Mystery post – pez/peces or pescado

My title contains some bits of useful information. While I’m not absolutely certain some sources say peces is the plural of pez. Of course in English the plural of fish is fish so peces seems relatively uncommon. pecado also translates to fish BUT the key difference is that pescado is the piece of fish on your plate and pez is the living animal.

I let Google Translate loose on my previous “mystery” post and it had three types of results: 1) a few of the words translated correctly, 2) some translated but to nonsense, and, 3) some were missed altogether. I’ve tracked a few of the latter.

My big list of words (with cognates or loanwords removed to avoid giving a clue) was a lengthy list of the names of fish, probably as they are called in Spain. I found two long lists on the Net with Latin (scientific names) as well as names in English, Spanish and some other languages. Both were European sources so less likely to include fish found primarily in South America, but who knows how lists get compiled.

Plants and animals from natural world (versus cultivated plants/animals) are frequently misidentified and very tough to get accurate common names. Sometimes even the scientific names are in dispute or contradictory so big surprise the more colloquial names are. After all who but ichthyologists, some fisherman and a few fish mongers actually know these names accurately and/or could just by looking at a fish decide what to call it.

So this is probably the toughest area to compose an accurate Iberian Spanish to English translation list. I’m going to have a third post in this series about the names I conclude are fairly likely but for now here’s a subset of the list from the mystery post that Google failed to translate at all.

alfonsino Golden eye perch
badexo Lythe or pollack
boga bogue
brama bream Pomfret
brotola de roca Greater forkbeard
calion Shark, porbeagle
callas Callas
capelan capelin
chicharro scad – also called horse mackerel
chincharro Horse mackerel or scad
choupa Black bream or porgy or seabream
chucla picarel
cigala crawfish Norway lobster – also called Dublin Bay prawn
colin Coley or saithe
côngrio conger eel conger eel – also called conger
coregono whitefish
escolano smelt – also called sparling
espadilla frostfish – also called silver scabbardfish
espadín sprat sprat – also called brisling
espárido sea bream
illiseria megrim
lanzon sandeel – also called sand lance
limanda dab
longeirón razor clam – also called razor shell
lucioperca pike-perch
lumpo lumpfish Lumpfish
maganto Dublin Bay prawn or langoustine or scampi
mendo Witch or Torbay sole
merlan whiting
mollera poor cod
muergo razor clam – also called razor shell
musola smooth hound – also called dogfish, flake, huss, rigg
pardete Grey mullet
pejerrey silver side, sand smelt argentine – also called silver smelt
pejesapo angler fish Anglerfish or monkfish
perlón Grey gurnard
pescadillo Hake
plegonero whiting
quisquilla shrimp prawn – also called shrimp
salton sandeel – also called sand lance
salvelino char
solla plaice

The left column is the Spanish (with at least one spelling error, don’t know which (chicharro chincharro) is actually correct). The middle column is the few that the Oxford dictionary recognizes. And the third column is from one of these two sources (here and here) which I originally used to compile the list (I found a third list with scientific (Latin) names but didn’t originally use it and haven’t (yet) processed it). I’m a bit surprised Google missed the names that are in Oxford as I’ve encountered some of these in other places.

Now note that even with some of the Spanish names “translated” there are bunches of fish on this list I don’t recognize and I suspect few people would. So probably only a small subset of this list (the names Google didn’t recognize, not the full list) would ever appear on menus.

The two longer lists, with scientific names, seemed to potentially be the most accurate lists but I’ve found others at some other websites. The trouble with these is the names may not relate to Spain and may be from other Spanish speaking areas. This is a very common problem trying to find and merge and consolidate lists from the Net. In addition what is the level of authority of anyone who provides a list – rarely is that known and I see enough mistakes in almost any list to shed some doubt on the accuracy of the information. But all that said I’ll be trying, in the next post, to produce the largest and most accurate list from the raw material I can find.

So stay tuned for the final result.


Mystery post

This is some work in progress. Guess based on any terms you recognize what the work may be.

abadejo, abadejo de Alaska, aguja, aguja azul, aguja azul del Indo Pac, aguja blanca, aguja negra, alacha, alfonsino, almeja, anguila, arenque, bacaladilla, badexo, barrilete, berberecho, bermejuela, bígaro], bocina, boga, bogavante, boquerón, brama, brema común, brosmio, brótola de fango, brotola de roca, caballa, cabezuda, cabracho,  calandino, calion, callas, camarón, camaron tigre, cangrejo, cangrejo de rio, capelan, caramel, carbonero, carpa, centolla, chancha, chicharro, chincharro, choupa, chucla, cicloptero, cigala, colin, colin de Alaska, côngrio, coregono, croque, eglefino, emperador, eperlano, escolano, espadilla, espadín, espárido, estornino, esturión, esturion, esturion estrellado, falsa limanda, falsó lenguado, faneca, faneca noruega, fletán, fletan del Pacifico, gallineta, gallineta nórdica, gallo, gallo de San Pedro, galludo, gata, gato, golleta, granedero, hipogloso negro, husio, illiseria, jibia, jurel, lampuga, langosta, lanzon, lengua lisa, lenguado, libre de mar, limanda, limanda nórdica, lisa, listado, lobo, longeirón, lubina, lubricante, lucio, lucioperca, lumpo, maganto, maruca, maruca azul, mejillón, mendo, mendo limón, merlan, merluza, merluza de cola azul, merluzzo Francese, mero, mielga, mollera, muergo, mújol, musola, nécora, ostión, ostra, palero, pardete, pargos, pejerrey, pejesapo, perca, perlón, perro del norte, pescadillo, pez de plata, pez de San Pedro, pez espada, pez sable negro, pintarroja, platija, platija americana, plegonero, quimera, quisquilla, rabil, rascacio, raya, reloj anaranjado, reloj del Atlántico, rémol, rodaballo, rubio, salmonete, salmonete de roca, salton, salvelino, sapo, sierra, sierra del sur, solla, tenca, tiburón, tota, trucha, trucha arco iris, trucha arcoiris, vieira, volador, volandeira

Clue, Latin matters in figuring all this out.



Eating seasonal small dog in Spain – a story of hongo y seta

Actually I didn’t really find ‘small dog’ on a menu even though Google decided to translate perrochicos as ‘doggy’. But one can never be sure what is eaten in other countries. After all I did see ‘dog’ (in English) on menus of street vendors on Wangfujing Street in Beijing (along with scorpions and starfish-on-a-stick).

So why am I off on this strange tack?

I was looking at another menu of a restaurant in Logroño, that goes by the somewhat unusual name of Asador El Tahiti (website), another of the famous dining district, Laurel Street. In this case asador is actually a type of restaurant specializing in grilled food or as Google translates a la brasa ‘to the Brazil’. Come on, Google, a la brasa is one of the various terms somewhat interchangeable with ‘grill’ but in this case it means the food is actually grilled in contact with wood or charcoal fire (unlike a la plancha which is grilling on hot iron). Even I, illiterate in Spanish, know this!

Anyway this restaurant has its menu online but in the unfortunate format, first, in a PDF (not subject to Google Translate) and, even worse, it’s just an image of their menu which means there is no text to select and paste in my analysis documents. This is too bad because the carta is available in both Spanish and English which is always handy for creating word/phrase pairs to feed into my corpus. So, unable to get anything from the menu I at least grabbed some text (from the HTML) on the page that contains the links to the PDF menus. And there I found this fun entry:

Platos de temporada: espárragos, setas, hongos, perrochicos Seasonal dishes: asparagus, mushrooms, mushrooms, doggy

Here note the pair where Google translates perrochicos to ‘doggy‘.  Amusing, so what is the correct translation since ‘doggy’ is unlikely. My standard go-to dictionary, Oxford Spanish, doesn’t have an entry for perrochico but instead suggested I look at perro chico.  All right. I recall in the movie The Way Jobst being called perro which he didn’t understand but was subtitled to ‘dog’ so I vaguely remembered that and anticipated something like that for perro chico. This produced this confusing entry with indication this is usage in Spain:

Perra chica (moneda) Bitch girl (currency)

so all Oxford did was convert perro chico to the feminine perra chica and add the confusing (moneda) which does literally translate to ‘currency’ (really meaning a unit of, like a dollar). Now why Google decided to call this ‘bitch girl’ is amusing but it’s literal and the use of ‘bitch’ is not derogatory but actually what female dogs are called (go check out a dog show and see this term used in that sense). And chica doesn’t have a listing (except a colloquial usage in Mexico) but chico has various meanings that would imply young person and in the -o ending as ‘boy’ so it makes sense Google would decided the -a ending means ‘girl’.

So this was a dead end and I was left with my only other strategy for determining what  perrochico might be. And that is search which didn’t reveal much except there seems to be a town of that name. So as I usually do I added another search term to supply context, i.e. temporada. As a spoiler adding seta would have been better. But I did manage to find this link, Perrechicos, la seta reina de mayo.

And this seems to be the answer that fits the context. Normally I don’t accept a single source but this just matches too well.

Perrechicos, la seta reina de mayo Perrechicos, the mushroom queen of May


El perrechico, protagonista del campo en mayo The perrechico, protagonist of the field in May


El perrechico, identificación de esta seta en el norte de España, es una variedad extraordinaria, de carne blanca y muy tierna lo que la convierte en una de las setas más reputadas de la gastronomía tradicional asturiana.

Esta seta también recibe el nombre de “mixernó” en Cataluña, “usón” en Aragón, o seta de San Jorge en el resto de España.

The perrechico, identification of this mushroom in the north of Spain, is an extraordinary variety of white meat and very tender which makes it one of the most reputable mushrooms of traditional Asturian cuisine.

This mushroom also receives the name of “mixernó” in Catalonia, “usón” in Aragón, or seta de San Jorge in the rest of Spain.


La seta comienza a estar presente en el campo a principios del mes de abril si bien es en mayo cuando, masivamente, en grandes colonias circulares, conocidas como “corros de brujas”, comienza a extenderse por todos los campos de Asturias que tengas las características que propicien la proliferación de este manjar.

En las mejores temporadas, el perrechico puede llegar hasta el final del verano lo que indicará el carácter extraordinario de la temporada.

The mushroom begins to be present in the field at the beginning of the month of April although it is in May when, massively, in large circular colonies, known as “corros de brujas”, it begins to spread throughout all the fields of Asturias that have the characteristics that propitiate the proliferation of this delicacy.

In the best seasons, the perrechico can arrive until the end of the summer which will indicate the extraordinary character of the season.

IOW, this is a seasonal mushroom which is a delicacy and local to northern Spain. Which fits in very well with the other items on this restaurant’s webpage.

So it would appear mystery solved and for me an interesting new source (an online with numerous pages about food items). AND, it presents a clue to another common translation issue: hongo vs seta as mushroom. I’ve mentioned this before with two points: 1) hongo is primarily used outside Spain for mushroom (still true), and, 2) hongo is the cultivated (round button type) mushroom vs seta is the more wild type (like shiitake or chanterelles), which is probably wrong. Here is a more likely explanation:

Diferencias entre los hongos y las setas Differences between mushrooms and mushrooms
La confusión entre hongo y seta es habitual y puede ser que hasta algo común entre los aficionados al mundo micológico sin llegar a profundizar en el mismo, es decir todos aquellos que conocen el nombre de la seta o del hongo pero que mucha más intenso y próximo es su conocimiento gastronómico que la tipología exacta de lo degustado. The confusion between fungus and mushroom is common and may even be something common among fans of the mycological world without going deeply into it, ie all those who know the name of the mushroom or fungus but much more intense and closer it is your gastronomic knowledge that the exact typology of what is tasted.
En realidad, la diferencia es sencilla de interpretar ya que las setas son las fructificaciones de los hongos.

Es decir, el hongo es a la seta lo que el manzano a la manzana.

Actually, the difference is simple to interpret since the mushrooms are the fruiting of the mushrooms.

That is, the fungus is to the mushroom what the apple to the apple.

Todavía más sencillo es diferenciar un hongo de una seta teniendo en cuenta que el primero está bajo tierra y el segundo sobre la misma, a simple vista del aficionado y lo que, por norma general, termina en casa después de pasar un día en el campo. Even more simple is to differentiate a mushroom from a mushroom considering that the first one is underground and the second one on the same one, at the naked eye of the amateur and what, as a rule, ends at home after spending a day in the field .

It’s fun to see Google Translate notion of the title line, i.e. differences between mushrooms and mushrooms; IOW, Google thinks both hongo and seta equally translate to mushroom. But I choose to believe the answer presented in this text especially this part:

Es decir, el hongo es a la seta lo que el manzano a la manzana. That is, the fungus is to the mushroom what the apple to the apple.

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, as a common, but not always, “rule”. A plant that produces an edible part is often named such that the plant is masculine (-o) and the fruit is feminine (-a) [recall this discussion about olivo vs oliva]. So hongo is the actual fungus growing underground and seta is the fruiting body or what most of us would actually think of as ‘mushroom’.

It is good to clear this up but I suspect if you see hongo on a menu in Spain just think mushroom. After all the webpage (snippet, above) that started this digression listed BOTH as menu items which means I’m back where I started – why? Is there a difference? Perhaps hongo as cultivated and seta as wild is not entirely wrong. I doubt both would be listed if somehow some mushrooms weren’t called hongo and others called seta.

So still not resolved!




Another Logroño Menu

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m stuck in midwest USA and unable to actually be trekking along the Camino so I convert training miles on a treadmill into virtual trek. Unfortunately I’ve sustained a painful toe injury I’m allowing to heal before resuming my virtual trek. So instead of encountering new restaurants and menus I’m going back to some I’d found before. Once again I’m looking for eccentricities in machine translation as well as interesting challenges for more informed translation.

My latest menu comes from Restasurante Mesón Cid in Logroño,  They use an interesting approach showing six menus at different prices with different selections. They don’t show a carta and instead suggest:

Para individuales le recomendamos consultar los platos de temporada. For individuals we recommend consulting the seasonal dishes.

This is a good tip but again shows the fundamental flaw in my approach, i.e. an app to very accurately translate and describe menus without requiring conversational Spanish fluency. No luck on “consulting”, I would guess, so I’d be stuck with the fixed menus.

Now it’s not my goal to harp on flaws in machine translation (in this case Google Translate since the webpage (unlike PDFs I often find) is accessible to Google BUT it’s interesting to consider some of the issues. Machine translation is wonderfully useful but it has its flaws. So simply trusting that translation might leave you with a real surprise on your plate. So, here’s a couple of things for this menu:

  1. I’ve encountered this before but it works out poorly on this page that something about the HTML structure of the page confuses Google and so after translation it has “broken” the formatting of the page, which in this case means nearby items on the menu have been run together in a jumble that is hard (impossible in one case) to decipher. Perhaps a photo and OCR of a printed menu, then with translation might avoid this problem.
  2. Since this source has six different menus, sometimes with the same items, all embedded in a single HTML page I get to observe the strange effect, sometimes trivial, sometimes significant that the same words in the same page (overall context) produce different translations (including in some case none). As a trivial example, Croquetas caseras translates to ‘homemade croquettes’ (the normal English translation but in another case to ‘croquettes homemade’. This is not a problem understanding what the item is but it’s interesting that in one case Google can properly reverse the word order as Spanish does to the English variety but in the other case it can’t. Why? I have no clue and reading some of the technical material about Google Translate revealed no answer (to me, at least).  For this one, Cogote de merluza, the problem is a bit worse. This comes out as ‘Cogote Hake’ and ‘Cockle of Hake’, neither of which is very helpful. One literal translation of cogote is nape (as of the neck) but I’ve encountered this enough on menus that I think, even though there is a different term for this, this mostly means ‘cheek’ (when referring to fish). At the very least it’s something you’d like to know.
  3. Since there are multiple examples of exactly the same dish I quickly notice that the a la X construct is very inconsistently handled. In particular, the a la plancha (something you just need to know, grilling but on iron rather than directly over fire) went through, correctly as grilled, strangely as ‘to the plate’ (pure literal and not helpful), ‘to the grill’ (better but clumsy) and not even translated at all! This is just interesting as basically this is so common I suspect any customer would just know this anyway.
  4. A minor differences in the column heading (per menu) produce different translations: a) Segundo plato (a elegir) translates to ‘Second course (to choose)’ but Segundo plato translates to ‘Main course’ (when in this case (and many others) is more accurate) but it shows that the notion Google somehow looks at “context” in its AI based translation has interesting consequences.
  5. The cochinillo in Cochinillo asado gets translated to ‘piglet’ in one case and ‘suckling pig’ in another. Neither is misleading (as to what the dish really is) and in fact deciding which is more accurate is tough. Here I face the same challenge as Google, finding both usages in a corpus, which should be used? In a more trivial example asado in Cordero asado comes out as ‘roast’ vs ‘roasted’, again in irrelevant difference for interpreting the menu but curious why Google Translate has this difference.

Now on to some of the more interesting translation issues.

  1. Embutidos de Salamanca leaves me wondering what a salamanca sausage might be. But this same word appears in Jamón de Salamanca so it’s probably a proper noun, either brand (like Campos in previous post) or in this case a place name (a capital city of province of same name).  While the restaurant called out this particular designation all I can find is that it’s another variety of Iberian (which is also listed on the menu).  And so what, then, about Embutidos de Guijuelo. Guijuelo is another city and a DO, but basically it too is just another Iberian. There is definitely difference in the pricing of these menus so knowing whatever subtle difference there is between just generic Ibérico and Salamanca and Guijuelo (and probably even more designations). This is a really big deal in Spain, especially the Jamón, so: a) learn the difference (if you can) before plunking down dinero, or, b) if you choose to experiment and buy the more expensive one at least know you’re doing that and try to savor the difference you paid for.
  2. Google just missed this one as it is easy to lookup: Navajas o Langostinos a la plancha translated to Navajas or prawns to the grill’. navajas isn’t that hard, literally ‘razor’ or in the context of food, ‘razor clams’. And there is that clumsy ‘to the grill’ translation instead of ‘grilled razor clams and prawns’. Plus there is the ongoing issue of whether Langostino really is ‘prawn’ (vs gamba which is also on this menu). In Spain, langostino, gamba and quisquilla seem only to describe size, not the actual type of shrimp species, but in Italy or Chile it’s a quite different critter (and more premium).
  3. Pulpo a la gallega  (Galacian style octopus) and Espárragos de Navarra (Navarran asparagus, a somewhat unique variety, usually white) are just regional designations and you get to guess (or know from your much smarter app) what these really mean.
  4.  Chuletón, which is still a bit of mystery to me got translated in one instance as the common translation, T-bone steak, but in another case as ‘trowel’. I can’t find any connection that leads to that translation and I doubt I’d want to eat one. It must be some colloquial thing that perhaps a T-bone looks a bit like a trowel?
  5. And Google did the unfortunate non-translation under pescados (fish) of rape to rape. This also seems to be generally translated as monkfish. OTOH, now try to figure out what a monkfish is? IOW, translating doesn’t help much, you need to know what monkfish is (and in Spain, as it’s different than other places) before you’d pick that over dorado (which Google got right, ‘gilt-head’ in one place and just golden in another and just dorado in another, again why the inconsistency?) or lubina (seabass).
  6. This one, Sorbete de helado de limón al cava (Sorbet of lemon ice cream with cava) is a bit confusing (at least to me since I think of sorbet and ice cream as different desserts, not one as a preparation made from the other). In case you haven’t encountered wines from Spain before cava is another name for prosecco; oh, you don’t know that well both are an incorrect name for champagne. Champagne is a DO and can only come from France (as I once learned at a French owned sparkling wine producer in Napa California).  I’ve had all four and can’t tell much difference (at least good ones) and it sounds like a great thing to add to lemon ice cream. BUT, helado isn’t always ice cream (thus resolving my first comment) and instead can just mean ‘frozen’ so both sherbet and ice cream are helado, although generally helado does mean ice cream. Either way everyone likes helado.

There are a few more interesting bits but as usual I’ve gone on too long so I’ll undoubtedly pick up more translations challenges in the next menu.


Ensalada ilustrada or Ensalada mixta

I was crunching through menus at Restaurante Asador San Quintín in Logroño and decided to detour into understanding why a salad might be enlightened (a literal translation of ilustrada). ensalada itself is easy to remember as it actually is what its cognate implies. But ilustrada, as the past participle (normally ilustrado but ensalada is feminine so requires -a ending) of the verb ilustrar, mostly means illustrated but has a special context of ‘a follower of the Enlightenment’ and thus ‘a person who is learned and educated’. I wonder if eating this salad endows one with enlightenment.

This salad is common enough that it appears on a list of salads and has its own webpage in the Spanish Wikipedia. There it is described as

es una ensalada mixta de verduras muy típica de la cocina aragonesa

Many images can be found with a Google search and there is even a video of making it on YouTube (not very helpful to me as it is entirely in rapidfire Spanish where I hardly get any word). Searches for ‘receta ensalada aragonesa‘ gets similar but not identical recipes. Of course, though, recipes are likely to vary (consider Caesar salad in English).

But ensalada mixta is often used on menus and appears to be more generic than any specific recipe.  mixta does have the obvious meaning of ‘mixed’. From past research many mixta salads are quite simple and plain but some of the receta for ensalada mixta are almost identical to some from ensalada ilustrada so it’s tough to distinguish them. Most, but not all ensalada ilustrada recipes include asparagus (espárragos) which can appear in other salads but then usually under another name. mixta recipes seem to include more vegetables (often cucumbers (pepino)) whereas the emphasis in ilustrada seems to be tuna (aka bonito). In short I’d guess mixta is the equivalent of ‘house salad’ in the USA and so it’s whatever the restaurant wants to use.

But whatever ilustrada is there was some fun in figuring out recetas as these use terms you wouldn’t ordinarily see on menus but are amusing to try to figure out.

1 puñado de yemas de espárragos 1 handful of asparagus yolks

I remembered yemas (yolks) from previous posts usually in the context of huevo (egg) so this was a bit mysterious. An alternate meaning for yema can be ‘Sprout of a plant from which branches, leaves and flowers develop’. In fact, one translation of ‘bud’ is yema. On other menus cogollo is used to reference the inner portion of a head of lettuce so yema seems to have the same meaning (the video I mentioned made this clear even though I couldn’t understand what was being said).

1 escarola limpia 1 clean escarole

limpia (limpio when modifying lechuga) is better translated as ‘cleansed’, again something the video makes clear, i.e. careful washing of both the lettuce and escarole. A good example of how not to guess this is a cognate for ‘limp’. And I’d certainly hope I get clean ingredients in my food.

Filetes de anchoa en aceite Campos Anchovy fillets in oil Fields
1 frasco de bonito del norte Campos 1 jar of bonito of the north Fields

Campos threw me for a while. It does translate to ‘fields’ as Google did and so I thought somehow this might imply something about the source (is it modifying aceite or anchoa? If anchoa (anchovy) then it might make sense as modifier of bonito as well). Searching for Campos mostly reveals a town in Spain but nowhere near the sea and thus no obvious connection. However searching for ‘aceite campos’ did pop up some online shopping sites and so, this is just a food brand.

1 Bolsa Tierna. 1 Tender Bag

This one really ran me around in circles until I lucked out and saw one of the small images on the search results page and then zoomed in. In this case it really was a bag (plastic) with Tierna as the label and it was clearly the prepared greens we see in supermarkets in USA. I also ‘tender’ is used in the same context as ‘spring’ or ‘young’ since it’s not a term I would expect to apply directly to lettuce, or certainly to a bag.

1 ud Tomate raff. 1 Toma raff.

Two things threw me on this. What is a ud? I’ve seen this on menus and eventually concluded it is merely the abbreviation of unidad (unit). It’s not clear why I need to be told 1 unit of tomato rather than just one tomato, however. raff  (Raf) turns out is a particularly variety of tomato as described in this Wikipedia page.

70gr Bonito en aceite. 70gr Pretty in oil.

I’ve seen this enough times in other samples to know that bonito (a type of tuna) confuses Google but interestingly it got it right in the example I showed discussing what Campos means. ‘pretty’ is a reasonable, but wrong translation. Often another fish, dorado, ends up as ‘golden’ which is actually a kind of truth since the fish got its name due to its color.

150 gr. de queso en taquitos 150 gr. of cheese in taquitos (taco is ‘Small piece, thick and dice-shaped, in which a food is cut’)

And this took some work and I can’t confirm my “guess”. taquito is not a word in any dictionary. Searches reveal it to be a diminutive of taco (the food item, or even something you can buy in freezer section of a USA grocery store) and nothing else. But this made me curious what taco means in Spanish and way down in the list of meanings at Oxford is this (indicated used in Spain this way):

Trozo pequeño, grueso y en forma de dado en que está cortado un alimento. Small piece, thick and dice-shaped, in which a food is cut.

So I’m going with the idea that taquito is derived from taco and so it means really really small pieces. It’s hard to spot the queso in the picture and I couldn’t find any other source so this is just a guess. BUT it’s clearly not taquito one would find in Mexico or USA.

But this one continues to baffle me ( though got it while writing post):

1 sopera de mostaza 1 mustard tureen

I can’t find much else other than ‘tureen’ as a definition. I thought maybe this was a type of mustard (mostaza makes sense as ‘mustard’ based on the instructions of the recipe) but it also should be a unit of measure (to fit the pattern of other ingredients).  I had seen sopera together with cucharada which literally means tablespoon so the hint that sopera might also mean spoon didn’t quite fit. But alas, Spanish language Wikepedia comes to the rescue again since it includes both words together in this article in the sentence:

Su medida corresponde aproximadamente al volumen contenido en una cuchara sopera Its measurement corresponds approximately to the volume contained in a soup spoon

So this is a unit of measure, approximately a tablespoon.

So digging through recipes for items I find on menus is another source for my corpus but I have to be really careful not to create misleading extractions.



Wine Terms

In my last post I mentioned I was using several websites (and pages within those sites) that had English translations to extract side-by-side human English translation of the (presumably) original Spanish. OK, done – so what? Like I’ll be doing with all sources then I begin an extraction process to add pairs (words or phrases) of translations to my corpus. A key part of that also has to be asserted some measure of “certainty” whether the translation is correct. Using a probability type measure (0.0…1.0 obviously fits). Then the corpus analysis program can find as many of the same pair as it can and evaluate a new certainty, i.e. something like – lots of pair instances that are the same but possibly each low certainty may be as good as few of a pair with high certainty. An interesting question, then, is human translation (relatively rare) of websites (mostly menus) more reliable source of information than machine translation.

Of course the extraction process itself (which I do and therefore is subject to error) plays a role as well so I’ll use my small corpus of wine webpages to extract a set of pairs and then use any other sources of wine terminology to confirm/deny my pairs (just manually, so I understand the data, before trying to write code to do this). So here’s my result:    (scroll down past list for more of this post)

Abierto 2 open
Acerb 2 acerbic
acidez 1 acidity
ácido 1 acid
Aciete Esencial 2 essential oils
afinamiento 1 refinement
afrutado[s] 1 fruity
agradables 1 nice, pleasant, agreeable
Alegre 2 zingy
Amoratado 2 inky
Amplio 2 big
Añada 2 vintage year
arcillo 1 clay
Armónico 2 harmonious
aromas 1 aromas
aromática 1 aromatic
Barrica Bordelesa 2 Bordeaux cask
barrica 1 cask or barrel
beber 1 to drink
Blanco Seco 3 Dry White
Blanco 2 white
boca 1 literally mouth, but can mean palette in wine tasting context
Bodega 3 winery
Bodeguero 3 winemaker
Bota 2 butt
botella 1 bottle
Botritis 2 botrytis
brillante 1 bright
brotaciones, brotación 1 [not found] budding ? (derivative of brotar)
brotar 1 to sprout, bud
calidad 1 quality
campaña 1 growing period, season
campo 1 field
canela 1 cinnamon
cánones del clasicismo riojano 1 classic Rioja style (not literal)
Capa 2 layer
cata 1 tasting (action of)
cereza 1 cherry
Cerrado 2 closed
Clarificación 2 fining
clásico de Rioja 1 Rioja classic
comarca 1 region, district
complejidad 1 complexity
Complejo 2 complex
Corcho Cork
cosecha 1 harvest, crop; vintage
Crianza en barrica 4 Aging in barrel
crianza en madera 1 aged in wood (literally, cask colloquially)
crianza 1 aging
cuerpo 1 body
Dejo 2 aftertaste
Denso 2 dense
Depositos 4 Deposits
Dorado 2 golden
Dulce 2 sweet
Elaborado por 3 Produced, matured by.
elegante 1 elegant
Embotellado por 3 Bottled by
Embotellar 4 To bottle
en barrica 1 in cask or barrel
envejecimiento 1 aging (also laying down)
equilibrado 1 balanced
equilibrio 1 balance
Especiado 2 spicy
Espeso 2 thick
Estructura 2 structure
Evolucionado 2 evolved
expresivo 1 expressive
Fermentación alcohólico 4 Alcoholic fermentation
Fermentación maloláctica 4 Malolactic fermentation
fermentación 1 fermentation
final de boca 1 “finish” (literally end/finish of mouth)
final 1 after-taste
fino 1 fine
florals 1 floral
fresco 1 fresh
frescura 1 freshness
frutos cítricos 1 citrus fruits
Fuerte 2 strong
Graciano 1 red grape variety
grados 1 grade or degree (but alcohol by volume)
Heces 2 sediment
Hoja 4 Leaf
Hollejo 2 grape skin
Joven 2 young (little or no aging)
Jurado de Cata 2 wine tasting panel
Lágrimas 2 tears
Levaduras 4 Yeast
Lías 2 lees
limpio 1 clean
Maceración Carbónica 2 carbonic maceration
Maceración en frío 2 cold maceration
maceración 1 maceration
madera 1 wood
madura 1 ripe, mature
madurar 1 to mature
Manchado 2 literally ‘stained’
manzana 1 apple
maridaje 1 literally marriage or combination; food matches/pairings
Mazuelo 1 red grape variety
mezcla 1 mixture, blend
mosto 1 must (grape juice)
nariz 1 nose (also aroma)
notas 1 notes
olores 1 smell (scents in corpus)
Oro 2 gold
Oxidación 2 oxidation
parámetros de calidad 1 quality indicators
Pasa 2 raisin
Pepita 4 Seed
Perfumado 2 perfumed
Persistencia 2 persistence
Pimienta 2 black pepper
postgusto (posgusto) 1 [not found] after-taste
Prensa 4 Press
prensado 1 pressing
pulidos 1 polished
Rama 2 branch
Recio 2 gutsy
Redondo 2 rounded
Refrescar 2 refresh
Regaliz 2 liquorice
Roble Americano 4 American oak
Roble Francés 4 French oak
roble 1 oak (as in the barrels)
Rojo 2 red
Rosado 2 rosé
sabor 1 flavor, taste
Sabroso 2 flavorsome
Seco 2 dry
sedoso 1 silky
Semidulce 2 semi-sweet
Semiseco 2 semi-dry
sensación 1 sensation
Suave 2 smooth
suelos 1 soils (also ground, floor, land)
Tabaco 2 tobacco
tanino 1 tannin
temperatura controlada 1 controlled temperature
temperature de servicio 1 serving temperature, aka, best served at
Tempranillo 1 grape variety
terciopelo 1 velvet
Típico 2 typical
trasiegas 1 decant (rackings in corpus)
untuoso 1 literally greasy (aka unctuous), but nicer means ‘smooth’
uva 1 grape
Vainilla 2 vanilla
valores 1 values (as in levels of an indicator)
variedad 1 variety or varietal
vendimia 1 vintage, grape harves (whole process)t
Vid 4 Vine
Vina 3 Vineyard.
viñedos 1 vineyard, vines
Vino blanco 4 White wine
Vino de calidad (Quality wine) 3 Must come from a DO or DE. Only wine made from the free-run or lightly pressed juice of ripe healthy grapes, which has undergone a temperature controlled fermentation, qualifies.
Vino de cosecha, or vendimia 3 Wines of a particular vintage year. In special cases, if the purpose is to improve the quality of the wine, a maximum of 15% of wine of a previous year may be added.
Vino espumoso 4 Sparkling wine
Vino Fino de Mesa 3 Fine table wine.
Vino Generoso 3 Special aged dry or sweet wines of higher alcoholic strength than table wines. From the Latin term for excellence. Sherries are vinos generosos.
Vino rosado 4 Rosé wine
Vino tinto 4 Red wine
vino 1 wine
Viura 1 white grape variety
viveza 1 vividness, strength
Vivo 2 lively
Yema 2 yolk
Zarzamora 2 blackberry

I combined four lists. In MSWord I can use different colors and fonts for each list so when I merge them I can easily see where any pair came from, but here in WordPress formatting is more limited so the middle column indicates the source. My extracted list (from all those webpages I processed from both bodegas and restaurants) is 1.  I choose not to provide links for the other three sources, but 2 was certainly the largest.

I eliminated duplication and then used a simple notion of “certainty”. Items from list 1 that are shown here in bold had one or more identical (or almost identical) translation in one of the other lists. This isn’t particularly robust definition of certainty but it will do for this proof concept.

So of the 171 terms in the merged list (82 are from my manual extraction, the remainder from one of the other three lists) only 24 of my extracted terms get marked as “certain” due to occurring in other lists:

afrutado[s], barrica, botella, cata, cosecha, elegante, equilibrado, fermentación, final de boca, fresco, maceración, madura, mosto, postgusto (posgusto), roble, sabor, sedoso, tanino, untuoso, uva, variedad, vendimia, viñedos, vino

There could have been some more since I did not extract really obvious terms from my corpus, such as blanco or seco or dulce or uva. And two of the “confirmed” terms actually are in dispute. Once source admits afrutado is used for ‘fruity’ but this is actually wrong and the term should be frutal. The dictionary confirms afrutado does mean ‘fruity’ but this does not confirm it is the correct term to use in a wine context. Likewise it confirms frutal to be fruit or fruit tree but doesn’t mention how this would be a taste term for wine. So who knows? Which is right? Wine terminology (in English) sometimes contradicts the more common meanings of words since wine tasters understand a particular word in a particular context (and we amateurs just have to learn what they mean). So it’s certainly possible this source might be right BUT how would this ever be confirmed.

Likewise postgusto (clearly ‘after taste’ from context) doesn’t appear in any dictionary. And, in the other lists it appears but is spelled posgusto. Now I’m not sure if this meets the definition of neologism, especially as ‘post’ can mean ‘after’ (in this context) in English but doesn’t occur in Spanish whereas is ‘taste’ or ‘flavor’ so does this word actually exist (or get used in wine documents) and which is the appropriate form?

There was also some conflict between viñedos and vina.  Both are in the dictionary as vineyard but only vina is listed as vines. That is then potentially a flaw in my extraction of pairs since I saw viñedos clearly translated as ‘vines’ in a human translation, but, of course, that person may confuse these two terms.

The term I’m happy I was able to figure out (lots of examination of text to reach my conclusion) is final de boca. This literally would translate to ‘end of mouth’. but it’s more accurate to translate it as ‘finish’, which is actually one of those terms where its usage in wine descriptions has quite different meaning than its common meaning. And one of the lists pronounced that just final is sufficient for ‘finish’ which is one of the literal translations itself. OTOH boca itself has some ambiguity.  It literally means ‘mouth’ but was commonly translated as ‘palette’ in the human translations. That’s not any of the literal translations of ‘palette’. But, again, palette is a word that has different meaning in wine tasting context than its more common meanings.

So, this is all human analysis, with a lot of trial-and-error, back-and-forth, looking in dictionaries and doing web searches. In this contest of John Henry and the machine I think man will win so I really wonder how effective any AI (or just statistical analysis) can be. OTOH, ‘man’ needs to be a fluent Spanish speaker who participates in Jurado de Cata (wine judging panel) and I fall way short of that. But, still, what is the chance I can still produce the best list of wine terms freely available on the Internet? Pretty good, I’d say (given few are even trying).


Something different – wine label and description

By coincidence I decided to get some good wine for our Valentine’s Day dinner. We cook ourselves because: a) we actually can cook some things better than restaurants do, and, b) we spend our money on the ingredients, not the restaurant’s labor and real estate. So off to Whole Foods for some very good wines at the same price as medium wine with restaurant markup. There isn’t a lot of Spanish wine available here. Trader Joe’s has some amazing values, cheap but tasty Spanish wines, but for a Reserva Whole Foods was my only option. Since I bought this wine I’ll allow myself to link their image.




from Bodegas de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal (website)



Visit the website link I provided as this is an interesting place, very oriented to visitors and with a striking Frank Gehry designed hotel and elegant restaurant.

But finding this wine, first in my little used PeñínGuide to Spanish Wine 2016 which led to the website, gave me an opportunity to look at some translation issues related to wine. For the wine I bought there is a PDF for Spanish and another for English which appears to me to definitely be a human translation, thus providing the rare opportunity to compare side-by-side Spanish, human English, and computer English. For example:

Antes de salir (lit: go out, leave) al mercado tiene (lit: has) un period mínimo de afinamiento (lit: refinement) en botella de un año. Before release for sale it spends a minimum of one year rounding off in the bottle; time enough to show how much complexity tempranillo is able to achieve.

{Before going on the market, it has a minimum bottle-tuning period of one year.}

[Before going on the market, it has a minimum refining period in bottle of one year.]

I did a few dictionary lookups and noted the translation in the Spanish as (lit: whatever). The first English translation is the human one directly from the PDF. This has a definite clue that it’s human translation since the English includes an additional part (underlined) that has no match of any kind in the Spanish so the author chose to add this bit.  The {whatever} part is the translation done by (actually Microsoft) and the [whatever] part is the translation done by Google (had to paste the Spanish in my own test page at this blog since PDF’s don’t get processed by Google in Chrome).

For me there are a couple of interesting issues in these translations:

  1. ‘Before going on the market’ seems to be a more “accurate” translation of Antes de salir al mercado BUT the human translation “Before release for sale” might actually be more accurate, i.e. this wine might not have literally gone to a mercado in order to be sold.
  2. period mínimo de afinamiento en botella is interesting to see the three different corresponding English: [human] “minimum of one year rounding off in the bottle”, [spanishdict] “minimum bottle-tuning period”, and [Google] “minimum refining period in bottle”. When I look up afinamiento I get refinement which Google uses (also the closest to word-by-word literal translation); I think this is definitely better than ‘tuning’ (no idea where that came from) and perhaps better than the human ’rounding off’ ‘period’ is omitted in the human translation but literally present in Spanish and both machine translations.

So let’s look at some more for this, some simple differences in the human translation versus literal lookup or machine translation:

VARIEDAD DE LA UVA (lit: variety of grape) VARIETY USED
GRADOS (lit: degree or grade) 14,1º ALC./VOL 14,1º

Grados is probably not a translation issue, just a different description used in Spain versus the more typical one used in U.S. (although note the English is British, not U.S. English so who knows what this might mean, as in possibly a legal labeling requirement somewhere).

MARIDAJE (lit: marriage, combination,  union) FOOD MATCHES

And this is another interesting turn of phrase. In U.S. “food matches” might also be “food pairings” and, in a stretch, “married” might be used in this context. With only this single sample I can’t draw any conclusion but I find it amusing language to use maridaje for this meaning.


Again, the human translation is definitely not very literal but carries the meaning just fine and frankly I’d prefer the English term (which literally translates to the bulky mejor servido en),

ATRIBUTOS (lit: attributes) GUSTATIVOS (lit: taste) APPEARANCE (lit: aspecto o apariencias)

This one, however, is a little misleading (I think) to switch from ‘taste attributes’ to ‘appearance’. The text (see some below) under this heading covers: color, nose, tannin and finish, a mixture of sight, smell and taste sensations so ‘appearance’ is a bit too narrow to cover all these.

En boca (lit: mouth) es fresco, con taninos pulidos (lit: polish) muy agradables (lit: nice, pleasant, agreeable), con buena estructura pero fácil de beber. Fresh and easy to drink on the palate, good backbone and lovely, polished tannins.

{In the mouth it is fresh, with very nice polished tannins, with good structure but easy to drink.}  

[The palate is fresh, with very nice polished tannins, with good structure but easy to drink.]

The human translation, though useful and pleasing, has little resemblance to the original Spanish (backbone is completely missing in the Spanish). The spanishdict translation is quite literal but definitely gets the meaning across (in wine tasting tannin is almost something you feel on your tongue (pucker) rather than a taste). How Google decided to use palate for boca is surprising – perhaps part of their claim their AI figures out translation via context and while dictionary lookups certainly do not have palette for boca or boca for palette it is appropriate and surprising that the machine translation went down the same path as the human translation.

While there are many more interesting things I’m finding from this description webpage I should wind down and so I’ll just leave you with these bits of the description of the weather at the vineyards for this vintage year (spanishdict translations {xxx} added to human translation.

La vendimia de este año ha estado condicionada, en gran medida, por varios puntos clave sucedidos a lo largo de toda la campaña.

Comenzamos el ciclo con un estado de reservas importante, que se tradujo en brotaciones buenas y viñedos con una carga en general elevada.

La ausencia de heladas primaverales, vientos fuertes en brotación y granizadas de verano, hacen que lleguemos a mediados de septiembre con unas uvas muy sanas y con unos parámetros de calidad que sugerían estar ante una cosecha interesante.

This year’s vintage has been, to a great extent, conditioned by a series of key events during the growing period.  {This year’s harvest has been largely conditioned by several key points that have occurred throughout the campaign.}

We started the cycle with good reserves and this was reflected in good budding and vines which would be heavily laden in general.  {We started the cycle with a major reserve state, which resulted in good sprouts and vineyards with a high overall load.}

The absence of spring frosts, strong winds during budding and hailstorms in the summer meant that we reached the middle of September with very healthy grapes and quality indicators which promised a very interesting harvest was on the way. {The absence of spring frosts, strong winds in sprouting and hailstorms of summer, make that we arrive in mid-September with very healthy grapes and quality parameters that suggested to be before an interesting harvest.}

I will crunch this some more (plus extract even more from this website) to obtain a list of useful terms in describing wine.

That, and drool a bit, at the prospect of actually visiting this place and staying at their hotel and chowing down on their menu but short of winning the lottery that probably isn’t going to happen.

P.S. I found a restaurant (website) that carries the wine (above) and so found a price, 23€, which is about $29 and about what I paid at Whole Foods. But that is a restaurant price (with service) so I’d guess a bottle of this wine in retail outlet (or at the winery itself, quite a touristy place) for around $20 or somewhat less than retail imported into U.S.

Adventure with olive oil

I got bogged down with TMI from sources so I’m going off on a brief digression about aceite de oliva. I stumbled onto an interesting source about this. I was crunching through a glossary I’d found which would provide a comparison source to what I found in the GallinaBlanca diccionario. But with any online source one has to evaluate it to see how accurate it is and in the case of Spanish whether it applies very specifically to Spain. That’s what I was doing when I bumped into yet another glossary. But the site that contained that glossary had numerous “lists” that could be interesting for my project (accumulating a large corpus of food terms used in Spain). So one that caught my interest and is now the digression I mentioned is all about aceite de oliva. The post continues past the table showing what is available at this handy website (which I’ll be analyzing for weeks and future posts):

Términos Gastronómicos Gastronomic Terms
Utensilios de cocina Cookware
Diccionario del aceite de oliva Dictionary of olive oil
Diccionario de gastronomía vasca Basque gastronomy dictionary
Diccionario del café Dictionary of coffee
Glosario del tapeo “tapas españolas” Glossary of tapas “tapas tapas”
Glosario de cocina colombiana Glossary of Colombian cuisine
Glosario de cocina vegetariana argentina Glossary of Argentinean vegetarian cuisine
Glosario de los alimentos Glossary of food
Glosario de los vinos Glossary of wines
Glosario de las Frutas Glossary of Fruits
Catálogo de especies pesqueras Catalog of fishing species
Glosario de las plantas medicinales Glossary of medicinal plants
Glosario de cocina japonesa Glossary of Japanese cuisine
Diccionario culinario inglés-español English-Spanish culinary dictionary

The olive oil dictionary begins with this preface (translation by Google):

Aquí encontrarás algunos de los términos del aceite más usados, y los que más utilizan los catadores de aceite. Te resultarán útiles para entender mejor el mundo del aceite. Here you will find some of the most used oil terms, and those most used by oil tasters. You will find it useful to better understand the world of oil.

Sounds good to me. I’ve done my usual thing of getting side-by-side original Spanish and the Google English translation so I can evaluate each entry (for example):

Aceite vegetal: Es el que se saca de los vegetales tales como coco, maíz, maní, ajonjolí, soya, oliva, etc. Vegetable oil: It is the one that is extracted from vegetables such as coconut, corn, peanut, sesame, soy, olive, etc.

Here the translation is very easy to match up corresponding words and determine this is certainly a good enough translation. But we’ll look at a few that have challenges.

But first what about “olive” itself. It turns out there are multiple Spanish words for this with subtle difference: olivo, oliva and aceituna. Now having the masculine and feminine version of the basic noun oliv• has parallels in other cases (but not, as I researched, an absolute rule). The masculine form refers to the plant (or tree in this case) and the feminine form refers to the fruit of this plant/tree. So that explains that, but then should we use aceituna (which is a feminine noun) or oliva? I can’t find a definitive answer to this but I do get a general clue: oliva is going to be used as a qualifier as aceite de oliva (and maybe other cases) – IOW, a generic reference; whereas aceituna will refer more specifically to an actual olive (like you’d get in a tapa).

So with that settled we can move on to some challenges in translation. Now as I’ve said before I’m not picking on Google (or any of the other translators) since I think they’re quite remarkable and very helpful. But they have limits and it’s useful to attempt to characterize those. The criticisms I’ve seen tend to come more from a literature perspective and frankly I agree, I think machine translation badly botches that more complex language. But for my purposes (translating menus) a glorified literal translation is probably good enough to get the idea. But bear in mind, those of you thinking you can head to Spain with just a smartphone this technology does have a lot of holes.

Now the first one I’ll pick on is simple:

Aceitunada: Cosecha de la aceituna. Olive: Harvest of the olive.

cosecha does literally translate to ‘harvest’ or ‘crop’ (either the process or the season) but aceitunada, which I initially thought was a simple diminutive of aceituna actually appears to have a more robust meaning, which is (according to spanishdict) “The season for gathering olives” (as a noun) or “Of an olive color” (as an adjective). I’m guessing Google just used the adjective translation and shortened it. But given this diccionario is giving us definitions of terms, obviously aceitunada does refer to harvest season, not an actual olive (or some diminutive of olives).

So moving on we have an interesting one here:

Dulce: Aceite de agradable sabor, que resulta dulce por su carencia de amargor, picante o  astrigencia. Sweet: Oil of pleasant flavor, which is sweet for its lack of bitterness, spicy or astrigence.

I noticed this simply because the spell correction objected to astrigence in the English translation. Sure enough, using Oxford as an authoritative source there is no such word in English, so, curiously, why did Google pick it? My best guess is that sometimes Google does a literal translation of individual words via rules (even though they say everything is learning based, not rule driven). But I’ve seen this before and especially in this translation (later in this webpage): caracacterístico as ‘caracacteristic’ – see the pattern, the gross misspelling relative to the correct translation of característica (‘distinguishing feature’ sense) or  característico (‘typical’ sense) to characteristic (also  atribbuto translated as attribbute, where did that come from, rule or bad learning set) – that looks like an algorithm to me, but, of course, it could be “learning” but from an incorrect source. Who knows. But in researching this I spot another issue: astrigencia appears to be wrong. I say “appears” because it is a judgment call I’m not qualified to make to 100% assert this is an error, but I believe it is. spanishdict (somewhat like Google search) considers the possibility you misspell your search term and so corrected my input (directly clipped from the webpage, so not my error) to astringencia which then has the correct English word as translation, ‘astringency’ and the reverse lookup matches. The authoritative dictionary doesn’t have astrigencia but does have astringencia so I’d call that settled but I don’t have the authority to make this determination.

Now just a few simple ones, but demonstrations of how a critical term isn’t done properly by machine translation, which is my point that you can’t rely on current smartphone implementations for critical translations.

Basto: Viscosidad o aspereza que se aprecia en algunos aceites corrientes, dejando en la boca una sensación pastosa. Basto: Viscosity or roughness that can be seen in some ordinary oils, leaving a doughy feeling in the mouth.

Google couldn’t figure out basto but it’s readily available in dictionaries translated to ‘coarse’ or ‘rough’, which does match this definition. So if a restaurant told you the cheaper olive oil was demasiado basto Google is no help figuring that out.

This one was interesting to figure out and led to a couple of fun links I’ll provide:

Almazara : Edificio donde se encuentra el equipo necesario para la obtención del aceite de oliva Almazara: Building where the necessary equipment for obtaining olive oil is located

Again Google couldn’t translate the term of this entry, almazara to what spanishdict defined as ‘oil press’ or ‘oil mill’. That’s a bit ambiguous (is it the piece of equipment or the building) but and Oxford says it is “Mill in which oil is extracted from olives”. Now searching for almazara on the Net revealed these two interesting links: a) a blog post about the “building” (really a factory, possibly of multiple buildings, as described), and, b) the website for one of these that nicely describes how they produce their oil and their oils (I doubt you’d find this particular oil in even the best gourmet markets in USA but you might find some other Spanish brand so these descriptions could be helpful).  You’ve already learned that bodega is winery so now you know what to look for to find olive oil being produced (and possibly sold).

The next one has some interesting subtle issues with translation:

Almendrado : Sabor que recuerda el gusto de los frutos secos y que suele presentarse en los aceites virgen extra del Bajo Aragón y Cataluña Almendrado: Taste that recalls the taste of nuts and that usually occurs in the extra virgin olive oil of Bajo Aragón and Catalonia

Google couldn’t decide what almendrado means but given the definition (the English translation) triggered my memory of almendra (literally ‘almond’, which, btw, follows that masculine/feminine rule – the tree is almendro and the nut is almendra). As a noun almendrado translates to macaroon (not quite what we need here) but as a adjective translates to ‘almond’ (as a modifier, so like an almond cookie not the almonds in the cookie). But, this is an interesting term because in the definition this website provides it’s referring to el gusto de los frutos secos (he taste of nuts) not almonds specifically. Typically fruto seco is the literal translation of ‘nut’, although nuez (following the masculine/feminine rule) is the more appropriate translation of the nut itself (and not the tree). So what I interpret they’re really saying is whether the olive oil tastes “nutty” (or not), not “almondy”. [Note: See how Google’s AI can learn something wrong (as mentioned above) given the source it is learning from uses non-words like almondy]

And I’ll wrap up (for now, there is a lot more in this source to discuss) with this:

Alpechín : Líquido acuoso residual que se obtiene del proceso de elaboración del aceite. Comprende el agua de la aceituna, el agua de adición y de lavado y un porcentaje variable de sólido. Alpechin: residual aqueous liquid obtained from the oil production process. It includes the water of the olive, the addition and washing water and a variable percentage of solid. {6}

Google gets off the hook for not translating alpechin since there is no equivalent word in English. For this word the online dictionaries provide a definition, not a translation, and spanishdict says this “water that oozes from a heap of olives” which is a short version of what this olive oil diccionario is telling us. I doubt alpechin would ever be served in a restaurant, but who knows, maybe someone thinks it’s cool and so I’d be glad to have this term in my much smarter app I’m going to build.

And I’ll leave you with this. If you do even a little cooking you already know this but it’s interesting to see the actual description:

Virgen: Aceite que no ha sufrido artificio en su formación. Virgin: Oil that has not suffered artifice in its formation.

No ‘artifice’, eh!


Merluza a la Vasca

by Penelope Casas or Merluza y Almejas en Salsa Verde (by Teresa Barrenechea). These recipes are very similar and I made a version of these for dinner tonight.

I’ve been falling behind a bit. My research into Spain’s culinary vocabulary has been a bit slow of late. And I have some painful issue with my toe that I’ve decided to give it a rest and therefore am not accumulating any mileage along my virtual trek of the Camino. I suppose I’d just have to push through it if this trek were real but I have the luxury of experimenting with various things that might alleviate any pain. After all I don’t want to injure myself in just practice and training. The idea of some physical limitation hitting on a real trek is discouraging but one thing to deal with realistically.

So when it was suggested I should make dinner with some frozen hake we have in freezer. I immediately looked for recipes of one of Spain’s most popular fish, merluza. The package lists the fish we had as Hake Loins (Merluccius), wild-caught as a product of Namibia, not exactly the Bay of Biscay (and not fresh) version of merluza. But this is probably the closest we can get here.

Both recipes, despite one emphasizing Almejas (clams) in the title, call for fresh clams (and Casas wants mussels as well). No such luck here in middle of winter in the midwest. But we did have clam juice which is generally good as a substitute for fish stock in cooking. The Barrenechea recipe calls for cooking the clams separately and then using the reserved cooking liquid for cooking the hake so using clam juice instead is close.

At least a couple of ingredients come from our garden ( huerto) – the parsley was harvested during the summer and frozen and the lemons are actually growing on a lemon tree in our atrium (with snow on the ground outside). When I lived in California I had a lemon tree in the backyard, here it lives inside but produces some very nice lemons, weird to see with freezing temperatures outside.

This is a bit different approach than I first learned from a Julia Child recipe (Filets de Poisson Pochés au vin Blanc) that is a killer recipe. In the Spanish recipe the fish is lightly fried prior to poaching and then the poaching liquid has already been thickened with flour (in the Julie Child version the poaching liquid has no starch and is reduced and thickened to make sauce after the poaching). That, plus frozen fish, made it a bit uncertain when the fish would be properly cooked. I extended the 20 minute cooking time by another 5 minutes and it might have been good to go just a bit longer. Frozen hake is a long way from the fresh petrale sole I used for Julia’s recipe but it was acceptable. Hake (and sole) is pretty mild in flavor so most of the flavor comes from the sauce.

So this was a decent little dinner but I wonder what it would be like in a really good restaurant in northern Spain. Hopefully I get the chance to find out.


Verbs again

In my previous post (about finishing initial processing of GallinaBlanca dictionary) I mentioned that verbs can be of some use in interpreting menus, possibly through derivatives of the infinitive form of the verb. So I’ve continued to do some digging in this area and have a few results to share.

Anticipating I’d be looking at verbs, independently of extracting them from the GB dictionary I used about nine online “lists” to compile an aggregate list. These verbs: a) may have nothing to do with cooking or cuisine, b) tend to be more commonly used verbs, and, c) may not be used (at all, or in same way) in Spain. So this is the list I’m calling C.

In the process of other searches I stumbled onto a culinary glossary. It has no connection with Spain and therefore the Spanish words might come from any part of the world. And as I worked with it more extensively and carefully I observe many of the issues with online resources of unknown origin: a) misspellings (probably, don’t want to jump to conclusion just because words seem to be misspelled), b) duplications, often including the singular and plural form, c) words that make no sense appearing in Spanish culinary dictionary (how did these drift in), d) inconsistent formatting and thus order (e.g. A la cazuela vs Cazadora, A la). In a previous iteration of my project I created a “glossary” by merging information from many sources and eventually it became a pisto (hotchpodge, if I can use that word in a non-culinary sense), especially losing any notion of whether the words applied to Spain or some other Spanish speaking area. So with these caveats I’ll call this list G.

And I have my list of verbs from the GallinaBlanca dictionary which I previously described. I’ll call this list D.

Now, simply, it’s too much work to compare the entirety of all three of these lists so I just did the subset (verbs only, of course) of verbs starting with A B or C. While this may be a biased sample it still reveals some interesting information.

Sorting the three lists together (with different fonts and colors for each list so I can distinguish) then I did manual processing to consolidate like terms together. As a result I ended coding each entry with GDC (or – if not in that list). So I generate the following table:

G– 44
-D- 4
–C 35
GD- 28
-DC 1
G-C 9

There are 126 verbs that appear in at least one of these lists. Only 5 verbs appear in all three lists. The list with the largest number of unique verbs is the G (glossary, 44), which thus indicates this is potentially very useful as it adds over 50% more verbs than I had previously found.  The verbs in the C (common) list may have nothing to do with cooking or food (we’re explore that later in the post) so this may not add much. Only 5 verbs from the GallinaBlanca list don’t appear in the glossary list so whoever compiled that got most of the cooking verbs.

So looking at the verbs that are only in the C (common) list and not in either cooking related list we do see a few surprising omissions (I’m assuming that these are SO common no one bothers to include them):

abrir –C to open; to turn on; to whet (as in appetite)
agregar –C to add
añadir –C to add
beber –C to drink
calentar –C to heat, heat up, warm up; to inflame
cocinar –C to cook
combinar –C to combine, mix; to put together, match, coordinate
comer –C to eat; to have for lunch; [Latin America] to have for dinner
concinar –C not in any dictionary, probably misspelling of cocinar
convertir –C to turn into, convert into, change into, make
cortar –C to cut, cut off, carve, slice, cut out; to chop; to cut (dilute sense); …

So out of the 35 verbs in the C (common) list only I’d probably include these 11 in a general purpose culinary list.

Now some of the verbs in the G (glossary) don’t appear to be useful. Some have no definition in any of the dictionaries I routinely use, including the most authoritative of the Spanish language (which is NOT limited to Spain so could include verbs that don’t get used in Spain).  So here are a few I’d consider dubious to include in a culinary glossary:

achicalar G– [Mexico] to cover in honey; soak in honey
añejar G– to age; [vino] to mature; to get stale
apanar G– to coat in breadcrumbs (also EMPANAR or EMPANIZAR)
apuntillar G– to finish off (a toro); to round off
ataviar G– to dress up
bardar G– to thatch
blanchir G– (not in dict) Wiktionary has it as a French term for make white
bresear G– (from glossary) To cook to slow fire, during long time, with condiments (generally vegetables, wine, broth and spices). Clearly a spelling error since not found.
cantar G– to sing; to crow, chirp
caramerizar G– (not in dict), another spelling? [from glossary] Spread a mold with sugar honey.
castigar G– to punish; to ground, keep in; to damage, harm
cerner G– to sift, sieve (same as cernir, which is it?)
chapurrar G– to speak badly

I wouldn’t include achicalar as it doesn’t appear to be used in Spain but this is a good point about my goal here. If I wanted to know the Spanish word, used in Spain, for an English word, I wouldn’t include anything that may be only used outside Spain. But my goal is asymmetric – to translate Spanish (on menus) only into English (so I can choose) so including a word in my corpus (and eventually my app) that is not likely to be used in Spain is not a problem (I do need metadata to note this however, for that term). If I never see the term it does no harm to never have it found in any lookup. OTOH, it would be a problem if I’m trying to translate English into Spanish, as in don’t use a word not found in Spain. It appears, for instance, frijoles, which is well-known to most in USA who visit Mexican restaurants is one such word, not commonly used in Spain, but possibly likely a Spaniard would know the word. That might lead to a scene (from The Way) like no tapas in Navarra, only pinxtos, and thus make you look foolish.

blanchir (to make white, which isn’t exactly synonymous with blanch but one might assume that’s what this means) was interesting in that it did not occur in any dictionary but did have an entry in Wiktionary. The standard term  for blanch is palidecer (purely in the sense of turn white) and escaldar or blanquear for the culinary sense. I suspect  blanchir might be used somewhere (possibly Puerto Rico) where it is just the cognate of the English verb. But, again, in collecting the corpus I should not make judgments like this although I might add metatext to an blanchir entry and meanwhile add it to corpus and then let the “big data” statistical analysis decide if this is a word or not.

bresear really looks like a misspelling (more likely to be brasear, to barbecue) but again it should go into the corpus with metadata notion rather than my passing a judgment on it (IOW, only a real expert in Spanish should be decided what to include or not in any translation dictionary, so if I find only one instance of a misspelled word it will get washed out since there are few occurrences of it in the corpus; OTOH, maybe people do commonly misspell this word so it needs to be in my app). caramerizar appears to be some variant of caramelizar, again perhaps used somewhere and not just a mistake. cerner has exactly the same definition (in the glossary itself, but also spanishdict) as the more common spelling cernir, although both appear in reverse lookup of ‘to sift’ in spanishdict (which is it, then? just a common confusion?) cernido is a possible term to see on a menu so it matters that my dictionary could spot this as past participle of cerner.

So again all this goes to show the work that must be done to really develop a very accurate dictionary that drives my app for menu translation (or to be published as a carefully researched culinary glossary).