The difference is in grammar.
"Is this fresh sour cream?" -> the subject is "this", "this" can be interchanged with "it" ("Is it fresh sour cream?"), "this" is a pronoun that plays a noun role. An answer to this question: "This is fresh sour cream".
"Is this sour cream fresh?" -> the subject is "this sour cream", "this" cannot be replaced by "it" ("Is it sour cream fresh?"), "this" is an attribute of "lunch", a pronoun that plays an adjective role. An answer to this question: "This sour cream is fresh".
It just happens so that in English both roles are played by "this", and in Ukrainian the noun role is "це", and the adjective roles are "цей/ця/це". It's the same in German, "das" plays the noun role of "that" ("Das ist ...") and "der/die/das" the adjective role of "that".
Thanks for your reply and your thoughts. In text books there may be the difference you point out. In spoken English the question is often phrased either way to ask about the particular item or the status of the sour cream. Often I read in the Ukrainian course that word order can be flexible at times. This is also the case in spoken English. Many English speakers do not know the rules of grammar well, and yet they manage to communicate successfully. It is good in conversation there is context because without it there is confusion. Thanks again for your reply, but I don't see it the same way.
My pleasure. To your point about flexible word order in Ukrainian, without vocal or written emphasis (italics, bold, etc.), the last word in a Ukrainian sentence is the "news" or the word that takes the focus of the sentence.
Це свіжа сметана? Sour cream is the emphasis.
Це сметана свіжа? "Fresh" takes the emphasis.
My guess is that Cmetaha is close or equivalent to the French "Crème fraîche", a product we don't have in the US, and that we don't have a name for, but that is similar enough to categorize as Sour Creme. Either way, all are forms of "Sour Creme", even if the final product is slightly different in terms of fat content, additives, and the bacterium used. "Sour Cream" is a good translation for conversation sake.
Thanks for the comments :-)
I still think the anglicized form 'smetana' should still be accepted, even if it's not an "official" work in English --- in the same way we do with proper names, or other cultural artifacts.
There's at least a Wikipedia precedent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smetana_(dairy_product)
That's pretty cool!
At first i was in favour of smetana or kotleta to stop confusing people with foods they may have never seen. But then i thought, maybe the point of this vocab is for them to learn what these foods are. Then typing "smetana" doesn't count because the person didn't actually learn what it means and is just transliterating the word.
So i guess, either leave "sour cream" and "cutlet", or remove these words completely and replace them with more common foods :)
I think whether you translate it as sour cream, crème fraîche or smetana depends on the context, audience, etc. If I want to say what I've eaten I'll just say sour cream. If I'm writing a recipe I'll probably write smetana and add a note. Etc.
Brits using this word are most likely to pronounce it with a British accent /ˈsmɛtənə/ or the Polish way.