food language

Do you have your own food language?

You probably do, and don’t even realize it.

Maybe in your family you refer to a certain dish in a special, kind of coded way that your family understands, but someone else wouldn’t. Mom’s soup. Thursday Rice. Bread Salad.


When you try to explain it, it sounds like this:

“You know… that soup my mom makes. With turkey and spices and tiny pieces of potatoes. Sounds like ordinary soup, but I guess it’s like a secret recipe in my family. And if I tell my sister I’m making ‘mom’s soup’ she knows exactly what my dinner looks like.”

“C’mon! Thursday Rice: rice and parsley and you bake it in a casserole dish… I often used to make it on Thursdays when the baby was a baby. Thursday Rice!”

“Really, Bread Salad? Bread + Salad. Together. (Ok it’s torn up day old bread toasted and drizzled with oil and sesame seeds and added to whatever crisp vegetables you have in the fridge and hopefully some cheese, too. When my father says no, he’s fine, he’s making bread salad for dinner, I know what that is.)”

So… now do you think maybe you do have your own food language?

I certainly do. And I speak my family’s food language, too. When my mom asks that we have ‘that pasta that I like’ I know she means fusilli with sun dried tomatoes, basil, fresh grape tomatoes, garlic and olives that works either hot or cold. In her recipe folder (an old notebook held together with an elastic band that has ripped out magazine pages and hand written recipes fighting for space) there is a recipe titled ‘that pasta that I like’.

My oldest son used to ask for ‘a plate’. Not fix him a plate, of the dinner laid out. No, ‘a plate’ is derived from ‘a plate of things’. Which is petty much that. Lunch or a snack (or maybe a dinner) that is arranged on a plate in sections and is a mix of things he likes, covering most food groups and acts almost like a personalized antipasto dish. When he was younger it would be: cucumber slices, a few cherry tomatoes cut in half, some olives or pickles, a couple pieces of Genoa salami, a small dish or espresso cup of yogurt, crackers, some grapes or slices of nectarine. Maybe some nuts or cheese. A couple pretzels. His ‘plate’ is actually not so different these days. And speaking of a mix of things, ‘a mix max’ is a variation of ‘a plate’ that we often have for lunch these days, requested by my daughter. These are like the popular snack boards everywhere today, but my kids have been having them as ‘plates’ for years.

Both ‘a plate’ and ‘mix max’ include crax. I mean cracks. Crackers!

This one came up years ago and I didn’t even realize that what I was saying was odd because it wasn’t odd to me. I understand it. But my coworker at the time didn’t know me that well and didn’t speak my food language. But now if my friend were to see my grocery list and read ‘crax’ she’d understand what I needed to buy.

But I’m curious: what’s in your food language and who speaks it?


  1. Hi Kathryn. It’s so great to see you writing again! This was a fun one to read. I’m sorry I’ve been such a poop about being in touch. It’s been constant nutty times but let’s try to be in touch soon!
    Here are some things from our food language dictionary:
    Snacky lunch: equivalent to ‘a plate’s
    Eggies and ovals: hard boiled eggs and Clark’s baked beans
    Dip-dips: chicken fingers with ketchup
    Lolos: Cheerios
    Green pasta: pasta with pesto
    That soup that I make that everyone likes: (this one’s my mom’s) chicken soup with mushrooms and noodles


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