This weekend is the traditional start of backyard grilling season in the USA, with Memorial Day. (For those mired by British English, backyard = rear garden; front lawn = garden)
While I was doing the holiday shopping, I noticed that the supermarket deli cases appear to be avoiding the standard names for sausages, like kielbasa and bratwurst, and instead found packages labeled 'polish dogs' and 'garlic sausage'.
I couldn't help but wonder how a fresh-off-the-boat new American from the mountains of Colombia or rural Luzon would react to an item called 'polish dogs'. Ha.
Now, I am always quick to favor normal American English usage when it comes to foodstuffs like arugula and zucchini and eggplant and half-and-half over crazy British confusions like 'aubergine', but this sausage-naming arena is one in which I think the USA is justly deserving of some criticism. We all remember the story of 'hot dogs' vs. wieners as part of war propaganda, and how that has resurfaced periodically with things like freedom fries, but why the hesitation to call sausages by their real names? What's so trying or embarrassing about 'kielbasa'?
Here on the West Coast we notoriously whitewashed already bland-ified products like Hellmann's Mayonnaise as 'Best Foods Spread', and there are back-formations such as calling Oroweat Breads 'Arnold's' when selling it to Easterners.
Why the discomfort with acknowledging and celebrating our origins? It seems strangely at odds to be observing Memorial Day with foods whose backgrounds we are hiding by re-naming them.