Do You Understand Cuisinese? Take This Quiz and Find Out.

When it comes to food and drink, I’m basically  a meat and potatoes guy.  I rarely experiment on my palate.  A  given whenever I eat out  is that I avoid the spicy food   for the life of me.  Literally.  I suffer from severe allergies to hot peppers and all their derivatives. Once I got a jalapeno White Castle by mistake and after several bites I was gasping for breath.

But I like to imagine I could eat anything. So I read the dining sections of a newspaper—as I did this morning in the Trib—-and pretend I have a cast-iron stomach.

The only trouble is you often  need a dictionary to understand what the restaurant writers are talking about. Maybe restaurant reviews should come with a glossary.

Here is a quiz based on today’s Chicago Tribune Dining Section offerings.  If you can get all 15 right, you’re a gastronome of the first order.  Good luck.

1.  A minepoix is a chopped mixture of all of the following except (a) celery (b) onions (c) carrots (d) tomatoes.

2. “Crudo” as in “Tuna Crudo” is Italian for (a) with olive oil (b) raw (c) spicy.

3. Aioli is a sauce made of all of these except (a) egg whites (b) olive oil (c) garlic (d) lemon juice.

4. Charcuterie is a brand of cooking devoted to preparing meat products, primarily from (a) poultry (b) pork (c) beef.


5. “Nduja is a spicy, spreadable pork sausage from (a) Italy (b) Morocco (c) India.

6. Poutine is a dish made with French fries topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. It originated in (a) France (b) Haiti (c) Canada.

7. Baba ghanoush is a Levantine dish made of cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil, and various seasonings; it supposedly was invented by a member of a royal (a) harem (b) commissary (c) caravan.

8. Kimchi is a dish of fermented vegetable and a variety of seasonings. It is the national dish of (a) Japan (b) China (c) Korea.

9. Achiote is a paste derived from the seeds of the annato tree. It can be made into a marinade or used as a food colorant. American Indians used it to paint their (a) fingernails (b) lips (c) eyebrows.

10. Masa is the Spanish word for (a) maize (b) cornmeal (c) dough.

11. Chicharron is generally made of fried (a)chicken breasts (b) shredded beef (c) pork rinds.

12. Orecchiette is a pasta in the shape of a small (a) saddle (b) ear (c) oreo cookie.

13. Espelette is a Basque town known for its dried (a) red peppers (b) green tomatoes (c) bluish chives.

14. Rapini is a green cruciferous vegetable whose flavor is slightly (a) sweet (b) salty (c) bitter.

15. Macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with eggs, granulated sugar and ground (a) chestnuts (b) almonds (c) peanuts.

Answers follow …



1. D 2. B 3. A 4. B 5. A 6. C 7. A 8. C 9. B 10. A 11. C 12. B 13. A 14. C 15. B


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  • I was able to answer most of these watching enough of Channels 7.2*, 11.1 and 11.3, and also being near a large Korean market. Some overlap, like the show "Kimchee Chronicles" fronted by Hugh Jackman with an Afro-Korean married to an Alsatian. Other than Jacques Pepin, the rest of the French chefs seem to be Alsatian.

    I had rapini when it was on sale at Caputo's. I then looked up how to make it, and Rachel Ray said to get the bitterness out, saute it and then braise it in stock. She was right.

    While I knew the answer to #12, the picture sort of gave it away.

    #5 I didn't have, but figured that the other 2 countries don't eat pork.

    #7 I didn't know, but didn't care.**

    * I've decided that the most useless cooking shows are the ones that teach how to cook "Chicago Food." Chris Koetke had one on 7.2 this week on cooking Italian Beef (which took two days) and saganaki. Even worse is when America's Test Kitchen tried to reconstruct Lou Malnati's pizza and Portillo's eclair cake. While I'm pretty sure that the crust in a Lou Malnati's pizza is not made like puff pastry, in all four cases I can go to somewhere in the neighborhood and have the real people make one. Can kill 2 birds with one stone at Portillo's.

    **First my father and then Sasha Baron Cohen as a tour guide on The Simpsons said "why do they only eat mush in Israel?" Some Israeli foodie also said "we only have Polish or Lebanese food," which, in a sense, is correct, even though they don't eat what the indigenous Poles do. Someone I know made the observation that "the only Jewish style restaurants are owned and run by Greeks," which is true, except the two run by Jews sell Lebanese food by the above definition.On the other hand, I might stop patronizing the place run by Palestinians. My book was out on the one run by Assyrians, but it has been renamed.

  • Hey Jack, thanks for taking the test and expounding on the subject. It's always an education to read your takes. There's a Lou Malnati's in Oak Lawn on 95th Street across from the Village Hall. From your comment, it sounds like a pizza worth trying. Palermo's ,a mile east of it on 95th, probably has the best pizza out this way. A sweeter variety.

    Hugh Jackman? Is there anything that guy can't do?

    As for Polish food, I grew up on it. Kielbasa, Kishka, pierogi, you name it.

    I live next door to a Greek-American who formerly owned a few restaurants and later managed a Cracker Barrel and Steak-and-Shake. He loves to talk and can give one many an insight into the business.

    Sasha Baron Cohen a tour guide on The Simpsons? One I missed.

    Thanks again, Jack. I really enjoy your visits.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    As I indicated above, "kosher" Polish food isn't that kind of Polish food. But there is Niles for the latter.

    Lou Malnati's is the de facto heir of the Uno's deep dish pizza, especially since Uno's was taken over by Boston interests that went bankrupt (I don't know if that applies to the 2 original River North locations).

    The Simpsons episode in question is on the Simpsons Wiki here. The other things I remember from that episode is that the guide starts with "Shalom, Goyim," even though Krusty was also on the tour and hence it didn't apply to him, a little girl knew Krav Maga and beat up Bart, and over the credits, Cohen's character, again expounding on mush, complained that the Jews were kicked out of Spain and couldn't have tapas. On the other hand, I don't remember any of the Rev. Lovejoy parts of the episode.

  • I must admit I enjoyed the test, but I didn't do so well -- seven right, otherwise known as eight wrong. Not too bad considering that I grew up rather protected about spices. I thought that "a spicy meal" had both salt and pepper in it. (Actually, I still think that it I know what's good for me!)

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Salt actually isn't. I gave up on America's Test Kitchen, when after about the fourth time they were challenged about all the salt in their recipes, Christopher Kimball said you could have twice as much. Some dietician told me to use Mrs. Dash.

    A similar issue was when I had the Lobster Bique at Zoop; at the beginning I could taste the wine in it, but by the end I could only taste salt.

    I'm now debating between that and barbecue, but while the barbecue cleans my sinuses, it might repeat at night. There was a rather poor Shoe on that yesterday (the setup for the pun was contrived).

  • In reply to jack:

    Well, Jack, as Aristotle would say, everything in moderation. As far as salt is concerned, it's six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. It sure wasn't good for Lot's wife.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Too many coincidences here. Some guy in the fitness center was talking about the Middle East situation and said "guess what the people in the Bible would have done if they had modern weapons?" to which I said that there is debate over what happened in Sodom. The theory he heard was that there was some meteorite hit in eastern Europe and the debris became the fire and brimstone. The theory I heard was that the Elohim were space travelers and nuked the place.

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