The link between language and cuisine can often be profound and full of nuances and connections. Some dish names can be misleading, evoking certain countries or proper names not strictly linked to the actual ingredients of the dish, or they can derive from incorrect translations or false attributions, highlighting the complexity and diversity of the global gastronomic heritage in correlation to the variety linguistics.

HelloFresh, the industry’s leading home delivery recipe box service, and Babbel, the leading language learning ecosystem, reveal the trends linked to dishes that derive from proper names or countries, inviting you on a culinary and cultural journey to discover the origins of the ten names of the most sought after and peculiar recipes between Italy and Europe.

Proper names and recipes: from the restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio to Lemuel Benedict

According to data collected by HelloFresh1, in Italy the podium of recipes with the greatest growth trend for online searches is reserved for American dishes: in first place are fettuccine Alfredo (235%), followed in second and third position by eggs Benedict ( 83%) and Caesar salad (22%). In Europe the protagonists of online searches are pasta alla Norma (for the United Kingdom 23%), eggs Benedict (“Huevos Benedictinos”) in Spain (175%) and in Germany (“Eier Benedict”) with a percentage of growth of 124%, while the Wellington fillet (“Bœuf Wellington”) is very popular in France (124%).

  • FETTUCCINE ALFREDO: as the linguist explains Sofia ZambelliCurriculum Manager at di Babbel Live, the name could be traced back to a restaurateur from Rome at the beginning of the twentieth century, Alfredo di Lelio. Legend has it that di Lelio created the dish with the aim of helping his wife to reinvigorate herself after pregnancy. Using three simple ingredients (pasta, butter and parmesan), the chef created a rich and creamy sauce that immediately won his wife’s heart. The dish then became popular among customers of his restaurant, the “Ristorante Alfredo”, also attracting celebrities and tourists from all over the world. Despite its Italian roots, the dish gained great fame in the United States during the 20th century, where it is known as “Fettuccine Alfredo” (this name has remained in Italian even internationally).
  • BENEDICT EGGS: the name of this dish has nothing to do with the Benedictine order, as one might assume. The most accredited version attributes its creation to Charles Ranhofer, chef at the New York restaurant “Delmonico’s”. It is said that one of the regular customers, Lemuel Benedict, eager to find a remedy for his headache, ordered a dish consisting of poached eggs, bacon and English muffins, all topped with hollandaise sauce. This mix of ingredients was so popular that it became part of the restaurant’s menu, with the name “eggs Benedict” in honor of its “creator”.
  • CAESAR SALAD: the dish dates back to the figure of the Piedmontese restaurateur Cesare Cardini who created this salad in 1924, improvising with the ingredients available in the kitchen during a particularly busy day in his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, the “Caesar’s Restaurante-Bar” (romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan, eggs, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and anchovies). The popularity of this dish (still named after the Italian chef) grew very quickly among the customers of “Caesar’s Restaurante-Bar” to the point that it became one of the most popular salads in the world. The name of the recipe remains unchanged in English and Italian, while in other European languages ​​it is literally translated as, for example, in French “salad Césarin Spanish “ensalada Césarand in German “Caesar salat.
  • PASTA ALL NORMA: the linguistic origin of this dish is commonly attributed to the opera “Norma” by the Catania composer Vincenzo Bellini. However, there are two conflicting versions of how this musical connection was born: according to some, a chef from Catania created and served this dish on the occasion of the premiere of Bellini’s opera at La Scala (26 December 1831); according to another popular theory, the writer, poet and screenwriter Nino Martoglio would have tasted it as a guest of friends in Catania and, particularly impressed by its goodness and the beauty of Bellini’s work, he would have exclaimed: “This dish is a true Norma ”.
  • BEEF WELLINGTON: the famous English Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, is the character behind this dish, created to celebrate the leader’s victory in the Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon in June 1815.

Alert names and geographical origins, between theories and traditions

To conquer the curiosity of Italians, according to the data collected by HelloFresh, there are also all those names of dishes that refer to names of places or geographical locations, such as hamburgers (122%), French fries (50%) and Russian salad (49%). In Spain, interest in the Baked Alaska cake is growing (125%), while in France the summer dessert Eton Mess is attracting greater attention (89%). In the United Kingdom, the hamburger is confirmed as one of the most sought after international recipes (400%), and in Germany the French fries (235%).

  • HAMBURGER: derives from the city of Hamburg, where at the beginning of the 19th century it was common to serve minced meat in the form of meatballs or steaks, it was introduced to the United States following the German emigration of that same period. The word would therefore be a linguistic loan from German, and more specifically, a demotic (i.e. a term that indicates origin and in this case, means “from Hamburg”). The practice of placing meat between two slices of bread quickly caught on overseas during the 19th century, giving rise to the now well-known “stuffed sandwich”.
  • FRENCH FRIES: Contrary to what the name of the dish seems, “French fries” do not come from France, but from Belgium. During World War I, North American soldiers stationed in the Wallonia region discovered this fried potato snack; since the dominant language in southern Belgium is French, this tasty dish was nicknamed “French fries”. Another theory suggests that the term “French” was used to indicate the style of cutting potatoes “French style”, rather than for the geographical origin. Finally, according to another version, the term “fries” can be traced back to the French language, where “frire” means “to cook in boiling oil”.
  • RUSSIAN SALAD: the name of this recipe could be misleading, as it is not strictly linked to Russia, at least not throughout the world! It is believed that the salad was created in the second half of the 19th century by a Belgian chef named Lucien Olivier, who ran a famous restaurant in Moscow called “Hermitage”. Olivier’s original recipe included ingredients such as potatoes, carrots, peas, pickled cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs and meat, mayonnaise, olives and parsley as decorations. What is called Russian salad in Italy takes on different names in other countries. In Denmark, Norway and Finland, for example, it is known as “Italiensk salat” (“Italian salad”), influenced by a Piedmontese version of the dish dating back to the 19th century and known as “salad rusa” (i.e. red, as it included the use of beets). According to some sources, the dish was proposed by a Savoy court chef on the occasion of Tsar Nicholas II’s visit to Italy in 1909. The dish was prepared with the addition of products commonly grown in Russia (carrots and potatoes) – the recipe did not include the use of mayonnaise, but of cream which was intended to represent snow, typical of the Russian climate – the tsar would then bring the recipe with him, which would spread throughout Europe, replacing the cream with mayonnaise and eliminating the beets. In Holland “Huzarensalade” (“Hussar salad”) due to the association with the so-called “hussars”, a typical cavalry unit of the Russian army who introduced the salad to the Netherlands on the occasion of military or diplomatic events. In Lithuania it is known as “Baltasis salotas” (“white salad”) due to its light color and creamy consistency, while in Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary it is called “Francuska salata” (“French salad”), a term which is linked to popularity of French cuisine. Finally, in Romania it is called “Boeuf Salad” due to its association with a traditional Romanian dish called “Salată de boeuf” based on boiled beef and pickled vegetables and mayonnaise.
  • BAKED ALASKA: the invention of this dessert is generally attributed to French chef Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City and dates back to 1867. However, the precise origin of the name is uncertain. According to some, “Baked Alaska” derives from the fact that the dish resembles a frozen landscape: in this case, the ice cream represents Alaska and the meringue represents the snow. Others suggest that the name may have been used to honor the United States’ purchase of Alaska in 1867, although this version is less credited. It is curious that this cake is called in French “omelette à la norvégienne” (or “Norwegian omelette”), so called because of its similarity with another French dessert called “Omelette norvégienne” or “Omelette surprise”: both desserts in fact have an external layer that resembles cooked or burnt meringue, even if their ingredients and preparation method may be different.
  • ETON MESS: the origin of this delicious dessert, which combines cream, strawberries and crumbled meringue, owes its name to the union of two words: the English word “mess” which can literally be translated as “disaster” or “mess” and Eton, between the most prestigious colleges in the United Kingdom, in the county of Berkshire. According to the most famous theory, at the end of the 19th century, during a cricket match at the renowned school, a Labrador dog sat on a picnic basket containing a Pavlova cake with strawberries and cream, crushing it completely. Faced with this chaos, the students tried to save the dessert, realizing that it was still excellent!