What’s in a name?

Sometimes a name tells you one thing, and sometimes it tells something else entirely. Some names tell where a food comes from geographically, some historically and some just come from your grandma!

Regardless, names can be a pointer, and they have definitely affected how I travel and how I look at a particular dish.

Do you remember the first time the name of something finally clicked?

For me, it was manchego cheese. Sitting outdoors at a restaurant in Madrid, and comparing the English and Spanish menus as a means of learning Spanish, I saw the main dish was something “from La Mancha” which in Spanish is manchego. Until then, I had thought that manchego was just the name of the cheese, not that manchego said where it’s from! It took a translation for me for that lightbulb to come one, duh!

In my defence, I wasn’t completely ignorant before. For example, among other things, I knew that Bordeaux wine means it is from Bordeaux, but I hadn’t always transferred that lesson from wine to food.

And of course, this isn’t always true, as my previous post says, the Ziti alla Genovese recipe comes not from Genoa but from Naples.

The names of foods and recipes have led to more digging about the history of the food, the source of a recipe, how it came to be, what it meant to and about a place. This has led

This has led to me going to a place just because of a name, such as when I visited Cerignola in Puglia.

Driving down the highway with the destination of the tip of the heel of Italy, I saw a sign for Cerignola. A town with the name of an olive type got my attention so I exited and drove to the center of town. It was mid-day with only one small cafe open. They gave me a portion of cerignola olives, making me promise to never eat them anywhere else because they would not be good elsewhere! They were right. And of course, the olives are named after the town, not the other way around.

Other times, it dictates what I eat in a place, or even to restrict some meals to particular places. One knows or learns, to eat the local specialties – pesto in Liguria, anchovies in Vernazza (even if you think you hate anchovies), red onions in Tropea, butter tarts in Canada. As good as replicas are in other places, they don’t compare to eating them in the original place.

Learning the stories behind recipes and their names has increased my enjoyment of the food but also of the place. It tells me about the culture, and the history, like stepping into and adding colour to photo of the time.

So what’s in a name? An invitation to delve into an experience of connection and culture.