Something different

One problem with a virtual trek is that I don’t get an chance to take my own photos. I can’t post photos of other people so I can only talk about my “trek”. So photos to follow, but a little preface (scroll down if you’re impatient for the good stuff).

Well, actually I do go places. And I take photos. I very much enjoy the posts of loyal readers with fantastic photos, places I’d love to see, but at least I can experience through other people’s postings. So here’s a few to return the favor.

So, I recently got a new computer and I really wanted a new and fresh set of photos for my screen saver on my new large display. So I dug into my archive of over 40,000 photos to pick a few of the best. It was an adventure to look back over almost 20 years and a variety of digital cameras.

And while Spain, my current interest, is not much like Texas, there is some resemblance. When I first moved to Nebraska from the San Francisco Bay Area (Los Altos to be specific) I was really depressed. Withing an hour of my old house I could find, even on foot, beautiful country. Within a few more hours I could either be cross-country skiing or sipping wine in Napa or riding my bike along the Pacific Coast. In contrast even 6-8 hours of driving from Omaha it’s still just cornfields. So I went crazy, also given it is winter in Nebraska, and I threw my backpacking gear in the car and headed south. Three days later I found myself in Big Bend National Park in Texas. Now I get to say anything I want about Texas because I was born there in a city called Amarillo, needless to say nowhere near the correct Spanish pronunciation of the adjective, ‘yellow’. Texas is a huge state, probably bigger than Spain, so I’d never been to Big Bend and it was a thrill to visit. Later I convinced my wife that visiting some place where I’d been sleeping in a tent on the ground was still a fun vacation.

As many of my loyal Readers are not from the USA, you might still know that our insane president (pretender) wants to build a wall along the USA and Mexico border. Actually there is a “barrier” on most of the border except Texas. Folks in Texas hate “imminent domain” so even putting up fences has run into local opposition. But the real “barrier” is nature, fierce, but beautiful.

But far more important a big chunk of the US/Mexican border is a fantastically beautiful place, either the National Park  or the Texas State Park. Twice I’ve visited this area and the second time I had a digital camera so here are so photos to give you feel for this beautiful place AND how impossible the terrain is for any sort of hordes crossing the border. I’m not sure I’ve seen any border that is LESS possible for easy crossing. And it would be horrible to spoil the beauty of this area with an utterly useless Wall just to make MAGAs in Michigan (who’ve never been anywhere near the border) happy.

So here are my photos, please ENJOY this beautiful place. And for once I can contribute something to see.

Ick. There is something I don’t understand about posting photos. These photos look like a blurry mess, but not what I have in my files (these are originally 15Mpixel files from a Nikon). I’m trying various things to make them look like I see them, not sure what WordPress needs.

Here are a couple of scenic vistas in the general vicinity of the border:

Actually this isn’t quite near the border, it’s the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park but that’s where I was for this fantastic sunrise (it is about 5AM and a long exposure). Chisos Basis is the only accommodation in the park and is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The air is incredibly clear, and, of course dry (it is desert) so sunrises and sunsets are fantastic.

Do I mention you can see the sky here. My photos don’t even come close to the experience you can have, standing in the desert and seeing sky everywhere.

But now we come to the border.

From the US side this is looking north, in Texas State Park, with the Rio Grande behind us.

(Note: these photos look crummy to me, but they’re not all blurry like I see them as I make this post. I guess I don’t understand how to incorporate good photos in WordPress – click on the photo for a better one, but still much lower resolution than my original).

You can just barely see the river here, but this is a hint of surrounding country.

And here it is = the border, the Rio Grande – you can see the streams of immigrants flooding across. They come well equipped with climbing gear.

Again does that look like the kind of river you’re going to see a migrant caravan of women and children rushing across? Go luck kids.

A few miles down the river, still rough country – great sightseeing on the highway on the US side, pretty rough country with miles of desert on the Mexican side.

Here the Rio Grande might be easy to cross, but

here, not some much. This is the St Elena Gorge, as awesome cleft with steep cliffs on both sides of the border. When I first went to Big Bend my parents, who were “snowbirds” (people in cold climates with RVs who head to warmer climes near the border) warned my about Mexicans stealing my car. When I saw this gorge my reaction was – GOOD LUCK. A huge expanse of fierce desert to get to this gorge and then technical rock climbing to get to the US side. Hey, anyone intrepid enough to make that journey can steal my car! Needless to say there were no car thieves and anyone except USA tourists anywhere near this spot.

Maybe this crossing is lot easier, but still seriously demanding of outdoor skills.

And in case these barriers are not discouraging here’s a few other things you would face.

 

Amazing, this guy, about the size of my hand was just sauntering across the highway. Supposedly they’re fairly gentle but I wouldn’t want to put that idea to the test.

And, just more fun

These are called “horse crippler” cactus, and for good reason. Anyone daring this part of the world needs serious boots (and a good eye not to step on these).

A few times in my life I just zipped through the southwestern deserts of the USA but when I finally visited, slowly, on foot, these areas I was stunned at their beauty, something you have to see close up and in sync with nature.

The idea of putting a 10m high wall across this country, despite its stupidity for all the other reasons, is a criminal offense against the sanctity of nature. Spain has its beautiful spots, which I still hope to see, but the USA has fantastic spots as well.

Now, these photos are yucky, so I’m going to see if I can make them look better, more like I see them (I do have a rather good Nikon camera to shoot this stuff, not some two-bit cellphone camera).

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Still chugging along the Camino, still learning Spanish

I’ve been so much buried in digressions I haven’t had any time to post. You might remember that my project, which is the primary subject of this blog, is to find as many menus as possible from restaurants in Spain, figure out what they “mean” (not just purely translate), build up a corpus of menu terminology to drive the creation of an application to translate menus.

So much for that, as I haven’t been doing any of that for about a month. In addition I continue to do stationary exercise in my basement to try to stay in shape and/or control my weight (lose a little ideally) and potentially build up to a real walk. So I take my mileage on a treadmill and convert it to a location along the Camino (the French route). While I’ve kept up exercise I’ve meanwhile been digressing into another area that has interfered with my primary goals.

But nonetheless I can report that I’m now at mile 368.9, having covered 21 miles thus far in January. That may not sound like much, given most peregrinos can do 12-20 miles/day but I’ve also done 480 miles in just January on stationary bike or the entire Camino.

So I had planned to do a post when I was around 344 miles, which is then near the cruz de ferro, which as Henri Sebastian (in the movie The Way) says is a place of much significance. For those of you who watched the movie or especially those of you who have actually walked the Camino you know cruz de ferro is a small iron cross at the top of tall wooden pole with a bunch of pebbles at the base. The idea is that pilgrims carry a stone from there starting location and then deposit it along with a prayer. The location happens to also be almost the highest point along the entire route.

It all looks very quaint in the movie but looking at that location via my “virtual” walk (i.e. looking at Google Maps, satellite views and the geotagged photos Google shows; you can search for ‘cruz de ferro’ and see what I’m talking about, I don’t reproduce photos from online sources due to implied copyright) it’s not quite the same as the image of the movie. The site is near a major road and is surrounded by parking lots and picnic areas. The cross itself is unimpressive so only interesting due to its historical perspective. Plus visitors leave a lot of mess at the site so again it’s not so quaint.

Also in the movie a collection of rustic signposts is shown. It turns out that’s just a short distance from the cross in the town of Manjarín (you can search for this to see). It appears to be part of a somewhat bizarre albergue/bar near all those signs, the Manjarín Encomienda Templaria.  That too is a bit less quaint than the movie made it look. So much for fiction.

And this raises an interesting point that I couple with other observations. A “virtual” walk certainly isn’t the same as a real one, but I’ve “seen” enough to get a much better understanding of what the Camino is like. And, frankly, a lot of it isn’t that great. The people who have the spiritual connection to the route don’t care, but for merely a “tourist” who’d like a more physical experience than riding tour buses I now question whether I’d really want to ever walk the Camino.

Or at least the classic (aka French) route. So now I’ve begun to focus on Camino del Norte route. What is still appealing to me is visiting the northern (Atlantic) coast of Spain, from France to Galacia. The country looks prettier (certainly greener) and I think the food would be better. Since my wife doesn’t want to do the walking as a compromise we’ll do part tourist stuff (driving, hitting hot spots like Bilboa) and then some more rural touring in the vicinity of the Camino del Norte and thus have some of the same experience.

But that’s in the future.  Now as to the digressions that are bogging me down.

My original idea was that I could merely focus on a mechanical aid to “translate” the written menus without actually learning Spanish. It’s not that I didn’t want to learn Spanish, I just saw that as too difficult. My sister (RIP) disagreed with my idea and said I should learn the language. So as I recently posted I’ve started to do that since I suspect some conversation with camareros  (waiters) would be required.

But I’m not going to fill this blog with many comments about my efforts. Any reader interested in that language has a lot better resources than I can provide. And my personal issues with it are mostly a digression so I don’t want to fill this blog with my adventures. But I’ll mention a bit.

As I previously posted I found what first appeared to be a good resource for learning a bit of conversational Spanish, which I do think I’d need to be able to order in restaurants. So I’m doing the Duolingo online study and have had decent results, thus far (up to about 600 words now, still struggling with verbs, of course). But as useful as Duolingo is I find that I fairly quickly master their “skills” (aka lessons) but then almost as fast forget most of what I learned. Without repeating some of the vocabulary (or having some other way to practice) I forget.

So, naturally, given an entire lifetime of developing software I began to think about building my own drills. I’ve done this before, several times in fact. Basically I’ve built software “flash cards” but with “intelligent” repetition, where I’ve developed some, not so good, algorithms to maximize drill on the vocabulary (or to some degree grammar) on what I’m not getting. Now learning vocabulary and grammar are helpful but speaking, and worse, hearing Spanish is tough. Duolingo helps a bit for hearing, but Spanish is a language my ear/brain simply don’t get. First of all, most Spanish speakers speak really quickly (this, I’ve found from online sources, is well known in comparison to other languages). And even with Duolingo, the full speed recorded sentences that I have to either translate or simply write what I hear, I miss lots of little bits. I have a terrible time hearing the gender or verb tenses which can be critical. I figure I can botch my pronunciation, as well as gender or conjugation, and probably still be understood, but hearing any response is really going to be tough. But the better I know the vocabulary, without a big mental delay to translate in my head, the more likely I can understand the spoken part. Fortunately there are many Spanish language TV channels in my cable subscription, often with good subtitling, so I have some opportunity, beyond Duolingo, to “practice” hearing, which will be more important to me than actually speaking well.

So, of course I started working on my own software to supplement Duolingo. That does have advantages over just using online courses. To write software one really has to understand some of the structure of the language (“teaching” something to a computer is a good way to find out what I do and don’t understand). So, for instance, I just finished, after considerable study and coding, how to do all the conjugations of regular verbs. And I’ve extracted all the vocabulary I’m learning in Duolingo to put into drills as well. So, IOW, I’ve switched from learning about menus to learning the language to writing code to help me learn the language. Hence, the “digressions” that have diverted my time from my original goal.

But I’m beginning to see the light at the end of that tunnel (plus my coding skills were rusty, so doing my menu translation app will now be a bit easier) and maybe I can get back to my original plan and more, hopefully, interesting posts about menus, instead of my experience with learning Spanish or writing programs.

So stay tuned when I get back on track.

 

Quiero hablar más español

It’s been quite a while since my last post. In addition to all the activities of the holidays I have continued, sporadically, to work on my project that is one of the subjects of this blog. So now I can report some progress.

As a reminder I am (slowly) working my way to develop a mobile application to translate restaurant menus in Spain. To accomplish this I am finding many menus from restaurants in Spain (only Spain to avoid Spanish terms from other Spanish-speaking lands). I translate these using machine translation (mostly Google Translate), then looking for discrepancies in that translation method and using either online dictionaries or Google searches to make better “guesses” about translation. Often terms on menus are not translated accurately (or at all) by machine translation

Once I have accumulated enough raw data (a never ending process) I can create a corpus with Spanish terms and the best English translation I can produce with a “confidence” factor (expressed as a probability). Once the corpus is large enough I’ll write code to extract the best food related (and a few other terms) vocabulary with the highest confidence levels of the accuracy of the translation. Once the vocabulary is “complete” (again a never ending process) I can build my application and then test it on all the menus I’ve accumulated. I’ll judge how well I’ve done this by expecting my translation tool to work much better than other machine translations.

Fine, a useful exercise as someday I hope to actually need to do this while touring Spain, an indefinite “wish” for me. Being able to accurately translate menus, as well as having knowledge of Spain’s cuisine I’d be able to wisely select my choices.

But, my sister, who was quite dedicated to mastering Spanish, albeit focused more on Mexican cuisine, was critical of my approach. Instead of just building an application her strong suggestion was merely that I should just become fluent in Spanish. A fine idea, but one I find very challenging.

Several times in my past I’ve attempted (not very vigorously) to learn Spanish. Since I lived much of my life in California some fluency in Spanish is almost a necessity. I first tried, decades ago, using the best technology then available, i.e. cassette tapes and accompanying text. Ugh. That was a bust. Later as computer tutorials became more common I also tried those, initially using DVDs (as the sound source, later just online voice recordings). These attempts all failed for me.

Why? For one thing I’m not very good at foreign languages. While I studied both French and German in several years of school classes I never got very far with those. My first trip to Germany was a joke at how badly I could either speak or hear. My only real exposure to having to use French was in Québec, during the time when speaking French was a strong “political” issue. I had a bit more success with that partly because everyone, e.g. waiters in restaurants, insisted on French. My stumbling attempts were at least considered a sufficiently sensitive effort that I had some success.

But with Spanish I have a different problem. The sounds of the language are much more alien to my ear – I really can’t hear the words, especially since, it seems to me, native speakers speak very fast and to my ear the words are run together. And, my attempts at speaking were even worse than my attempts to hear and understand. So this has been very discouraging and so I rejected my sister’s urging to just actually learn the language. Additionally I had the joke running through my head that her years of vigorous effort were analyzed by several other people that she had atrocious pronunciation, barely intelligible to a native Spanish speaker. If she couldn’t do it how could I possibly succeed.

BUT, in my effort to translate menus I’ve also found a serious stumbling block. Even with English menus often I need to have some conservation with the server to really understand the menu. And as I translated more and more menus I found this was even more true in Spain. Certainly discussing food with a knowledgeable server adds to the enjoyment of food (another lesson I learned from my sister who was more skilled at cooking than me and through example demonstrated how dining was more pleasant after discussing menu items in some detail).

So I happened to stumble on a new possible learning method. Just happening on an article on the Net about the best apps for “your new smartphone” (naturally timed with the assumption of Christmas gifts) I discovered Duolingo. Previously I’d done the demos with several of the subscription or purchased online tools with little success. But at least: a) Duolingo was free, and, b) it was available for my phone and so I could do the exercises at any time, not just during some study time while on my computer.

So I downloaded the app (both to phone and multiple computers) and committed myself to really giving an earnest effort to learn, at least some basic Spanish. Now, as best I know, traveling in Spain in the larger cities, especially those popular with tourists, probably doesn’t require speaking or hearing Spanish. When i visited Portugal I knew zero Portuguese but managed to get by OK (with some help from hotel staff making phone calls for me). And I managed to get by in both Japan and China, although with considerable help from the people I was visiting.

But my interest in visiting Spain is out in the countryside, initially focusing on the Camino de Santiago (the French route). Now I’m looking more at the Del Norte route since that part of Spain is more appealing to me that the dull plodding through country that looks a bit too much like the Great Plains or Central Valley of California. In such areas I would expect that at least some minimal conversational skill would be necessary. My hope would be: a) I could ask Spanish speakers to speak more slowly and thus hear each word, and, b) that my poor pronunciation wouldn’t prevent them from (mostly) understanding me.

So I’ve now worked as hard as I can on Duolingo. I strongly recommend this for anyone following my blog who might have the same need, especially as it is free (gracias to the community who create these lessons). I’ve made it through 12 days and 12 of the lessons. Duolingo requires a LOT of repetition and thus this forces me to work hard enough at estudio that I actually have made some progress.  Even the sentence I used as the title of this post would have been impossible for me prior to Duolingo.

In the first part of each exercise Duolingo introduces one to vocabulary (and without the more academic approach to grammar, i.e. simple conjugation of verbs). Then the exercises move more and more to responding to spoken phrases or sentences by: a) writing what was said in English, and, b) much harder, writing what was said in Spanish. Each exercise gets steadily harder making it difficult to “guess” and thus requiring actually learning something, especially when one has to actually type the Spanish (from an utterance), especially being picking about getting gender and verb conjugation right. The sheer repetition is working for me.

Despite my best progress ever attempting to learn Spanish I: a) still find it difícil to “hear” the utterance spoken at full speed.  I often either cannot hear the spaces between words or miss subtle bits (I really have trouble hearing una vs un). But since I must get every drill question right before I can proceed I muddle through. So thus far Duolingo reports I’ve now encountered 308 words (many useless for my purpose, also they count each version of a verb as a separate word). Thus far, as far as verbs go I’m still only in the present tense and with the singular persons (figuring out at usted is third person like él or ella was fun since Duolingo mostly uses the informal second person tú  as ‘you’, which often would be rude for me to use in conversation).

While Duolingo focuses on conversation instead of the typical more “academic” language study (all the grammar details, especially conjugations) I’ve done more exploration with other tools (especially spanishdict.com and Wikipedia) to go beyond the Duolingo simple lessons. I’m accumulating some of my own “lessons” to supplement the Duolingo lessons.

Now another challenge for me is that I’ve also learned, in past language learning efforts, that I’m fairly good at immediate duration memory. So while I’m intensely involved I learn to recognize many words. Unfortunately weeks later I’ve forgotten most of those. So, with Duolingo I actually repeat finished exercises to continue repetition which is key.

BUT, repeating everything is time-consuming and not that helpful. The real repetition I need to do is the vocabulary (or sometimes grammar) that I do badly. So now I’m thinking about another bit of programming for my own learning tool.

Once before I built a fairly complex bit of code to extend my English vocabulary. Using something built into Kindle I would mark English words that I either didn’t know at all (like reading more “academic” texts that use more esoteric vocabulary) or that I wasn’t really sure about. Kindle had a drill application that accumulated the words I’d mark as I encountered them in some book. But the Kindle drill, like Duolingo, wasn’t very “smart” about focusing my drill time on the words that gave me the most trouble. So in my own app I developed a scoring system that adjusted my drill to the words I most often missed and also then made sure all but the easiest (for me) words were at least repeated some. I spent a lot of time tuning how that algorithm worked but never was completely satisfied with it.

So with Duolingo as a model (incomplete for what I need) and all my past efforts at learning languages I soon will begin to build my study app (a fancy version of the classic flashcards, especially for verbs and gender). I can move all my Duolingo vocabulary to that app, plus much of what I’ve accumulated from menu study, plus just grabbing more words not found in either source from either: a) various lists I’ve found of the “most common” Spanish words, or, b) from going through a couple of dictionaries, tourist phrase books and grammar books I’ve purchased for my Kindle.

Eventually I would expect my drill app to be sufficient to potentially get by in parts of Spain where I might not find any English speakers. One thing I have learned from my foreign travel is that travel itself (public transportation, getting directions) often requires speaking to people who don’t know English (say, unlike typical tourist destinations, i.e. city hotels, museums and restaurants).

But all this is just a start. I know, largely from my experience in Québec that “immersion” is the real way to learn a language. To be someplace where there is no English mandates that I at least stumble through some sort of conversation to get what I need. Mi esposa loved her weeks in Oaxaca and wants to go back (which I’ve resisted) so perhaps I’ll give in and make the trip she wants as preparation for Spain (just as Québec can be a shorter preparation trip for going to France).

So, I won’t belabor this point much more in posts since I’ve focused this blog on food in Spain and the Camino. My efforts to learn a language are probably even more boring to my readers. But I will supplement some of my posts purely about food terms with a bit more of the conversational stuff I pick up through this other study.

 

 

A few words from Astorga

As I mentioned in my previous post I lost a long and heavily researched post about something unusual I found in the area around Astorga, or more properly La Maragatería (link is to Spanish language site) is a Spanish region located in the central area of the province of León. It seems there is a local meal (multiple courses) that many restaurants promote, the cocina maragato (link is to Spanish language site). While I won’t try to reconstruct my entire post about this I will recover a few things.

cocina maragato is a meal of multiple courses: meat, vegetables/legumes and soup but it has the unusual feature of being eaten in reverse of the normal order. This idea is summed up in this explanation from one of the restaurants serving this meal (original Spanish from website on the left, Google Translation on right, items of interest in bold).

El cocido maragato tiene la peculiaridad de comerse al revés.  

Primero las carnes, luego los garbanzos y verduras y por último, la sopa.

Estos tres servicios se denominan, en la zona, “vuelcos”. 

The cooked maragato has the peculiarity of eating upside down.

First the meats, then the chickpeas and vegetables and finally, the soup.

These three services are called “rollovers” in the area.

First, al revés can be translated as ‘upside down’ but it has multiple translations according to its Wiktionary entry:  as an adjective, ‘inverted (with respect to something)’ and as an adverb, ‘1) in the opposite direction or order, 2) back first, 3) inside out, 4) the other way around, and, 5) upside down’. revés alone has various definitions:  back, wrong side, other side, inside. Now given the numerous explanations of cocina maragato it’s clear the most useful translation, in this context is the ‘in the opposite direction or order’ since that is the key feature of this meal.

Second, my first encounter with cocina maragato was seeing vuelcos on multiple menus, such as: Primer vuelcoSegundo vuelco and Tercer vuelco. These are headings in the menu where one would normally see platos (in typical menu context, ‘courses’). So the translation as ‘rollover’ was definitely mysterious until one understands the cocina maragato context.

Still none of the online dictionaries have caught up to this meaning of vuelcos as they go with the simpler and more literal translations: ‘upset’, ‘spill’ or ‘complete change’. Interestingly Google’s choice of ‘rollover’ doesn’t appear but it is found in a reverse lookup of the English ‘rollover’ in spanishdict.com. So it’s hard to think of a single word translation that would imply the correct meaning in this context, but ‘inversion’ (or clumsy, ‘reversed course’) would probably be closer than ‘rollover’.

And since I can’t recreate the entire post I’ll just cover one other word that I’ve often seen on menus in the context that this restaurant uses:

El Cocido Coscolo no es sino un agradecido heredero del cocido tradicional maragato.

Sobre esa base, hemos introducido algunos cambios que hacen de nuestra propuesta algo diferente.

Su principal valor es la elaboración propia de los ingredientes.

The Cocido Coscolo is nothing but a grateful heir to the traditional cocido maragato.

On that basis, we have introduced some changes that make our proposal somewhat different.

Its main value is the preparation of the ingredients.

This restaurant, Restaurante Coscolo, is explaining how its eponymously named Cocido Coscolo is its version of cocido maragato. The word I’m focusing on is propuesta which I’ve seen on numerous menus and Google has always translated it as ‘proposal’.  In other encounters with this word ‘proposal’ made some sense in the context it is used but never seemed quite right, to me, as the translation. Dictionaries go further with these literal translations: ‘offer’ or ‘design’, or ‘nomination’ (in the sense of proposal of a candidate).  While the ‘nomination’, according to the dictionary would clearly apply to a person for a job/office, not a particular preparation, it nonetheless fits. Along with the idea of ‘offer’ or ‘design’. I’d use the translation, ‘take’, as in the phrase “our take on the traditional xxx is yyy”.

But this would be clumsy to have to explain this rather than just use ‘take’ as translation (which certainly wouldn’t fit other contexts). And this will be a challenge for the app I intend to build and suggests that one feature of the app has to be the ability to put a single word in the translation but touching that word would bring up a popup dialogue with a longer explanation to provide the context that is too verbose to include directly in the translation. So analyzing this menu and word provides insight to a UI feature I should include.

I had more about this whole area and other restaurants and this meal but this is all I can reconstruct in a reasonable time. You’ll just have to do your own research if you want more.

 

 

 

Lost a post

This is primarily a note to myself to punctuate the flow of this blog to reflect some history.

I’m disappointed that I managed to delete a post I had mostly composed. Sometimes, and usually for more difficult posts, I work offline in MSWord to compose my posts. The way WordPress works isn’t that helpful for posts that take a while to compose or when I need to do more research for the subject of the post. And in the case of my lost post I was doing a lot of background research.

Previously I’d complained (in other contexts) about losing posts or especially comments in WordPress. Since the text editor running in a browser can’t access the local file system no temporary saves can be made (for posts, but not comments, WordPress does some saves to its cloud). I’ve lost enough that way to have adopted working offline (which can do temp saves) but even that is subject to human error.

So, what the post was about was restaurants in Astorga (surprised to find so many) and a local dish that is quite popular and featured by many of those restaurants, cocina maragato. I had done a lot of research on all this which was contained in the incomplete post I lost (also the menu translations that were background source information for the post). So you can go look at Astorga yourself (via Google Maps) and start with this link for cocina maragato.

Then, poof, in too much of a hurry I deleted the entire post AND the multiple menus I’d extracted and analyzed. What happened was that in attempting to add a new menu strange stuff showed up when I pasted the content from the website into MSWord. So I thought I was reversing that paste but instead deleted all the text in the file. Later in the evening while doing shutdown of my computer I got the notification from MSWord whether I wanted to save or not and, stupidly, just said yes without checking what changes it was trying to save. Poof, now I have an entirely empty file that previously had been many pages long.

This was quite discouraging to lose hours of work so I’m doing this notification post to kind of purge my despair and thus get back to work again on menus. And then make some new real posts.

 

Additions to glossary

The glossary page in this blog, at the moment, has been compiled by hand. This is NOT the process I intend to use for my definitive glossary to embed in my translation app since hand compilation is subject to numerous errors, plus the source material may be incorrect. But I like having some result even before I manage to generate a definitive glossary where each entry is found in numerous sources and checked against authoritative guides.

In the past I’ve searched for glossaries all over the Net and manually consolidated them. The result was a mess due to: a) often the source glossary had mistakes made by whoever compiled it, b) the Spanish terms may not apply to Spain which is my focus (for example, hongo is mushroom in most of Latin America but rarely used in Spain), and, c) terms from a glossary may not overlap as I want with actual references on menus (in Spain) which is my focus.

All that said, nonetheless I continue to make additions. In this case I was looking at some travel books and cookbooks I’d gotten on my previous fascination from Spain and realized I had the Langenscheidt Pocket Phrasebook (Spanish), 2006 edition, which includes a 1400 word dictionary. So I fairly quickly went through the dictionary and extracted words that relate to food or to restaurants. From that list I found which were not already in my v3.2 of the glossary. Now I’ve updated my glossary page, but here I’ll show what kinds of words were missing (previously the glossary page had come entirely from extracts of menus). A few of these terms, I realized, should also be included in my restaurant terms page, so that has been updated as well.

abierto open
achicoria chicory
amarg{o|a} sour
aromáticas herb
asiento seat
avena oats
batido milkshake
boca mouth
bombilla bulb
botella bottle
brazo arm
brécol broccoli
bufet buffet
caballa mackerel
cabeza head
calle street
camarer{o|a} waiter/waitress
carajillo coffee with brandy
cartilago cartilage
cena dinner
centeno rye
cerebro brain
cereza cherry
cerrado closed
cervecería beer hall
cerveza de barril draft beer
cerveza rubia lager
champán champagne
cóctel cocktail
col cabbage
comer to eat
comestibles groceries
composición ingredients
coñac brandy
concha shell
condimentad{o|a} seasoned
confitería candy store
conserva canned food
cortado espresso with a dash of milk
crema de leche coffee creamer
cruasán croissant
cubiertos silverware
cuchillo knife
cuello neck
cuenta bill
cuerpo body
desnatada low-fat
destilería brewery
diente tooth
dinero money
endibia[s] endive, correct spelling as previous was wrong
entero whole
entrada entrance
erizo de mar sea urchin
especias spices
espeto skewered
espina fish bone
espumoso sparkling (in wine context)
estómago stomach
estragón tarragon
estrella star
factura bill
fruta del tiempo seasonal fruit
ginebra gin
gofres waffles
gratuito free of charge
guayaba guava
helada frost
hervid{o|a} boiled
hervid{o|a} cooked
hierba herb
higos fig
hornillo stove
hueso bone
infusion de hierbas herbal tea
jardín garden
jarra jug, pitcher
langosta lobster
lengua tongue
limonada soda
macedonia de frutas fruit salad
manzanilla chamomile tea
margarina margarine
menú menu
mojado wet
molino mill
músculo muscle
nectarina nectarine
número size
ocupad{o|a} taken
ojo eye
pan integral whole grain bread
penecillo roll
pez espada swordfish
pierna leg
poleo de minta peppermint tea
polvo powder
pomelo grapefruit
primavera spring
propina tip
raíz root
reserved{o|a} reserved
ron rum
rosado róse
rosbif roast beef
sala hall, room
salami pepperoni
salida exit
sandía watermelon
sangre blood
sarro tartar
semana week
semiseco medium dry
sémola semolina
servicio restroom, service
servilleta napkin
suplemento surcharge
taberna bar
tea
tenedor fork
terraza terrace
trucha trout
uva grape
vajilla tableware
ventanilla counter (window)

 

Multilingual menus in Spain

I took a detour from studyingg restaurant menus in León to San Sebastian. San Sebastian is 189 air travel miles east of León, along the Atlantic coast and near the border of France. This puts it squarely in Basque Country and its restaurant menus reflect that.

San Sebastian is also a very popular tourist resort with extensive beaches, recreational activities, luxury accommodations and dining, 728 restaurants listed with Trip Advisor. Since it is a popular tourist destination I discovered multiple restaurants there have multilingual menus. Interestingly sometimes they are just bilingual in Castellano (aka Castilian, the most common version of Spanish) and Euskara (the name of the Basque language in Basque) – not surprising due to the cultural influences.

The restaurant I’ll be discussing was interesting in that instead of alternate menus in different languages (which sometimes don’t match very well) it has all its menu items in four language, including French and English. While I’ll show some “translations” within the menu are not literally accurate at least in this kind of menu I get what a person believes is the item in different languages instead of machine translation. So this is from BODEGA DONOSTIARRA located in Donostia which is the Basque name for San Sebastian. A typical example is:

Ensalada de morros con guindilla y cebolleta

Google Translate:

Morros salad with chilli pepper and chive

from the menu

Muturren entsalada, pipermina eta tipulinarekin

Salade de museau de porc avec le piment d oquer et l ́oignon

Pork snouts salad with spring onions and local green peppers

Now sometimes having the French helps clarify the item but my project is to create a corpus of corresponding terms in English and [Castilian] Spanish so the remainder of this post will focus on interesting issues in this menu. For the item above, however, I’ll note several issues:

  1. Google has usually missed morro (in context) but does literally translate the single word (not in context) to ‘nose’. My dictionary prefers ‘snout’ (in sense of an animal part) and lists ‘nose’ only in the sense of an airplane part and lists ‘lip’ and ‘mouth’ as colloquial terms for body parts. I wonder what is in the Google corpus used to train their AI that decides morro is just morro in English which generally means ‘A round hill or point of land’ from various dictionaries so certainly its “context” is not culinary.
  2. The translation of guindilla to ‘chilli pepper’ is interesting. First the ‘chilli’ version of the word is the British not the USA spelling (chili). Second usually chile (and chili is a dish, well known to me as I was born in Texas, no beans, of course) is used in combination with pepper, so chilli is kinda doubly wrong for me. And while guindilla can be used as the generic ‘chile pepper’ it is actually a quite specific variety of pepper popular in the Basque areas also known as piparras.
  3. And thirdly cebolleta (the diminutive of cebolla (onion)) has various translations (according to spanishdict.com) as ‘scallion’ or ‘green onion’ (in USA) and ‘spring onion’ (in UK). Another bit of evidence that Google Translation AI is trained on a UK derived corpus. And, while unlikely in this menu item, cebolleta can also be ‘chive’ which any gardener knows is not the same as a scallion (which presumably is the same as spring onion).

So this is a good menu to look for some issues in translation by comparing the human and machine translations (as well as my “guessing” using various searches and lookups). So here’s how I’m analyzing the items on this menu.

Spanish (from menu) Human translation (from menu) Google translation
Ensalada Donostiarra (pulpo, boquerón, antxoas, sardinillas, bonito, guindilla) Donostiarra salad: octopus, anchovies, baby sardines, tuna and local green peppers Donostiarra salad (octopus, anchovy, antxoas, sardines, bonito, chili pepper)

There are a couple of interesting issues here:

  1. Google didn’t translate antxoas because, of course, this is the Basque spelling whereas anchoa is the more common Spanish. But there is something else going on in that boquerón also translates to anchovy, which Google got. A search for the difference between anchoa and boquerón gets a lot of opinions, none I can label as definitive but generally (and especially in this area) boquerón is probably also cured with vinegar.

    antxoas may not be the same as the generic anchoa since I did find this, “The Cantabrian anchovy or Bay of Biscay anchovy (scientific name, Engraulis encrarischolus) is one of the specialties of Basque cuisine” which could be very relevant in the context of this menu. But the human translation omits any translation of antxoas (or instead, possibly omits boquerón). So you pays your money, you take your chances.

  2. sardinillas is not in my dictionary but the Spanish for ‘sardine’ is sardina. So here it looks like the human translation is helpful in that they’re interpreting the diminutive form of sardina as ‘little’ which is appropriate. Given sardines are already little (given those packed in tins) I wonder what this really means. No clue from either translation whether these might be fresh or cured sardines which is a major distinction in Italian cuisine.
  3. Google almost always doesn’t translate bonita but sometimes does  generate the literal ‘pretty’. Trusting Wikipedia as a reference source we see that bonita is a valid English translation as it refers to a specific tuna, “The skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) is a medium-sized perciform fish in the tuna family, Scombridae. It is otherwise known as the aku, arctic bonito, mushmouth, oceanic bonito, striped tuna, or victor fish.”. The human translator choose to just call this ‘tuna’.
  4. And continuing the discussion of guindilla (from previous example) the human translation is interesting, ‘local green peppers’. Given the low heat level of the specific guindilla pepper I can see just calling it a ‘green pepper’ (not exactly what the USA reference is to a bell (or sweet) pepper) and labeling it as ‘local’ seems to distinguish it from the generic chile pepper translation. To me the padrón peppers look the most like “green peppers” but those are typically found in Galicia and so wouldn’t be “local”.

This single example does show a real challenge in “translating” menus – what really is this dish? Even the human translation would leave you guessing. And thus this shows a real limit to what any translation can do.

So let’s look at a couple more items.

Pulpo vinagreta “Salanort” Picled Octopus Octopus vinaigrette “Salanort”

Our human translator has a bit of a spelling problem with what almost certainly is supposed to be ‘pickled’ which is not really quite the same as one usually finds for vinagreta (usually a vinaigrette). But neither the human translator or Google explain what Salanort is. I’m relatively confident in what I found which is “a family business located in the fishing village of Getaria, 30 minutes from San Sebastian”. This qualifier appears several times for this restaurant and is typical of one of those terms that is a specific reference (aka brand) and has no translation BUT still may have some consequence to the customer.

Pintxo paleta ibérica Cured iberian ham pintxo Pintxo paleta ibérica

Google doesn’t translate paleta but it’s easily found in dictionaries as ‘shoulder [blade]’.  The human translation calls this ‘ham’ despite ‘ham’ having the clear Spanish jamón and usually ham comes from the rear leg of the pig, not the shoulder (however, in USA the so-called ‘picnic ham’ can come from the shoulder). And ‘cured’ is basically redundant with already saying ‘ham’. pintxo is interesting in that Google doesn’t translate this at all and pintxo is the Basque for what is called pincho in other parts of Spain (and in English as well and it is NOT tapas, the humorous scene in the movie The Way revealed). ibérica, which is literally Iberian, is not helpful, purely as a translation, but one could hardly go to Spain and not know what this means (and it’s not really a reference to Iberian Peninsula as dictionary says but instead to a particular type of pig).

And while there are numerous other smaller translation issues in this menu I’ll close with this one:

Pluma ibérica de Guijuelo  “Guijuelo” iberian pen Iberian feather  from Guijuelo

Guijuelo is most likely a reference to a municipality located in the province of Salamanca, Castile and León known for their pork. Here I believe the human had to use a dictionary for translation as pluma can be ‘pen’ but more likely ‘feather’ as Google decided. However neither of this is either correct or useful translation. It turns out this is more descriptive “The pluma is a cut from the end of the loin, and is juicier than the presa steak or the solomillo tenderloin. Pluma is fairly thin, but leaner than the ‘secreto’ skirt steak.” from online supplier La Tienda who will sell you one.

 

I’m continuing with other menus from San Sebastian that are multilingual including an interesting one for sushi where I might get some Spanish terms, if they exist, as translations from Japanese. The adventures continue.

A simple hostal menu

I picked up my virtual trek pace a bit and so zoomed out of León. The GPS trace I found online splits just west of León and merges again at Hospital de Órbigo, about 20 miles from middle of León. I “took” the northern route and so passed through Villadangos del Paramo. There I found Hostal (guesthouse or hostel) Libertad (freedom or liberty) which has an embedded restaurant. While there was no website or online menu there was a photo of the menu on a chalkboard. I decided it would be interesting if I could translate it myself without the aid of any machine translation. However it was a bit of a ‘cheat’ because the menu had some minimal English translation also written in.

I don’t normally reproduce images in my posts that I find via Google Maps. But this is a simple image and I’m not appropriating any intellectual property by posting it. Furthermore if any of you Dear Readers happen to pass through Villadangos del Paramo I’m probably the Hostal Libertad, which I assume they won’t mind.

Somehow, after running this image through Photoshop and then WordPress it’s not as clear as I saw, but it gets the point across. It’s a bit difficult to read the handwritten script under the best of cases. But also I had a tough time distinguishing a’s for e’s. So the point is, really, that one needs to know the words internally so an ambiguous writing of the word still gets through.

So anyway here’s the fairly simple menu:

Menú del día    10€

That’s not too bad if the portions are large to feed a hungry pilgrim who’s just walked 25km.

(Pan, bebida, postre y café)

Great, I wonder what the drink (bebida) and postre (dessert) really are.

Horario: 13:00-16:00 / 19:00-23:00 h

Interesting, late lunch and late supper.

OK, in the table below is the Spanish (my transcription from the chalkboard, with a few spell checks against Spanish dictionaries), this restaurant’s terse English and my translation (machine and human) and some comments:

Lentejas estofades Lentils stew of lentils (I suppose I can’t imagine lentils anyway except a stew)
Ensalada mixte Mixed Salad mixed salad
Puerros con vinagreta Leeks vinaigrette leeks with vinaigrette
Espagueti con atún Espeguetti with tuna (the writer doesn’t know spaghetti is the translation) spaghetti with tuna
     
Merluza en salsa Hake in sauce hake in sauce
Lacón con pimientos pork (illegible, not visible on chalkboard) pork shoulder
Huevos fritos con salchicha Fried eggs with sausage fried eggs with sausage
Fritos de pescado Fried eggs (illegible, all not visible on chalkboard, but what I can see is wrong) fried fish

These are all quite ordinary items so I’d choose:  Espagueti con atún (a bit of carbo loading if doing long walk) and Lacón con pimientos. I suppose this is all filling enough to make up for a moderate calorie burn of 200cals/mile and 15 miles. But think about, typical human needs about 2000 calories/day just to stay alive, so this meal is not going to provide enough of the daily + exercise requirements.

Hey Joost (from the movie The Way) what else did you eat and not lose any weight.

 

 

 

a consultar about cecina

Even though I’ve now marched past León on my virtual trek I’m slowly plodding through the restaurant menus I found there. One menu, for the restaurant attached to Royal Collegiate of Saint Isidoro Hotel, has an English version as well as the Spanish. This is relatively rare and provides a unique opportunity to compare online machine translation of Spanish to the same material written in English. Of course, and as I found, the English text on a webpage may be different than the Spanish; after all it is aimed at a different audience and probably is not just a translation from the Spanish. Nonetheless a careful analysis may provide some interesting clues.

So I’ll start with a menu phrase, a consultar, which appears in three places (Spanish in first column, Google Translate in second, English from the website in third):

Pescado del Día (a consultar) Fish of the Day (to consult) Fish of the Day
Postre del día (a consultar) Dessert of the day (to consult) Dessert of the day
Domingo: Arroz / Fideuá (A consultar) Sunday: Rice / Fideuá (On request) Sunday: Rice / Fideuá (To consult)

Now consultar is a typical Spanish verb which has various meanings (the sense of the literal translation (in black) is marked in green:

  1. to consult (to seek advice from) (to refer for information to)
  2. to discuss with (to talk about)
  3. to look up (to look for)

or (Google translations of Spanish definition in green)

  1. Pedir información, opinión o consejo sobre una determinada materia (Ask for information, opinion or advice on a certain subject)
  2. Buscar información en una fuente de documentación (Search information in a documentation source)

Note that Google translated this differently as either ‘to consult’ or ‘on request’. Now to my sense the ‘on request’ makes less sense, either compared to dictionary definitions or that  por encargo is more common on menus for ‘on request’. Unfortunately the author of the English part on the website doesn’t provide an English equivalent in two cases and ‘to consult’ (the most literal translation) in the third.

So we’re really left without a good English equivalent. I would submit ‘ask your server’ as the common phrase you’d see in USA for these items. IOW, the X del día is a common phrase (less so in Spain) and ‘of the day’ in the USA. In most cases it means what the chef was interested in making today or what ingredients might have been available. So the customer can’t know, from the menu, what the item is and thus has to ask (btw, I don’t think this is the same as the “specials” often rattled off by servers so that wouldn’t be my preferred translation.).

So if I’m right (and I am getting the context right, if not the translation) this presents another interesting flaw in my project. There is NO way to read the menu and determine what this item is – you will have to speak to the server or the chef to find out and, of course, that requires some amount of fluency in both speaking and hearing Spanish (perhaps another type of aided communication app on a smartphone might work but unlikely the server would know how to use it; I tried this in China and totally confused a cab driver). My sister dismissed the idea of my project in lieu of just learning to speak and hear Spanish conversationally and maybe focus a bit more of restaurant and food vocabulary. I think this is a fine idea, but: a) it takes a lot of work I’d prefer software to do, and, b) I’ve actually tried and for some reason, despite modest fluency in a couple of other languages than English I just cannot hear Spanish (the sounds and the speed really confuse me, I watch movies with subtitles and rarely “hear” words I even know and know, from the subtitles, were in the audible portion). And like the jokes some more Spanish fluent people made about my sister my pronunciation would be awful and at minimum irritate a native Spanish speaker or very likely totally confuse them. So I have to try to continue on my path of using software (not brainware) to navigate menus. Perhaps I’ll just have to skip the del día items or perhaps see them on another table and point.

So on to cecina.

This is a common item on menus I’ve encountered before but it tends to be more feature on menus in Castilla y León. In fact this geographical interest is so strong there is also the specific Cecina de León, an IGP (Indicación Geográfica Protegida, EU equivalent protected geographical indication).  This specific item even has its own website (https://www.cecinadeleon.org/) explaining how it must be produced.

It’s not actually a mystery of what this is (although for a long time it was unavailable in the USA; oh, and now it appears actual cecina from Spain is still not available in USA so this is an imitation made in the style of León) but now you can buy it online where it is described:

Tender sliced cured beef with a deep red color and rich smoky flavor is León’s answer to jamón. This is cecina, a premium cut of beef cured with sea salt and smoked over oakwood with no preservatives. Cecina is Spain’s culinary secret, just as worthy of culinary acclaim as Spain’s famous hams. And like jamón, over thousands of years the people of Spain have transformed the curing of beef from a necessity to an art, creating a delicate, flavorful meat unlike any other in the world.

In another article I was saw it described as ‘chipped beef’ which would possibly be close but certainly an insult to this seriously expensive dried meat.

So, what should the translation be? Or is this one of those terms, say like chorizo or lomo, that you just have to know what it is?

But Google thinks it has the answer. Most of the time (and often it doesn’t translate cecina at all) Google thinks it is ‘jerky’. While the official description about its elaboración (method/recipe of production) has various similarities to most recipes for making jerky the best descriptions I can find is that jerky is not that equivalent.

So what does the English version of the menu at this restaurant say? Here are a couple of references, again with Spanish in first column, Google Translate in second and website English translation in third:

Ofrecemos servicios de corte de jamón/cecina, quesos artesanos al corte, cervezas artesanas… We offer ham / cecina cutting services, cut artisan cheeses, craft beers … We offer professional ham / beef jerky cutting services, sliced local artisan cheeses, craft beers and more.

Note that in this case Google didn’t translation cecina at all but the website does refer to it as ‘beef jerky’ and the human translation otherwise seems very close to the original Spanish.

And another reference:

Lunes: Salmorejo con Cecina IGP. Monday:  Salmorejo with Cecina IGP. Monday: Salmorejo with Smooked Beef  IGP.

Note that ‘smooked’ is in the menu itself as is another typo ‘Thuesday’ which certainly makes it look likely this is the work of a person.

And then our final reference:

El menú del cabildo es una
salmorejo de tomates de mansilla con cecina IGP, puerros de sahagun, escalibada de pimientos del Bierzo…
The menu of the cabildo is a
salmorejo de tomates de mansilla with cecina IGP, leeks of sahagun, escalivada of peppers of the Bierzo …
The Cabildo menu is a proposal ‘Salmorejo’ or cold-tomato soup made with local ‘Mansilla’ tomatoes and beef-jerky, ‘Sahagun’ leeks, ‘Escalivada’ or roasted vegetables on flat rustic bread and made with local ‘Bierzo’ peppers…

So here we see beef jerky again. So either the author believes calling it jerky will best describe it to an English speaking person or they had to use some dictionary lookup, which, btw, lists: ‘smoked’, ‘cured’ and ‘salted’ meat (each as a separate term when the elaboración explains ALL these steps are involved in creating cecina).

Now the imitation online stuff refers to cecina as “The “beef version” of jamón” and the picture shows a solid piece of meat whereas the elaboración  is quite clear the meat must be thinly sliced before any other processing so a solid ham-like chunk certainly doesn’t match the IGP definition.

And, finally, our sometimes reliable English version of Wikipedia adds this information in its description:

is made by curing beef, horse or (less frequently) goat, rabbit, or hare

Emphasis on ‘horse’! Since I’ve also found this item on a different León menu: Cecina de Burro. Now burro might be a brand or a geographical reference but it might also be, in fact its literal translation, ‘donkey’.  Pure beasts, work in the hot sun and when they’re worn out they end up on the table – no thanks.

So finally I might end up calling cecina “thin slice of mystery meat cured in salt, then dried (by heat or sun) and (usually, but not always) smoked”. So I think a consultar ties in nicely with cecina and strongly recommends spoken fluency to find out what you’re eating (or at least know the phrase ¿Qué animal es este de.

Quick progress note: Passed León

I haven’t found time to do any posts (nor much menu research) but I have managed to keep plodding away on virtual trek and thus have “zipped” (a highly relative term) past León without commenting on a single restaurant. So 298.8 miles on foot and 6832.2 on bike (unfortunately exercise equipment not the more fun real thing).

My initial research to develop a list of restaurants with online menus was disappointing. My simplistic notion was that León was a large and sophisticated city and thus more likely to have upscale restaurants than previous cities along the Camino. But the initial results proved that assumption wrong.

I’ve developed a new technique, at least for cities, to find online menus. Instead of using Google Maps (works for smaller towns with just a few restaurants) I now use one of the crowdsource rating sites (to avoid a plug I won’t mention which). While I’ve had enough experience with rankings in USA restaurants I can visit to be skeptical of rankings they generally correlate. However, better ranked restaurants are not necessarily more likely to have websites or especially online menus.

So combining all the factors my list of menus to investigate, for León, is no larger than my list from Palencia (source of my previous posts). This is surprising since León is about three times the population. That said, León has less population than the second largest city in my midwest flyover state (Lincoln, Nebraska) and significantly smaller than my home city (or Columbus Ohio where I recently dined and have yet to post). So perhaps it’s not too surprising León doesn’t have that many larger restaurants that have online menus.

Now a question might be, what good does it do a restaurant to bother with an online menu? I think that in the USA it’s quite important but apparently that belief isn’t (at least fully) shared in Spain. This suggests to me comensales (guests) are more likely local and don’t decide where to eat based on websites. For my purpose it’s disappointing because I don’t get more diverse source material. What I have already learned is that restaurant food terminology is highly variable, by region or location, in Spain and thus to obtain the best corpus to generate my translator needs content from a geographically broad selection. But, obviously restaurants don’t have (or not have) online menus for that purpose.

So I have just begun to look at the León restaurant menus I did find. I’ve started in ranking order and thus hit two expensive and more sophisticated restaurants right away. Both have a strong showing in what would be labeled either as molecular gastronomy or modernist cuisine. So, despite a huge number of photos of a large number of dishes both of the top three restaurants only have a degustacion (tasting) menu online thus providing only a limited amount of raw data for my analysis and corpus.

So I can relate a few interesting translation issues (again this means where the machine translation, usually Google, doesn’t make the best choices, at least in menu context, or the terms on the menu don’t actually have a translation).

Menú seminal Weekly menu

This is the first time I’ve seen this on any menu even though it’s basically the same as degustacion (tasting) but with a time of year context, as they explain:

Nuestra oferta se compone exclusivamente de este menú degustación, que define la sensibilidad por la cocina y el respeto hacia el producto.

El ritmo frenético del mercado, propicia que en este menú entren y salgan productos constantemente, lo que impide en ocasiones que este siempre actualizado.

Our offer consists exclusively of this tasting menu, which defines the sensitivity for cooking and respect for the product.

The frenetic pace of the market, encourages this menu to constantly enter and exit products, which sometimes prevents it from being updated.

Note: Generally I’ve found that Google actually translates full sentence prose more effectively than the one line items on menus. Perhaps this does indicate their claim of using context actually does help.

So here are two items from this menu (the only restaurant in León with a Michelin star) that required more research than simple translation:

ciervo asado con castañas, patata y trompetas de los Muertos roasted deer with chestnuts, potatoes and trumpets of the dead
queso de El Palacio con brevas El Palacio cheese (artisan sheep cheese) with figs

In the first item ‘trumpets of the dead’ is actually a good translation but unhelpful. It turns out this is a particular type of mushroom (Craterellus cornucopioides) whose name stems from the fact that the edible one resembles a lethal one so I suppose this is a bit like eating fugu in Japan (which I’ve done and it was another bland white fish with a tiny bit of tingle). OTOH, queso de El Palacio is just a particular cheese that is a local specialty of León.

From another menu of the top-ranked restaurant, with more traditional Spain offerings rather than the Spain influenced modernist cuisine had a few carta (a la carte menu) and thus more content. Here are a couple of examples:

PISTO CASERO

con huevo frito y pimentón

PISTO

with fried egg and paprika

Pisto is just the name of a dish and thus one of those items, like gazpacho or paella, that really doesn’t have any kind of translation and thus one must know what it is. It is a vegetable stew (or thick sauce) that resembles ratatouille.

And

CACHOPO

“como en Asturias”

CACHOPO

“as in Asturias”

is another example of a particular dish, cachopo, that you just have to know what it is (Two large veal fillets and includes ham and cheese. The dish is eaten fried and hot after being breaded in eggs and breadcrumbs) before you decide to order it or not. Like most dishes there are multiple recetas (recipes) so often Google searches for a term like this will result in finding a receta instead of a description but if you’re a foodie that may be more helpful anyway.

LENGUA CURADA con lascas de queso y aceite de pimentón CURED LANGUAGE with cheese flakes and paprika oil

lengua is one of those words where the most probable literal translation is wrong in this context. In fact the most “obvious” literal translation is correct, i.e. ‘tongue’ which then can mean ‘language’. For menus it is ‘tongue’.

CREMA DE NÉCORAS

con langostinos

CREAM OF NÉCORAS

with prawns

Here Google had no translation but Google searches quickly revealed ‘velvet crab, Necora puber‘. As an informal observation, especially in regards to seafood, I’ve noticed that the Spanish term often is directly derived from the scientific (Latin) name of the creature. So as a hint this might be a good place to start searching.

And this one was probably the worst (least helpful) translation:

ALBÓNDIGAS DE VENADO

al Prieto Picudo

DEVICE BEDS

to Prieto Picudo

I can’t even quite decide why the poor translation occurs as there is little literal connection. albóndigas is fairly common on menus (plus a cognate of its Italian counterpart) so one I immediately recognized as ‘meatballs’, although in some menus in Spain it may be an item closer to ‘meatloaf’. Nothing about it translates to either ‘device’ or ‘beds’. Likewise venado has a simple (and presumably correct in this context) literal translation of ‘deer’ or as also listed as a culinary sense, ‘venison’. So literal translation would be much more useful, in this case. But Prieto Picudo has no translation but is easily found via searches as a particular type of grape local to  Castile and León (DO Tierra de Leon).

And finally a term I’ve often seen that doesn’t appear in dictionaries but can be deduced if one knows about rules in Spanish for making diminutives from base words:

CHULETILLAS

de conejo

CHULETILLAS

rabbit

Google failed to translation chuletillas but this I’ve previously found as the diminutive of chuleta (rib) so one can conclude these are simply small ribs, which would obviously be true when found a rabbit, but often this term is also used for very young (unweaned) lambs (lechazo or cordero lechal) or pigs (cochinillo or lechón) where leche (milk) is the key part of these terms.

So while I’ve fallen behind in posts at least I can provide a bit of information about food terms from León.