An interesting menu

I’ve mentioned that my original concept for this reboot of my project to build best translation dictionary for food in Spain requires obtaining a (large) corpus of corresponding Spanish to English words or phrases or other combinations. This time I’d collect this myself (instead of mining other people’s glossaries) directly from a (hopefully) authentic source, that is actual menus of restaurants in Spain. Almost all that I’ve found and processed thus far are only in Spanish so I’m dependent on Google Translate and to give me a machine-style translation (often amusing). But a human translated menu would be preferable since it might deal with some of the more subtle and/or complicated issues of translation, but also potentially handle some of the more colloquial use of words and phrases.

So, as I mentioned in my latest milestone on my virtual trek on the Camino de Santiago I’d reached the city of Logroño, thus having entered La Rioja and exiting Navarra. Logroño is large enough to have a lot of restaurants with websites and online menus so I have collected a large list of URLs to investigate (both from looking at POI on Google Maps and from various lists compiled by travel or review sites).

So after the brief adventure of looking at McDonalds (was just curious how the Spain version varies from U.S., but also what nomenclature they’d use (mostly their proprietary names largely derived from English)) I decided to promise another and happened to choose (more or less randomly) Cachetero. Based on its prices this seems to be a fairly upscale restaurant and it appears on several of the top N lists for Logroño and it looks nice (lots of photos on Google Maps for it as a POI) but a virtual trek doesn’t give me anything to actually make my own comments on their food.

This is a good one for you, Dear Reader, to examine. First it has pictures for almost every dish on the menu (the menus are found on a pulldown on the tab (along the top of home page) labeled carta (in Spanish) and ‘letter’ (in strange Google Translate).  On the menu pulldown the most interesting items are:


And there is another pulldown on the top right side of the page that allows you to select language, including English.

Now I’ve extracted all the Spanish for all sections of the menu and then matched that with the English translation provided by the website itself. The translation is definitely not one of the machine translators I’ve been using and appears that it could be human. But there is no explanation so I can decisively conclude it is human translation but generally the translation reads a little smoother and less literal than most machine translations. Of course, just because it’s human (if it is) doesn’t really mean it’s any better (or even as good) as the machine translation.

For instance this sentence

The asparagus of the Ebro Valley has become over the years a food for exquisite palates.

is translated as

Asparagus Ebro valley has become over the years into a food palates.

Even with my limited knowledge of Spanish that’s a clumsy translation. First as a human translation (but perhaps something only a first-language English speaker would do as Spanish puts qualifying bits after (rather than before) I’d say “Ebro valley asparagus” rather than “Asparagus Ebro valley” (a clumsy noun phrase). BTW: Ebro is the second largest river on the Iberian peninsula and Logroño is situated on it.  And I think you can see that in alimento para paladares exquisitos something has gotten lost in translation to just ‘food palates’. That cognate exquisitos is what you’d expect so that part should be ‘exquisite palates’. para is a simple preposition which in this case I believe would translate as ‘for’, so I’d say a better translation is ‘food for exquisite paletes’. And one more reversal of the phrase order I think this is better (and the same meaning)

Over the years Ebro valley asparagus has transformed food for exquisite palates.

Dear Reader who is more fluent in Spanish please add comments how you’d do this translation. My only point in this digression is attempting to do the Turing test – is it human or machine that is doing this (and in between a human with ESL and not that fluent in English). has translated it thusly:

The asparagus of the Ebro Valley has become over the years a food for exquisite palates

I didn’t see this until I made my attempt – I think theirs reads even better.

And Google Translate does thusly:

The asparagus of the Ebro Valley has become over the years a food for exquisite palates.

Identical it seems so I suspect both of these are rule-based combined with literal even though Google says all it’s translation is learning-based AI.

In terms of the dish itself this is one case I’ll publish their image since I have given the restaurant its credit:

Ignoring the phallic nature of these stalks of asparagus note that this is common “delicacy” in this part of Spain as you can see described in this post. You can even buy it in the U.S. here (among various places).

I’m analyzing more of the translations to attempt to get some better idea (for instance, huerta is used a lot and gets translated as ‘orchard’ in one description and ‘garden’ in another; possibly ‘kitchen garden’ or ‘truck garden’ is closer as this restaurants prides itself on its ingredients, especially vegetables so I’d guess this is a lot like the “local” or “farm-to-table” movement in U.S.)

But meanwhile, Dear Reader – take a look at the food, play with the translations for yourselves.

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