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28 Keys to Decoding British Pub Menus

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Even pubs tucked into the hills and dales of the English countryside have gone global—or at least continental—in recent years, offering such fare as gazpacho and rillettes, but traditional British food abides. Meanwhile, English menus can still befuddle Americans. While most of us know that American “fries” are British “chips” and American “chips” are British “crisps,” it can get trickier. Here’s a glossary to help you out of puzzling menu muddles.

1. COCKLES

From Molly Malone peddling her cockles and mussels, you knew cockles were some kind of shellfish. Well, to be exact, they’re a type of clam, Cerastoderma edule, found in coastal areas of the eastern Atlantic.

2. PUDDING/PUDDING WINE

Your first instinct on being offered a pudding wine is probably, “Thanks very much, but I’ll pass,” but you needn’t. Pudding in British English isn’t just the soft, creamy stuff; it’s any kind of dessert, and a pudding wine is a dessert wine.

3. BLACK PUDDING

On the other hand, you might want to pass on this one. It’s not a dessert but a large sausage made of blood and suet, sometimes with flour or oatmeal.

4. YORKSHIRE PUDDING

That said, many Americans know and love this popover made of baked unsweetened egg batter, typically eaten with roast beef.

5. GAMMON

Gammon can mean the bottom piece of a side of bacon, including a hind leg, but usually refers to ham that has been cured or smoked like bacon.

6. TREACLE

You may have first encountered the word treacle in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when the dormouse talks about a trio living at the bottom of a treacle well. And you may know that something overly sentimental is described as “treacle,” meaning it’s something sweet and sticky. That's because it’s the British word for molasses.

7. HIGH TEA

Not to be confused with “afternoon tea” (the posh pinkies-extended, four-o’clock indulgence with crustless cucumber sandwiches, petit fours, and cream tea), “high tea” is a working-class supper that includes a hot dish like meat pie or sausages and is served around 5:00.

8. WELSH RAREBIT

This name for seasoned melted cheese on toast is an alteration of the original early 18th century name, “Welsh rabbit,” a teasing reference to the Welsh who were too poor to afford rabbit.

9. JUGGED

Jugged refers to a whole game animal, most often a hare or rabbit, sometimes a fish, stewed in a tightly covered container such as a casserole or an earthenware jug.

10. POTTED

Potted meat or fish is preserved in a sealed pot or jar.

11. TOAD-IN-THE-HOLE

With or without the hyphens, the name refers to meat, usually sausages, baked in batter. In 1792, Fanny Burney called something “as ill-fitted as the dish they call a toad in a hole,.. putting a noble sirloin of beef into a poor paltry batter-pudding.”

12. (VEGETABLE) MARROW

Marrow refers to several types of summer and winter squash, especially the white-fleshed, green-skinned kind resembling large zucchini. Squash to the English usually means either a racquet game or a soft drink such as lemon or orange squash.

13. COURGETTE

The British use the French word courgette, which translates as “little gourd,” for the squash Americans call by the Italian name zucchini, which also means “little gourds.”

14. SCOTCH(ED) EGG

A Scotch (now often written “Scotched”) Egg is a hard-boiled egg enclosed in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried— typically served cold.

15. JELLY

Did you ever wonder, when listening to “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (“’Twas the night before Christmas…”) How much does a bowl full of jelly shake? Imagine instead a bowl full of Jell-O. Although he was an American, Clement Moore was probably using an older meaning of jelly still prevalent in Britain: gelatin.

16. ROCKET

Don’t worry. Your salad isn’t going to shoot into the sky and explode in a pyrotechnical display. Rocket is English for the leafy vegetable Americans know as arugula.

17. SULTANAS

Sultana is short for "sultana raisin," a golden raisin made from the sultana grape, known as the Thompson Seedless in the U.S. It is commonly used in pastries. 

18. SWEDE

A swede is a rutabaga.

19. BANGERS AND MASH

Bangers and mash is a slightly slangy way to say sausages and mashed potatoes. Norman Schur in British English A to Zed, tells of a pub that offered “sausages and mash” for one price in its “public bar” and “sausages and creamed potatoes” at a higher price in the fancier “saloon bar.” Same dish. By the way, in British English, potato (puh-TAY-toe) does not rhyme with tomato (tuh-MAH-toe).

20. BISCUIT

Biscuit can mean either cookie or cracker. The American use of "cracker" is creeping into Britain, but generally cracker in the U.K. refers to the sausage-shaped party favors wrapped in tissue that explode and drop tiny prizes when tugged sharply at both ends. The closest equivalent of the American biscuit is the scone.

21. PORRIDGE

Porridge usually means oatmeal, but it can also be a thick soup. When in doubt, ask.

22. PICCALILLI

Perhaps a blend of “pickle” and “chili”, piccalilli is a condiment made from a mixture of chopped vegetables, mustard, and hot spices.

23. BAP

Since around 1600, "bap" has meant small loaf or roll of bread, made of various sizes and shapes in different parts of Scotland. More recently the word has become a slang term for breast.

24. SHEPHERD’S PIE

A shepherd’s pie usually consists of chopped or ground meat topped with mashed potatoes and baked.

25. PLOUGHMAN’S LUNCH

A ploughman’s lunch is a cold meal, usually including bread and cheese with pickle and salad. “No ploughman ever survived on these scraps,” grumbles a character in Barry Maitland’s 1994 novel The Marx Sisters, but the combination has been a pub standard since the early 19th century.

26. SOLDIERS

Soldiers are thin strips of bread or toast, lined up like soldiers on parade.

27. KNICKERBOCKER GLORY

Mentioned by Graham Greene in Gun for Sale (1936), the Knickerbocker Glory, an elaborate ice-cream parfait that may contain gelatin, cream, fruit, meringue, and sometimes liquor, is still seen on pub menus.

28. CRISPY PIG’S HEAD/ CHARGRILLED OX TONGUE

Sorry. These are just what they sound like.

All images courtesy of iStock. 

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

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