Food Language - Food Thoughts with Sheryl Estrada

Food and language are cultural. So, it's no wonder many U.S. regions have their own names for certain food and drink. My recent attempt to purchase a sandwich reminded me of this. And, made me think of other examples. A sub hero.

It all started at the counter of a deli section at a popular supermarket chain in Florida.

"Can I have a 6-inch hero with...?" I began.

"You want a what?" the employee asked.

"A hero...oh, I mean...a...sub," I said reluctantly.

As a native New Yorker, I call the sandwich made on long Italian bread with meat, cheese and veggies, a hero. But, most of the country refers to it as a submarine sandwich or a sub. Come to find out, in the U.S. there are actually 13 different names for the sandwich, according to the paper, "The Submarine Sandwich: Lexical Variations in a Cultural Context," in the 1967 American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage. Here's the first page:

If you go to Philadelphia, Pa., be prepared to call the sandwich a hoagie. You might hear it referred to as a poor boy in St. Louis, Mo., or po-boy in Southern Louisiana, what linguists call a dialect variation.

But for me, it will always and forever be my hero.

Jam preserves jelly.

I remember the TV commercial for Polaner All-Fruit spread airing in the '80s. A group of high-brow individuals sit a table eating what appears to be breakfast, with classical music playing in the background. They politely ask one another, "Please pass the Polaner All-Fruit." Yet, there is an unsophisticated male in the group who asks, "Would you please pass the jelly?" The question caused people to gasp, one woman faints.

I think the physical difference between preserves and jelly, or jam and jelly is evident. All are cooked, pectin-gelled fruit products, though, jellies are based on the juice of fruit. Many families include a can of jellied cranberry sauce with their Thanksgiving meal. And, there's the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While, jam and preserves differ from jelly as they include the seeds and pulp of the fruit or pieces of fruit.

But, we do often interchange the words jam, jelly and preserves. What's interesting to know is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published standards of identity in 21 CFR 150, recognizes jam and preserves as the same, but distinguishes jelly from jams and preserves. So making a distinction between jam and preserves can be quite a pickle.

Soft drinks.

Soft drinks evolved in the U.S. from consumption at soda fountains in ice cream parlors or drug stores to the sugary carbonated drink, or sugar substitute carbonated drink in bottles and cans. In my opinion, we consume way too much of the beverage. But, I digress; I'm just discussing its name right now.

I say soda 100 percent of the time when referring to soft drinks. Even when I'm in a place where using pop is popular. To me, pop only goes with popcorn, pop music or to be used as a term of endearment for your dad.

However, yes, there is a huge percentage of Americans who use the word pop. Check out the map created by Matthew Campbell and Prof. Greg Plumb of East Central University in Oklahoma, Generic Names for Soft Drinks by County: . Some regions of the U.S. even use the name coke to refer to all kinds of soft drinks.  A 1996 study addresses this, "Soda or Pop?" by Luanne Von Schneidemesser in the Journal of English Linguistics.

Are there regional names for food and drink you have encountered?