I talk about different meals of the day – apart from just the typical breakfast, lunch and dinner. I also talk about the types of meals I had growing up.
Hi! Hello again! This is Alena and you’re listening to the fifth episode of Along Came English.
Well, this is unusual. I’m actually publishing another episode so soon after my last one. I did say the last episode was meant to kickstart the podcast again, so I’m trying to keep the ball rolling.
I should probably explain these expressions first.
“Kick-start,” which I also used in the last episode, is to start or resume a process. It’s made up of the words “kick” and “start.” This is actually a motorcycle term, when you start the engine or kickstart the engine. But we also use this expression to… for projects, businesses, routines even – particularly if you want to start an exercise routine.
“Keep the ball rolling” is to keep an activity going, maintain its momentum, cause an activity or process to continue.
So yea… so I want to keep the ball rolling on this podcast.
I also wanted to let you know that I’ve started a website for this podcast on WordPress, the link should be in the description somewhere, but it’s just alongcameenglish.wordpress.com. (<– This is no longer the official website.)
At the moment, I’ve published the vocabulary list for each episode, and where I can, I also attach photos, so there’s a bit of visual for you as well.
And in the last episode about my recent trips around Australia, we took some really nice photos at the beach. So rather than just hearing me talk about it, at least you can see what I’m talking about. So please check it out and follow me there as well.
So today I wanted to talk about food because I realised that, for some reason, students who were pre-intermediate or even intermediate level had difficulty talking about food, cooking, the kitchen in general.
And I think also, a lot of English textbooks tend to neglect this as an everyday general English topic. Most English textbooks I’ve seen include topics about family, shopping, seeing the doctor or the dentist, holidays, news, health, the environment. But we don’t really talk about the kitchen.
So yea… I read an article recently about food, and it said that we were all experts on food because we eat everyday. But the truth is, we don’t always have the correct English to express that.
And as I was preparing this episode, I realised also that there were a lot of vocabulary to talk about, so I’m not going to squeeze everything into a single episode. I’m going to do multiple episodes about cooking and food and meals – so hence this is… this episode is one of many of the food edition.
Vocabulary about meals
So of course, let’s start with some vocabulary.
“Cuisine,” “cuisine.” The way it’s spelled, people sometimes mispronounce it as q-e-syn, but it’s actually kwi-zeen. This refers to the style or method of cooking of a particular country, or region.
So for example, Vietnamese cuisine is very flavourful. Quite often it is salty, sweet and sour at the same time. They use a good mix of fresh vegetables. They also use a lot of rice, rice noodles, and rice paper.
In comparison, Italian cuisine is generally known for its pasta, pizza, tomato sauce, cheese, and coffee of course.
Szechuan cuisine. Look I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing it a hundred percent accurately either. Szechuan is probably the very English way of pronouncing it. Is a type of Chinese cuisine actually and is famously known for its spiciness.
Yea… so sometimes when… when you’re looking for a restaurant, you look for a particularly type of cuisine, like Chinese, Thai or Greek for example.
“Dish” can refer to a container, which food can be served or used or even for cooking. “Dish” can also refer to food prepared as part of a meal. And usually this is the 1 plate or bowl of food that is served as part of a meal.
So if we take Chinese cuisine for example, a meal is usually shared and would have several different dishes. Usually there would be a vegetarian dish, a stir-fry pork dish, a beef dish and quite often we would have that with rice.
Now the word “staple” just means a main product or part of something. So when we say something like “staple food,” it refers to a basic food that is an important and dominant part of the kinds of food a community or society eats. So… you know, if we take Chinese food for example, rice and noodles are considered staple foods, you know, whereas potatoes are considered a staple food in Germany – I think also in Russia and Ireland.
And I should explain the vocabulary for different meals since today’s episode is focused on different types of meals of course.
And we have, you know, the usual, typical meals – “breakfast,” “lunch,” and “dinner.” So “breakfast” is typically eaten as the first meal of the day. “Lunch” is around noon, or early afternoon, which is the midday meal. “Dinner” is in the evening, usually after work, the evening meal.
And then there are other types of meals, which might be different for you due to cultural differences.
So “brunch,” as I mentioned in the previous episode about travelling, is a usually a late breakfast or early lunch, eaten around 11 or… sorry, 10 or 11am. Brunch is not an extra meal, this is really a substitute for both breakfast and lunch. And is very commonly eaten during the weekend actually, as a social activity to meet up with friends. Sort of a hip social thing.
And there’s also something called “afternoon tea,” which is usually served in the late afternoon around 4pm. Now typically, you would have tea, of course, cakes, sandwiches and scones. Now “scone” is a type of small cake, but it’s more like a cross between bread and cake which you would usually have with cream and jam.
Now afternoon tea can be made at home, but it’s not served at every restaurant or cafe. So in the previous episode, again about travelling, I mentioned a Miss Marples Tearoom. And this place actually serves afternoon tea. And you can order something called a Devonshire tea, which is a meal with tea and scones that come with jam and cream. So it’s quite a sweet treat of course.
And historically, this used to be an extra meal because dinner was served as late at 8pm. But these days, you know, an afternoon tea is more like a treat or even an indulgence. It’s become more of a social activity and sometimes afternoon teas are offered at hotels, which can be quite expensive for a supposedly light meal.
You may have also heard of something called a “high tea,” and this is actually different from an afternoon tea. Historically, this was really for people who worked, and couldn’t have the afternoon tea until after they finished work. Rather than cakes and sandwiches, the meals would be hot and filling after a long day at work and… of course it comes with a pot of strong tea.
And these days, I don’t really use… really hear people use the term ‘high tea,’ unless they, you know, confused it with afternoon tea. “High tea” and “afternoon tea” are two completely different meals.
So overall, there is some confusion with what I would typically call “lunch” and “dinner,” and what most textbooks would teach about different meals of the day. So if you watch a lot of British or American TV, you may have noticed it already.
So in certain areas/regions/countries, the midday meal is called ‘dinner.’ And the evening meal can also be called “tea,” which I’ve talked about, which was historically known as high tea. But the evening meal can also be called “supper.”
So this used to confuse me a lot when I first moved here to Melbourne because growing up in South East Asia, like I understood “supper” as a very late light meal. So if you were up late, and you were hungry, there were restaurants that opened late and catered to the late crowd.
So for me, I understood afternoon tea as a late afternoon light meal, and supper as a late night light meal. And then coming here, my local friends would talk about preparing tea, or having supper, but they were actually referring to the evening meal, which I knew to be “dinner.”
Apparently, there is a historical aspect to these differences in vocabulary. There is a documentary series, which I think you can find on YouTube, called A People’s History Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. And this series looks at the history of meals in England, their evolution over time and how some of these meals are prepared. It’s very fascinating, and it explains a lot of the culture of meals particularly in the UK and Australia. And it does explain the… I guess the history of the words themselves as well.
So when I was growing up, meals of the day were typically known to be breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Breakfasts I had growing up
It’s funny looking back because the kind of food I grew up with was predominantly Chinese, yet my breakfast was very western. Like we had white bread and cereal with milk. Toaster was not popular in my household for some reason, back then we just had fresh white bread. And also, we only had white bread. I mean, until I came to Australia, I didn’t know that there were such things as wholemeal, rye, sourdough. Those were not common types of bread that we had in Brunei.
And we also had different kinds of spreads like butter and jam. I used to really like orange marmalade and strawberry jam. And I also used to be obsessed with mayonnaise as a kid. I would spread mayonnaise and condensed milk on my bread as a weird combination – yea, I know. And I remember I made it for my older cousin to try, and he said it was interesting.
Anyway, so yea.
So we did have some asian influences when it came to a western breakfast. We had… we had something called “pork floss,” which is just dried pork, but processed in such a way that it has a light and fluffy texture. So dried meat, or “meat jerky,” tends to be very tough, and served in slices, but pork floss is like coarse cotton. This is often used as a topping on different foods, or as a filling in buns and pastries. So occasionally we had pork floss on the table, and I would add it to my white bread with… you guessed it, mayonnaise.
So yea, during school though, we usually had a break, which is also known as a “recess.” And this in the middle of the school day where most students would sort of have a second breakfast.
This was kind of interesting because breaks are different in different schools. So when I was in Singapore, the school I went to had a canteen with a proper eating space with tables and benches. And they sold proper meals too. Like I could buy stir-fried noodles, meals with rice, soup noodles, snacks, and drinks. And really cheap as well. Really affordable.
And the school I went to in Brunei didn’t have a canteen so we had to bring our own food and we would sit on the floor outside of class. And I can’t remember what kind of food I brought to school, but I remember clearly that I would always have some kind of food envy when it came to my other classmates’ food. I don’t know why. I sound like a greedy kid but I promise you I wasn’t a fat kid.
Lunches I had growing up
After school, lunch was a pretty simple affair. Typically rice with a few different dishes. Maybe some leftovers from the night before. Sometimes my maid would cook spaghetti.
So looking back, I think it was a Philippine-style spaghetti because it definitely wasn’t authentic Italian spaghetti – I know that now. If I remember correctly, she uses tomato sauce instead of pasta sauce, and then sliced sausages instead of meatballs. There’s this… you know, if you’d like a reference, there’s this famous filipino fast food restaurant called Jollibee, and the spaghetti they serve there is pretty similar.
And then in the late afternoon, I would usually eat a packet of instant noodles – not healthy, I know. So usually “Mee goreng,” or you might know it as its brand name, Indomie. Now mee goreng is pretty ubiquitous – meaning that it’s everywhere.
I remember I went to a middle-eastern grocery store here in Melbourne, and I was wandering around just out of curiosity, obviously they had many items that I was unfamiliar with – herbs, spices, different types flours. And then there were these boxes of Indomie. Yea, it’s hilarious.
I actually knew people who would regularly buy a box of Mee goreng from the Asian supermarket. So it is almost a staple food item in any South East Asian household.
But yea… again, not healthy but it’s really tasty. And it’s probably the first thing I learnt how to cook. Most kids would probably learn how to fry an egg or boil an egg or something, but I learnt how to cook instant noodles.
And I mean… look, this is a reflection of my asian upbringing right here. Just boil some water in a pot, add the noodles in for 2 or 3 minutes, drain the water with a colander and then add the seasonings. Easy.
And look, I wouldn’t call this an afternoon tea, but it’s about the same time. Sometimes we had snacks or cake around the house, and I might snack on those instead.
Dinners I had growing up
Then we had dinner at about 7pm. Now dinner was the main meal of the day for me growing up, generally because it’s when the whole family sat down together to share a meal. And eating together is an important cultural custom, particularly for South East Asian cultures. This often occurred for dinner, because the parents are at home after work, the kids would’ve been back from schools or other activities by then. And with the meal, there was always rice of course. It’s a staple in Chinese cuisine.
And Brunei is right next to the coast, so we always had seafood, and there would always be fish, cooked in many different ways. Sometimes we had squid. And you know… and then we would have different types of meat, like chicken, pork, beef. And there would always be at least one vegetarian dish.
For some reason, we also… always had soup as well. Now this is different to the creamy western soup. The soups I had growing up were usually broths, which is quite thin, watery but tasty. Again, if you’ve been to Chinese restaurants, a plate of stir-fried noodles would often come with some kind of broth.
Now my family had certain habits when it came to meal-time. Like my oldest brother always had to have rice. My sister always had to have beef or pork. My mum always had to have soup. So when she came over and cooked for me, there was always a pot of soup that accompanied the meal. My dad always had to have chilli sauce on the table, and then he always had to have fruit after the meal.
For me, not so much. I think I’m a bit more flexible when it comes to meals. I’m not really fussy about what comes with the meal as long as it’s tasty.
So the funny thing about moving to Melbourne is that the sun sets at different times depending on the season. So you know, having dinner at about 7pm in Brunei meant that the sun had already set. It was dark. But when I moved here during the summer. The sun would set at about 8.30pm. So when I was having dinner at, you know, 7pm or something, I always felt that it was too early because I was so used to having dinner when it was dark.
So that was sort of like a funny kind of thing that I had to adapt to moving to Melbourne.
Oh, and another thing… you know with… talking about Chinese meals, is that the meal is always followed by fruit – which of course my dad really has to have. So you might have noticed that, you know, if you’ve had a big meal at a Chinese restaurant they would always come with a complimentary plate of fruits at the end.
And a late meal… finally, a late meal or a late supper was never really something we did at home. So if you were a little hungry, there was always food in the house. My mum always… my mum loves buying biscuits and sweets, so there was never a shortage of that. Sometimes I would heat up some baked beans and have that on bread – which sounds very English, and that was a late night snack or a light meal.
All right. I’ll end this episode here. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be doing more episodes about food in the future. Please don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and check out my WordPress website.
Thank you so much for listening and have a good day! Bye!