7 Weird Food Names You Didn’t Know Existed

Weird food names

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Weird food names
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

And What Is That, Exactly?

Confused by the terms you’re seeing in restaurants and grocery stores? Curious about ordering sweetbreads? Never heard of a Jerusalem artichoke? And what is head cheese, anyway?

There’s a whole world of culinary terms out there, and some of them are wildly misleading. Take a look at these strange food names and discover what they actually are.

Italian sponges fingers. Italian savoiardi cookies. Ladyfinger cookies
Stefan Tomic/istockphoto

1. Ladyfingers, Heels of Bread, and Other Body Parts in Food

There is a stunning amount of food with human body part terminology. Heels of bread, ears of corn, heads of lettuce, toes of garlic, eyes of potatoes — the list goes on. Ladyfingers are the key component of tiramisu, and pretzels were allegedly once called bracellae, which translates to “little arms.”

head cheese
head cheese by stu_spivack (CC BY-SA)

2. Head Cheese

Though head cheese sounds innocent at first, with even one minute of thought as to what part of the head could produce cheese, it’s nice to know that there’s no cheese in this food. Head cheese is usually a terrine (or jelly-like meat) and served as a cold cut. Oh, and it’s made from the heads of calves and pigs.

Directly Above Shot of Hands Holding Freshly Podded Sugar Peas

3. Marrowfat

Here’s another one that isn’t as bad as it sounds. Marrowfat isn’t the fat you find inside bone marrow, but actually a type of pea. Instead of being harvested while they’re young, they are left out to dry naturally. Marrowfat are the type of peas you’ll find in mushy peas, a traditional dish in the U.K.

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Nelson's Candy Kitchen, Columbia, California
Steve M./Yelp

4. Sweetmeat

Sweetmeat is actually just candy. Any type of confection or sweet food will do for sweetmeat, but this term cracks me up. It's almost as if somebody who loved meat so much had to be tricked into eating candy. That was the full opposite of my problem growing up.

Related: Restaurant Slang That Will Make You Sound Like a Pro

Jerusalem artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes by Robin (CC BY-SA)

5. Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are not from Jerusalem, nor are they artichokes. A real misnomer double-whammy. Also known as sunchokes, they look similar to ginger, but have a nutty, delicate flavor that is somewhat like an artichoke. Use ‘em in any situation you’d use another root veggie.

Related: 27 Unusual Canned Foods You Might Actually Want to Eat

Adrienne L. / Yelp

6. Sweetbreads

Sweetbreads have become pretty commonplace these days, but they aren’t exactly French toast. This is the term for the pancreas or thymus of an animal. Don’t be scared; if cooked well, sweetbreads might be the highlight of your meal. The same goes for many other organ meats, which are typically known as “offal.”

Bell Pepper

7. Capsicum Stem

That stem at the end of a pepper? Yeah, that’s a capsicum stem (capsicum is the genus of a pepper), and the next time you chop it off, you should proudly announce to anybody nearby that you know what it’s called.