in the name doesn’t refer to the nation, rather to an Innkeeper named Joseph French.

Brussels Sprouts“Brussels Sprouts”

It’s unknown how these small cabbages took on the name they did, considering they date back even further than the U.K. Still, we know they were commonly found in Belgium during the 16th century, and it was supposedly Thomas Jefferson who first brought them to America some centuries later.

Canadian Bacon“Canadian Bacon”

Canadian Bacon is a complete misnomer. They only place where it is referred to as such is the U.S. Canadian Bacon probably got its name in the mid 1800s when there was a shortage of pork in the U.K. and they imported the meat from Canada. They would cure the back meat in a special brine, which Canadians (and many other countries) call pea meal bacon. The English smoked it (which Canadians do not) and the new concoction was referred to as Canadian Bacon. Americans liked it and took it back to the states.


In Ontario and the prairie western provinces of Canada, as well as parts of the Midwest and West in the United States know a round jelly or custard filled doughnut as a Bismarck, though that is not the native land of these doughnuts. They are actually named after Otto von Bismarck of Germany, where the pastry actually originates.

French Fries“French Fries”

“French” fries first date back to 1680 when the inhabitants of Namur, Andenne and Dinat, Belgium usually caught and fried fish. However, when rivers and streams froze over and it was dangerous to fish, people would cut potatoes into the shape of little fish and fry them. The name is alleged to come from either the Irish for “to french,” meaning “to cut,” or from the American allies who, when they landed in the Belgian Andennes, tasted them and called them French Fries because French was the language spoken by the inhabitants, and fries because of the way they were cooked. Fries are actually Belgian.


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