Back in the days before supermarkets and microwaves, foods were frequently named for the places they were grown, manufactured, or produced. While most people know that European wines and cheeses are often named for their place of origin, here are a number of other less-expected foods that can also be traced back to a spot on the map.
1. LIMA BEANS
From the capital of Peru, wouldn't you know.
2. FIG NEWTON
Nope, they’re not named after Sir Isaac. The cookies were originally named for Newton, Massachusetts, not far from the town of Cambridge where they were originally produced in the 1890s. The Kennedy Biscuit Company named many of their products after surrounding towns, including cookies and crackers called Shrewsbusy, Harvard, and Beacon Hill, which were apparently less popular.
3. MONTEREY JACK
Monterey Jack was first made in Monterey, California, by the dairyman and reportedly brutal landlord David Jack. Other cheeses named for places include Colby (Wisconsin); Manchego (produced in the La Mancha region of Spain); Asiago, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano (from locations in Italy); Munster, Camembert, Brie, Roquefort (sites in France); Edam and Gouda (places in the Netherlands); and Cheddar and Stilton (locations in England).
4. VICHYSSOISE SOUP
A soup honoring Vichy, France, created by Ritz-Carlton chef Louis Diat in New York, and modeled on the potato-and-leek soups his mother made him while Diat was growing up in France.
Native to China but named for Persia, where Europeans first encountered it. According to John Ayto’s Glutton’s Glossary, in Greek the fruit was called melon persikon, and in Latin malum persicum, both meaning “Persian apple.” In post-classical times the Latin term became persicum, which eventually evolved into peach.
By some accounts, the eternally chic drink was named for the Californian town of Martinez. However, others say the name relates to a New York bartender with the name. Whatever the origin, the moniker more recently relates to Italian manufacturers of vermouth Martini and Rossi.
Originally called raysons of coraunce (with various spellings) in English, a name derived from the Old French raisins de Corinthe, or “raisins of Corinth”—as in Corinth, Greece.
8. WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE
According to Ayto’s book, the 19th century in England was full of retired military men attempting to recreate the pungent sauces they’d encountered during their travels abroad. One of the few of these attempts to survive to the present was supposedly concocted by a Sir Marcus Sandys out of vinegar, molasses, garlic, shallots, tamarinds, and various spices. Sandys supposedly took it to his local grocers in Worcester, England—a shop named Lea and Perrins—who began manufacturing it commercially as Worcestershire sauce in the 1830s.
From the Greek for "Phasian bird," a reference to the Phasis River in present-day Georgia, where the fowl were plentiful.
Said to have been first cultivated in Cantalupo, Italy, which was supposedly the site of a papal summer residence. However, this oft-repeated etymology might not be as straightforward as it seems: In Toponymity: An Atlas of Words, author John Bemelmans Marciano notes that there at least 10 towns named Cantalupo in Italy (and similarly named towns in France), none of which have ever been the site of the pope’s summer home. So the true origin of the delicious salmon-colored melon remains somewhat mysterious.
Said to have been named after the island of Sardinia, where they are plentiful in nearby waters.
From the former province of Kyushu, Japan, where the small, seedless orange was first grown.
From “onions of Ascalon,” a former Philistine city that is now Ashkelon, Israel.
Sherry was originally a fortified wine made in the southwest Spanish town now known as Jerez. According to Ayto’s Glutton’s Glossary, in the 16th and 17th centuries the town name was spelled Xeres and pronounced, more or less, as sheris. The type of strong white wine, or sack, produced there was known as sherris sack. As the 17th century progressed, the references to sack were dropped, as was the final s, and the drink became known as sherry.
Of course, sherry is far from the only alcoholic topononym. In Toponymity, Marciano notes that practically every type of alcohol is named for a place. Pilsen and Budweis are towns in the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic, while Chablis, Bordeaux, Gamay, and Chardonnay are all French towns or villages; both Burgundy and Champagne are regions. Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados are all brandies as well as places in France. Madeira, Port, Amontillado, and Marsala are fortified wines that come from Spanish toponyms. Bourbon is a county in Kentucky, and Tequila a town in Mexico. Curaçao is also both a country and a liquor. Then of course there's Scotch, which is both derived from a toponym in general and when it comes to specific varieties such as Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, "which come from the narrow valleys—or glens—of the Rivers Livet and Fiddich," as Marciano noes.
Even Evian water comes from Évian-les-Bains, France, and San Pellegrino from San Pellegrino Terme, Italy.
A type of edible seaweed (also called Irish Moss) named for Carragheen near Waterford in Ireland.
The etymology is disputed, but some French sources say the sauce was named “in recognition of Mahon, seaport capital of island of Minorca, captured by France [in] 1756 after the defeat of the British defending fleet in the Seven Years' War.”
Originally tangerine orange, meaning "an orange from Tangier," as in the place in Morocco.
18. WIENER/WIENER SCHNITZEL
Both from Vienna.
Originally Greek kydonion malon "apple of Kydonia,” a seaport in Crete.
As in lettuce, from Rome.