If you grew up in the Boston area or anywhere in New England, you know that eating and ordering food around the region means navigating some, ahem, unique pronunciations and dishes. From skawl-ups to grinders and coffee milk, here’s a mini food glossary for those of us who live in the New England area (shout-out to Somerville, Mass!), grew up there, or are planning a visit anytime soon. And check out Seth Meyers’s “Boston Accent Trailer” video at the end, for a bonus reference to a controversial ice cream topping (at 2:54) in case you missed it.
This is the only acceptable pronunciation for scallops. Trust no one who says otherwise.
2. Coffee Milk
NOT ½ coffee and ½ milk. That’s not a thing. It could be, but it wouldn’t be great. This official state drink of Rhode Island is made by adding coffee syrup to milk and mixing it up, much the way you used to do with chocolate syrup to make chocolate milk.
There’s a little debate around this, but essentially it’s the term for whatever the white fish of the day is at seafood restaurants around Boston—usually haddock or cod. It also unfortunately sort of sounds like something you might make by mashing a bunch of fish scraps together. But it’s not made that way. We're, like, 99 percent sure.
Popular outside of New England, sure, but invented and perfected in Somerville, MA. The secret to a correctly made peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich is using Marshmallow Fluff, not some-other-brand marshmallow cream. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
5. Grape-Nut Custard Pudding
A mild-sweet egg custard mixed with, obviously, Grape-Nuts cereal and some cinnamon/nutmeg for flavoring. Is it pretty? Not especially. Is it delicious? Absolutely.
6. Hoodsie Cup
Legitimately the greatest summer treat of all time. Imagine the taste of chocolate ice cream, vanilla ice cream, a tiny wooden spoon and bliss all mixed up together, and you’ll get an idea of what we’re dealing with.
Flat cornmeal cakes have different names depending on the region you’re in, but Johnnycakes are the term New England settlers used for the cakes they learned to make from local Pawtuxet Indians.
Your standard delicious pile of steamed clams in broth. Amazing as a dish, or as part of a mouthwatering clambake.
(Pronounced with one syllable, “Frappe” not “Frappé.”) Whatever you may have heard, this is not a milkshake. It’s ice cream, milk and syrup mixed together.“ But that’s exactly what a milkshake is.” Not in New England. If you order a milkshake here you’ll get a Frappe sans ice cream. No one wants that.
Though less common today, for many years in Boston ‘tonic’ didn’t refer to gin’s best friend, but rather worked as an umbrella for any kind of soda or carbonated beverage. Just picture it: “Tonic and fries.” “I’ll have a diet tonic.” “I’d like to buy the world a tonic.” Ok, stop picturing it.
11. Lobster Shack
The place where one buys delicious lobster rolls in the summer: Cold with mayo if you’re a Mainer, warm with butter if you’re from Connecticut. We’re not saying one is right and one is wrong—but choose carefully.
Ya got moxie kid, and by that we mean the official state drink of Maine, a soda that seems to inspire intense feelings of love or hate, depending on your taste buds.
While "grinder" is more widely known and used, "spuckie" was once a popular alternative name for a submarine sandwich as well. It comes from “spuccadella,” a particular kind of Italian roll, and can still be found on the menu of some Boston-area sandwich shops.
14. Apple Cider Doughnuts
You may think you’ve tasted fall.You may have even described a pumpkin spice latte as “fall in a cup.” But until you stand in an apple orchard eating a freshly made apple cider doughnut, you have not tasted fall.
15. Clam Chowdah
It’s too important a part of New England food culture to leave off the list, but don’t consider this your invitation to pronounce it this way when you visit.
It’s as bad as every tourist who walks around yelling “PAHK THE CAH IN HAHVAHD YAHD!” Just stop that. Fill your mouth with delicious chowder instead, as you watch Seth Meyers's seminal "Boston Accent Trailer" (for the millionth time?).
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