< What Is Your Country’s National Dish?
By John Russell
14 March 2024

Consider a time when you sat down to share a dish with family or friends. What was the dish? Is the dish special in your country or area?

In today's lesson, we will explore how to talk about foods. We will learn about the structures and words commonly used to talk about popular dishes.


Everyday Grammar
Everyday Grammar

Let's start with a comparison between cooking and grammar. Just as we have common ingredients when we cook – oil, salt, vegetables, meats, and so on – we also have common ingredients for sentences about food. These language ingredients include nouns, adjectives, and special kinds of phrases.

Just as cooking is about using food ingredients in special ways, food discussions are about using language ingredients in special ways.


Our first ingredient is the noun. Nouns give us the name of a dish, or any food prepared in a special way. Nouns also give us names for all the spices and other materials that go into the dish.

But nouns alone cannot make a rich, complete sentence.

We need something else to add color, smells, and taste.

That is how we arrive at adjectives.

Adjectives are central to discussions about food. When we talk about any kind of dish, we describe it in terms of taste, color, smell, temperature, and so on.

In other words, adjectives are like spices that bring flavor to plain nouns.

There are many adjectives we use to describe dishes, but some common ones include: rich, spicy, sweet and fresh.


So, we have nouns and adjectives. But we have one missing element. We need to express how ingredients go together to make up a dish.

One phrasal verb is especially useful in this regard: consist of.

We have the verb "consist" and the short word "of."

"Consist of" means to be formed, or made, of exact things.

So, you might say that pizza consists of flour, cheese, sauce, and vegetables.

Or you might say that kebab consists of meat and spices.

There are, of course, many other phrasal verbs you can use to describe the act of cooking. We have explored some of them in previous Everyday Grammar lessons.


So far, we have covered a lot of territory - nouns, adjectives, and one phrasal verb. How might we use these ingredients?

Here is one possible example for how to describe any national dish:

[Noun] is the national dish of [noun]. It is a [adjective] dish that [phrasal verb] [noun], [noun], and [noun].

How might we fill in the noun, adjective, and phrasal verb spots?

Let's use a traditionally popular dish in the United States as our example – apple pie. You may have heard the expression "As American as apple pie."

So, what could we say about apple pie if we used our example structure? Here is one possibility:

Apple pie is the national dish of the United States. It is a sweet dish that consists of apples, sugar, flour, and spices.

Of course, one could go on to add more details. You could say that apple pie also often includes a small amount of lemon juice or that apple pie is often served with ice cream on top.

Call to action

You have learned about one possible way to describe a popular American dish. Now we would like to hear from you. Can you write to us about a traditional dish in your country? Try to use the sentence structures that you have just learned about, but feel free to include more details.

Send us your piece of writing in an email to learningenglish@voanews.com

In a future lesson, we will provide feedback on the writing that we receive.

I'm John Russell.

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

ingredient – n. one of the things that are used to make a food, product, etc.

phrase – n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence

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