Whether you teach EFL/ESL fundamentals and need to explain restaurant dialogue and how to order foods, you teach a pronunciation/phonics lesson and find students stumped by strange food words, you teach common foods to beginners, or you teach conversation classes and need more topics, try using explanation of these 12 funky foods to spice up your class!
12 Funky English Food Words and How to Teach Them
The hot dog is a classic American treat with origins in German frankfurters that is now a global food. Its heritage of being related to a dog is because of its appearance to a dachshund, a small, skinny, long dog with a similar reddish brown hue.
Pumpkin, Cherry, Apple, Lemon Meringue, Boston Crème…
Pie – or placing a filling on top of a thin dough – is very English, and Americans sweetened it up. English is riddled with pie idioms, and a students’ first visit to a classic American diner might leave her befuddled with different flavor options. Explain that a pie in America is a sweet dessert with a thin crust and then a dense sweet filling of fruit or something sugary.
The name comes from the fact that one will want “some more” after trying one! S’mores are a classic camping treat for kids with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate roasted on a fire during a summer outing in the woods. Make them with your class!
This Hostess pre-packaged cake is an American classic and an emblem of convenience store culture. It is a yellow sponge cake filled with cream, disgustingly sweet and famous for its long list of chemical ingredients.
Buffalo wings are a food from the city Buffalo, New York – not mythical wings of North America’s largest land mammal! They are chicken wings smothered in varying levels of spicy sauce and famous for being part of all you can eat competitions. They are traditionally served with celery and blue cheese dressing.
Grits are slowly cooked corn meal that southerners in the United States eat as a staple, especially with breakfast. They look like particles of dirt and can be a bit crunchy in the mouth, hence they do appear as dirt or rocks as the name might suggest.
This is a very American, chemically-derived whipped cream alternative. It is sweet, fluffy, and delicious without having anything to do with dairy.
Jell-O is a classic American, prepackaged gelatin product that can be purchased in little boxes of powder in dozens of flavors. The user adds water, refrigerates, and has dessert ready in a snap! Like Kleenex is synonymous for tissue, the food is so common that it has become the definition of gelatin dessert.
Dunkin Donuts is now an international food chain and popularized the quick spelling of this sweet fried “dough” treat. They are not nuts though, but more like cakes! Sweet bread is stuffed with gooey sweets and fried or fried first and then topped with sugary flavors.
Students might guess that this is comprised of meat in a block of some sort, but what is it? Traditionally it is ground pork and ground beef mixed with spices like onion and garlic, shaped into a bread loaf shape, topped with ketchup or tomato sauce, baked in the oven, and then sliced. It comes as a sandwich or served in slices with mashed potatoes.
This is one of the most fun American food words to practice pronouncing, along with its twin Gumbo that you can teach as well. It is a southern stew incorporating okra, a green vegetable.
Canned, processed ham product might be the most American food available. It was so widely used in World War II for soldiers for its transportability across the Pacific Ocean that American territory islands such as Guam, where a large US military base still exists, have incorporated it into a number of common foods.
Incorporate common fruits, vegetables, meats, and meals into the list above and try a funky food activity in your class.
Salty or Sweet
Separate students into groups, and ask them to guess whether the food is salty or sweet, or in what food group it falls. Write the names on flash cards and show them alternately to each group in turns. If a group answers correctly, they receive a point. You can use pictures for the flashcards as well if your students are beginners and need extra help!
Hot Dog-itty! Idioms and Puns
Foods create thousands of figures of speech. Have fun with your advanced learners and quiz them on their idiom and pun understanding by designing a quiz incorporating a verb tense or grammar concept you are teaching. For example, if you are teaching past progressive tense, write quiz questions like “It was going to be as easy as” with multiple choices to pick the right pie flavor.
Use strangely spelled words like jambalaya, Twinkie, donut, and cheese whiz to encourage students to practice their pronunciation skills. Use a rhyming chain game, where students go around the class and try to add rhymes. Start with pronouncing Twinkie, for example, and add a word that rhymes, like pinky. Ask the next student to repeat Twinkie and pinky and add another word.
What is That
Show pictures of the foods and play a questions game where students ask you yes or no questions to try to discover what kind of food each is.
Just Eat It!
Have a special foods month during your class time where you bring in two or three different funky foods every class. Use your donut or Twinkie as a prize for winning a game or participating, and have the winner try the food and describe it to the class.
Everyone loves food, so use it to get the attention of your students.
You can use funky foods to practice any of your grammar concepts or challenging pronunciation, or just as unique conversation starters in any level of ESL/EFL learning!