By Norman Van Aken, author of Norman Van Aken’s Florida Kitchen
Lingo, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is
a : a foreign language
b : the special vocabulary of a particular field of interest
c : language characteristic of an individual
You may know that I got my start working in casual restaurants, diners, all night barbeques, luncheonettes, etc. The rich language that became part of that world was as much an attraction to my ear as the food was to my other senses.
The main body of this workplace language flourished in the late 1800s and up to the 1950s. It’s possible that the fast food corporate world killed these colorful colloquialisms and slang as well as the flavors of the regionally celebrated food found in these great old places in America then.
But memories can survive and I am intent on keeping mine and sharing them here!
It was “Bicycle Sammy” in Key West at an all-night barbecue place I toiled in during only the second cook’s job I had who taught me much of Kitchen Lingo.
Let’s go on a tour of Kitchen Lingo as I learned it slowly and with countless mistakes during my apprenticeship with Sammy of Key West. He would shout, growl, hiss, or coo these phrases depending on his moods—which were more clear than this collection of words!
Adam and Eve on a Raft . . . Float ‘em! was two poached eggs on toast.
Shipwreck meant scrambled eggs.
Dead Eye equaled a poached egg.
Burn One meant put a burger on the griddle.
Bun Pup was a hot dog. So was Ground Hog and Coney Island Chicken, depending on his mood.
A First Lady was an order of ribs . . . referring to the first “rib girl,” Eve.
On the Hoof meant rare beef.
Mike and Ike . . . which were also called The Twins . . . were salt and pepper.
Sea Dust was salt, too.
Sand was sugar.
Yum Yum was sugar, too.
Squeeze One was orange juice and
Shoot it Yellow, meant add lemon syrup to a soda.
Gentleman will take a Chance was corned beef hash.
Burn the British was a toasted English muffin.
My Grandmother hoped I’d appreciate Shakespeare. I do. But try using it in a kitchen.
Norman Van Aken is chef-owner of NORMAN’S at The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando, and 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora, Florida. Additionally, he is chef-partner at Three, a fine dining restaurant, and No. 3 Social, a roof deck lounge, in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami. His cooking school, In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken, is also in Wynwood. Van Aken is the only Floridian inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America and was a 2016 MenuMasters Hall of Fame inductee with Jacques Pépin and Wolfgang Puck. He is the author of five cookbooks, including My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories with Justin Van Aken, and a memoir, No Experience Necessary: The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken.