At one time or another, everyone has had the experience of looking over a menu and sort of knowing what an ingredient is, but secretly hoping no one will quiz you on it. Usually, this anxiety is followed by your mother asking you what a sunchoke is, and you making up some first-class nonsense about it being the root of a sunflower plant and tasting sort of like potatoes.
While some of that half-remembered spiel is partially right, it is also completely wrong at the same time (sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, have no relation to sunflowers and are actually tubers).
The point is, there are words that come up on menus pretty regularly that most people vaguely have a sense of, but can’t always remember the specifics of what they look like, where they’re from, or what they taste like. Maybe it’s an ingredient you are too proud to ask about (guilty) or a cooking technique like confit which you have heard a thousand times but still can’t explain in full (we might as well bookmark the Wikipedia entry at this point). Or maybe it’s as simple a thing as fior di latte, which you think might be a cheese, but damn, you can’t even really say why you think so.
Here are 20 words you think you know, but maybe you have no idea. In either event, refresh your memory so that next time your date asks you what sous vide means, or a pretentious foodie friend casually asks you about ‘nduja, you’ll be ready to drop knowledge.