A few terms from ensaladas

I’m continuing to extract terms from a large set of recetas, having switched from postres (desserts) to ensaladas (salads).  Now thinking about salads there is a lot more diversity than merely leafy green stuff with some dressing so this is another lode of terms to find and add to my corpus. So here are a few fragments I’ve found:

Ensalada de verdinas con perdiz escabechada, receta fácil Salad of verdinas with pickled partridge, easy recipe

As usual terms that Google Translate doesn’t translate or has silly answers catch my attention, so what are verdinas? Oxford has an entry that translates to ‘moss’ and it’s plausible a salad might include moss. But this is what makes this source so useful, it’s not just titles of dishes, but the full recipe (ingredients and instructions) and a photo of the dish. In this case the photo reveals the clue to verdinas, showing a bag of alubia verdina which are called Verdinas De Nuestra Tierra in the ingredient list. IOW, since I’ve seen alubia often this is just a specific type of bean (visible in the photo) described here.

So moving on:

Remojón  granadino, receta fácil para el Verano Remodo  granadino, easy recipe for summer

Why Google Translate translate remojón to ‘remodo’ remains a mystery as I can’t find any association. Oxford literally translates remojón to ‘soaking’ and granadino to ‘of Granada’ which doesn’t help much. Fortunately this has no English equivalent but is

a specific recipe with oranges, cod, onions, tomatoes and olives, soaked in olive oil for at least four hours.

so an item like this has to be entered in my corpus with a “description” rather than a translation.

And finally:

Salpicón de bogavante con vinagreta de su coral Lobster salty  with vinaigrette of its coral

So we have two mysteries here: 1) what is a ‘salty’ (presumably the translation of salpicón), and, 2) what is ‘its coral’ (untranslated from coral in the Spanish)?

salpicón is the easier one since it’s a particular preparation of “chopped seafood or meat with onion, tomato and peppers” described here so ‘salty’ is a mysterious translation and inaccurate.

Salpicon (or salpicón, meaning “hodgepodge” or “medley” in Spanish) is a dish of one or more ingredients diced or minced and bound with a sauce or liquid.

But to figure out coral required looking at the recipe which fortunately describes it thusly:

the contents of the inside of the head (of the lobster) and the dark colored matter that is full of flavor

While I couldn’t find any English equivalent for coral (or any definition that matches the recipe) I believe this is a delicacy that some adventuresome foodies like. Now I’ve use the heads of shrimp and their shells to make stock so I suppose this is the same but this sound pretty yucky to me, which means if I had this salad and quite possibly enjoyed it I’d rather not know what coral is.

As the last tidbit the recipe text also includes two interesting terms:

  1. brutal bogavante which Google translated to ‘brutal lobster’. What’s this, some lobster with monster claws that fights back? Actually Oxford did explain that brutal has a colloquial meaning of ‘incredible’ or ‘amazing’ which is a lot more appealing (and reasonable guess at translation)
  2. and un platazo which didn’t appear in any dictionary but was found by search in an obscure (scanned) old text as ‘great dish’ which does fit the rest of the context so also is a likely translation.

These “guesses” I sometimes make have some amount of likelihood of being correct. I’m fairly certain of something like verdinas as a type of bean, but it is a guess and therefore has to be entered in my corpus which some uncertainty. And brutal and platazo have even less authoritative evidence and so would have higher uncertainty.  The Google Translates corresponding English to Spanish also can not be viewed as “certain”. Probably only translations appearing in one of the authoritative dictionaries can be entered as p=0.999 in the corpus. So getting as much volume as possible so every term in the corpus has multiple instances will be key to getting the best possible translation dataset.



Confusing terms – caramelo, tarta, bizcocho

I’ve finally finished grinding through 34 webpages for about 450 desserts at this very interesting Spanish receta website.  That study has certainly revealed a large number of terms related to desserts (dulces y postres) and I’ve isolated several that have multiple meanings and thus are difficult (without the picture and recipe) to recognize.

Let’s start with caramelo. Oxford translates this as ‘candy’ (for US,  or ‘sweet’ for UK) or ‘caramel’ (in the context azúcar fundida (molten sugar)). Checking the reverse translation for ‘candy’ yields golosinas (in confectionary context) and caramelo (in the individual piece context). golosinas appears nowhere in the 34 pages of dulces y postres and caramelo appears 7 times, sometimes as a candy, other times as caramel. spanishdict.com has the same translations as Oxford except they say ‘caramel’ (in culinary sense, instead of molten sugar sense; IOW, they’re more general). If I were writing a receta (or menu item) I’d know which I mean but if I’m reading I’d have to guess.

The issue of tarta and bizcocho arise in a specific item I’ll discuss but tarta appears 60 times and bizcocho appears 49 times. Google Translate converts tarta to ‘cake’ (most of the time) but also to ‘pie’ and ‘tart’. There is quite a bit of difference between these and if I were ordering I’d like to know which the menu item is.  Google Translate converts bizcocho to ‘sponge cake’ (most of the time) or just ‘cake’ and a few times to ‘biscuits’ (meaning the UK name for cookies). Unlike tarta, bizcocho seems to have a fairly specific meaning (this English Wikipedia article covers it quite well including all the meanings based on geography and this Spanish Wikipedia article has multiple pages about it), especially in Spain, but the alternate translations it can have outside Spain is probably what confuses Google Translate.

The specific receta that triggered all this is:

Bizcocho genovés para tartas y brazos de gitano Genovese cake for cakes and gypsy arms

This allows us to explore several interesting topics.

First note the word-by-word correspondence where Google Translate has converted both bizcocho and tarta to ‘cake’ (we’ll get to brazos de gitano later).  But it’s actually the genovés (Genovese) that really tells us what this receta is.  And that is, otherwise known by its original name, genoise,

A genoise, Genoese cake or Genovese cake; rarely spelled “génoise” in English) is an Italian sponge cake named after the city of Genoa and associated with Italian and French cuisine.

So this is a basic sponge cake to use in making various other desserts under general notion of tarta. Now the recipe has this information in its preface:

hoy venimos con un básico, el bizcocho genovés, que no es más que la típica plancha de bizcocho que se usa principalmente para hacer tartas con relleno, brazos de gitano, y algún que otro postre que también os enseñaremos a hacer muy pronto. today we come with a basic, Genovese biscuit, which is nothing more than the typical plate of cake that is used mainly to make pies with stuffing, arms of gypsy, and the odd dessert that we will also teach you to do very soon.

Note that here Google Translate converts first instance of bizcocho as ‘biscuit’ (UK term for cookie) and the second as cake – how’s that for silly “context sensitivity”? Oxford translates bizcocho as ‘sponge’ or ‘sponge cake’ (as a pastel) and ‘sponge finger’ (as a galleta) which only slightly clears this up. Sometimes this would lead to viewing bizcocho as a ‘ladyfinger’, a cookie which is used in various desserts. Also it decided tarta refers to pies which we’ll see later is rarely the case.

Note also the use of plancha which has the corresponding word ‘plate’ in the Google Translation.  This is interesting since we normally encounter plancha (on menus) as a la plancha which more-or-less translates to cooked on “grill” (really an iron flattop in most restaurants).  plancha has the direct translation (from Oxford) as ‘iron’ or ‘griddle’, but also ‘plate’ or ‘sheet’.  Now ‘sheet’ is used in the context of metal or wood, but in this receta this is clearly a reference to ‘sheet cake’  (rather than ‘plate’) even though that’s not included in dictionaries.

So before moving on to tarta let’s address  brazos de gitano, which is literally ‘gypsy arm’.  This is discussed in the Wikipedia article on “Swiss roll” which says brazos de gitano is the equivalent term as used in Spain. In short this is just a rolled up sheet of sponge cake with some filling. The Spanish Wikipedia has a longer description.

So tarta translates to ‘cake’, ‘pie’ and ‘tart’ in the recetas at this site. Is this just an artifact of Google Translate or are these different items. Yes and No. Looking at the photos and instructions (for a sample, not all 60) tarta can be a pie or cake or tart (the distinction between pie and tart is less than with cake, if you happen to be a baker).

Oxford translates tarta only as ‘cake’ but has these two definitions:

1 Pastel redondo, dulce o salado, hecho con una masa en un molde de paredes bajas, que se cuece al horno y se rellena o cubre con diversos ingredientes que suelen mezclarse con huevos, leche o crema. Round cake, sweet or salty, made with a dough in a low-walled mold, baked and stuffed or covered with various ingredients that are often mixed with eggs, milk or cream.
2 Pastel dulce, generalmente grande, redondo y adornado, hecho con masa de bizcocho y relleno o cubierto de crema, nata, chocolate u otros ingredientes; en ocasiones se sirve helado o acompañado de otros del mismo tipo en varios pisos. Sweet cake, usually large, round and garnished, made with cake dough and filling or covered with cream, cream, chocolate or other ingredients; Sometimes ice cream is served or accompanied by others of the same type in several floors.

There are all kinds of interesting translation issues here (esp. pisos as ‘floors’, really ‘layer’ in context of a tarta), but I’ll leave these to you, Dear Reader, to study.

Meanwhile in contrast spanishdict.com translates tarta as ‘cake’, ‘tart’ and ‘pie chart’ (in graphics context). But let’s look at the reverse.

In Oxford, cake is pastel (generally) and tarta (Spain); pie is pastel (generally) and empanada (savory); tart is tarta (we’ll ignore the slang fulana, you can check that). In spanishdict.com cake is pastel (generally) and tarta (Spain) and bizcocho (in Puerto Rico, just to confuse things even more); pie is tarta, pastel and empanada; tart is tarta and pastel.

IOW, these translation dictionaries weren’t any help is disambiguating tarta as it might occur on the menu.  However, chances are, whether it’s cake, pie or tart it will probably be tasty enough to risk ordering.



naranjas escarchadas: Subtle difference between confitar and escarchar

Looking at recetas provides a different universe of cooking/food terms than looking at menus. I say this without “proof” but just as my subjective observation looking at a lot of both sources. The recetas tend to be more conversational/colloquial (both in titles and body text) than menus and so reveal a different glimpse of the Spanish terms.

One amusing example (on same webpage as my main topic here) is:

Whoopie Pies, la mejor forma de terminar una semana Whoopie Feet, the best way to finish a week

pies does indeed translate to ‘feet’ (as I learned in my post about names of mushroom parts) but in this case this is a real literal fail in that Whoopie Pie is of course English, not Spanish.

But moving on to main point. As usual I crunch through the Spanish (titles of recetas in this case) and get the side-by-side Google Translation to English, and then look for unusual or interesting translations, and then, investigate deeper. So here is the one that triggered this investigation and post.

Receta del lector: Naranjas escarchadas o confitadas en olla GM F y G Reader’s recipe: Candied or candied oranges in a GM GM pot

Now first of all, to just clear it up, I’ve encountered the olla GM F y G multiple times. This is a cooking device, somewhat similar to the popular InstantPot in USA. Not the issue here.

The issue is seeing ‘candied’ repeated in the English translation. Matching up the words this means Google thinks escarchadas  is ‘candied’ and confitadas  is ‘candied – which is it?

These are conjugations of the verbs escarchar and confitar, neither of which (in Oxford) directly translated to ‘candied’. In fact, that was my initial confusion as both translate to ‘to crystallize’.  spanishdict.com has more translations: confitar (to candy, to crystallize, to preserve in syrup) and escarchar  (to crystallize). A further clue is the noun, escarcha, which translates to ‘frost’.

The online Oxford dictionary, which I use extensively, offers both definitions and translations. The Diccionarío de la lengua Española from Real Academia Española is the authoritative source on Spanish definitions. So I used definitions from both these sources to attempt to figure out verb means what and why the author of this receta used both. As I’ve generally found the definitions in DLE are written in prose that gives Google Translate some issues so try to read past those.

For confitar:


1 Recubrir frutas cocidas con un baño de azúcar. Coat cooked fruits with a sugar bath.
2 Hervir una fruta o un fruto seco en un almíbar concentrado. Boil a fruit or a dried fruit in a concentrated syrup.
3 Cocinar y conservar, en su propia grasa, carne de cerdo, pato o pavo. Cooking and keeping, in its own fat, pork, duck or turkey.

and DLE

1. Cubrir con un baño de azúcar una fruta o una semilla para hacerla más agradable al paladar. Cover with a bath from sugar a fruit or a seed for dothe plus nice to the palate.
2. Cocer una fruta en almíbar. Cook a fruit in syrup.
3. Endulzar, suavizar. Sweeten, soften.
4. Cocinar algo en aceite a fuego lento. Cook something in oil to fire slow.

Even I, with no fluency in Spanish, could translate #1 better than Google did.

Now let’s look at escarchar:

Oxford (you’ll see why I mentioned escarcha)

1 Poner sobre una cosa algo que imite la escarcha, como azúcar glas o cristalizado, polvos de talco o harina. To put on something something that imitates the frost, like icing or crystallized sugar, powders of talc or flour.
2 Cocer una fruta o un fruto seco en un almíbar concentrado que al evaporarse y enfriarse forma una capa de azúcar cristalizado en su superficie. Cook a fruit or a dried fruit in a concentrated syrup that evaporates and cools to form a layer of crystallized sugar on its surface.

and DLE

1. Preparar confituras de modo que el azúcar cristalice en su exterior como si fuese escarcha. Prepare jams from mode what he sugar crystallize in his Exterior as yes I was Frost.
2. Preparar una bebida alcohólica haciendo que el azúcar cristalice en una rama de anís introducida en la botella. Prepare a drink alcoholic doing what he sugar crystallize in a branch from anise introduced in the bottle.
3. Salpicar una superficie de partículas de talco o de otra sustancia brillante que imite la escarcha. Splash out a surface from particles from talcum powder or from other substance sparkly what imite the Frost.
4. En la alfarería del barro blanco, desleír la arcilla en el agua. In the pottery of the mud White, dissolve the clay in he Water.
5. Rizar, encrespar. Crimp, curl.
6. Congelarse el rocío que cae en las noches frías. Freeze he Dew what falls off in the nights cold.

Now with all this information the two verbs do have some overlap but also considerable difference. confitar is also cooking in oil, hence a confit and escarchar doesn’t include that definition.

But the key difference, with some knowledge of cooking, is that it’s questionable to consider, as Oxford does, confitar as ‘crystallize’ whereas that does apply (better) to escarchar. A crystallized fruit is not exactly the same as a candied fruit despite both being basically coated (and cooked in) sugar.

So why did the recipe use both? And which should it be? The recipe uses the verb confitar in the instructions portion, i.e. perform the action implied by confitar in the cooking device (perhaps its buttons are labeled as confitar, no idea). But the result of the process and the term consistently used for ‘candied’ is escarchadas. So that still leaves me with the question as to which is really best. Asking Google search the question, “what is candied in Spanish” just adds more confusion with the result: azucarado, which makes sense but doesn’t help. And Amazon’s Alexa decided to respond with confitaras.

Now as to my project (building a menu translation app) what I should have in my translation is all of these variations with both candied and crystallized as definitions. IOW, reading a menu is different than writing a receta. For my project I don’t need to know which word is the best choice in writing, just what do these words mean on menus. So I’ll leave it to fluent Spanish speakers to debate this.



Surprising ingredient !

I’m finding all sorts of interesting things trying to figure out recetas. I “research” the ones where the Google Translate seems to be incomplete or wrong, sometimes humorously weird. So this one was fun.

Chips de chocolate con petazetas, receta para microondas Chocolate chips with petazetas, recipe for microwaves

The untranslated word, petazetas, I assumed was something like almojábanas, an item with no English translation (i.e. cheese-flavored roll made with corn flour according to Oxford). Sometimes even though there is not an English equivalent either Oxford or spanishdict.com will provide a phrase description, as occurred with almojábanas. But no luck with petazetas.

That means I resort to searching. Try “what are petazetas” and you might get the same results as I did with Pop Rocks article in Wikipedia. Huh! Fortunately the first hit was “Peta Zetas, the funniest ingredient for your recipes” and the short summary of the Wikipedia article said

Pop Rocks is a candy, owned by Zeta Espacial S.A. Pop Rocks ingredients include sugar, … Zeta Espacial S.A. also sells popping candy internationally under other brands including Peta Zetas, Fizz Wiz and Magic Gum. In 2008, Dr. Marvin J.

so it looked possible these results were good.  But as frequently happens the best reference was the Spanish Wikipedia article on ‘Peta Zetas’. The description there matches some of the explanation in the recipe itself (link).  As evidence of globalization the receta also calls for using pringles type (this brand is now a generic term?).


A simple country menu

I happened to notice this small restaurant (see menu below) as I was examining the small town of Hornillos del Camino in Burgos Province as I just passed through on my virtual trek, now at a distance of 193.8 miles. It’s a rather inconspicuous place (in fact, somewhat hard to find) but has some interesting info in its Google listing. So here’s it’s simple menu (hand copied from photo, translated by Microsoft) and you can see a couple of the dishes (shown in blue in menu) in the photos on Google maps. This one is fairly easy to translate with just modest amount of learning Spanish; I only missed remolacha (beet, not a favorite for me) from memory.

Based on the photos I think I’d need more food after walking all day. As much as the Camino fascinates me, frankly, this part of it is really boring and this small town is uninteresting. But that may be part of the trip, plenty of opportunity to be contemplative here rather than exciting sight-seeing tourism.

Note: In case you’re not using to using Google Maps go to maps.google.com in your browser and then search for Hornillos del Camino, Burgos, Spain. You’ll see the Green Tree as a POI indicator – click on that to bring up the information page with photos.

Neson    4.8    ⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗


Calle San Pedro, 30, 09230 Hornillos del Camino, Burgos, Spain


Menu del día           9.5₡

Primero: First
Sopa del día Soup of the Day
Ensalada de queso de cabra con fresas y remolacha Goat cheese salad with strawberries and beetroot
Hummus de la casa con verdura y pan Hummus of the House with vegetables and bread
Segundo: Second
Currie de verduras Currie of Vegetables
Risotto de Espárragos Asparagus Risotto
Kimchi con Albondigas o Tofu Kimchi with meatballs or Tofu
Postre: Dessert
Postre de día Day Dessert
Pudín de pan y mantequilla Bread pudding and butter
Yogur con fruta y miel Yogurt with fruit and honey

Something different: Ingredientes

As I’ve mentioned I’m using various sources to extract side-by-side Spanish (Iberian) and English food/cooking/cuisine terms and phrases. Since my goal is useful translation of menus that is my primary source. But I’ve found two other (major) sources (and a few minor ones) that supplement and add diversity to the terms I’ll be adding to my corpus. Dictionaries (especially with definitions in Spanish) and glossaries often provide a completely different set of terms that might occur in menus.

But recently I’ve been looking at a website for recetas (recipes) and finding yet another look at cooking terms in Spain. Now recetas include instructions for preparation which yields some interesting terms but these are unlikely to be encountered on menus; nonetheless they can be an interesting addition to my corpus. The recipe names also often reveal words with no English translation (e.g.  polvorones, an almond shortbread cookie) and thus something one must just know (by description) if found on a menu. And then there are the list of ingredientes which may include terms one would see on menus but also other terms unlikely to appear.

So with that long preface let’s take a look at a few fragments. I’ve been looking at the receta website which is a very good source (even to use a few of the recipes as the Google Translate is adequate to make some of these items). This has a pull-down list of categories and today’s post comes from examples in dulces y postres (sweets and desserts). There are 34 pages (usually with 14 items per page, including photos for each and a link to the full receta) in this category and I’m only dealing with interesting fragments from the very first page.

As an example, we find

Galletas de avena y panela con frambuesas para hacer tus desayunos más saludables Oatmeal and panela biscuits with raspberries to make your breakfasts more healthy

Of course the translate is biased to using the UK definition (biscuits) of galletas instead of the USA (cookies) but the item to note here is the untranslated panela.  One might guess this had something to do with bread but it doesn’t. Instead panela is an unrefined whole cane sugar. This gets translated, in other references, under various names: ‘brown sugar loaf’ (by Oxford); ‘brown sugar’ (from web search and recipe) and the best explanation (though not exclusively for Spain) is in the Spanish version of Wikipedia, https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panela. It’s interesting that Google translates avena as oatmeal since the literal translation is just ‘oats’ but oatmeal is actually more appropriate in this context, so chalk one up for Google’s claims to use context.

But it was one specific receta that had a few interesting tidbits:

 ingredientes section from galletas de limón craqueladas, un vicio confesable (Crackled lemon cookies, a confessional vice)


Mantequilla, 30 g (a temperatura ambiente) Butter, 30 g (at room temperature)
Azúcar, 50 g Sugar, 50 g
Ralladura de medio limón Grated lemon half
Huevo L, 1 Egg L, 1
Zumo de limón, dos cucharaditas Lemon juice, two teaspoons
Harina de repostería, 145 g Pastry flour, 145 g
Levadura química, media cucharadita Chemical yeast, half teaspoon
Sal, una pizca Salt, a pinch
Colorante amarillo (opcional) Yellow coloring (optional)
Azúcar glas, para rebozar Sugar glas, to coat

Even though some of the terms in such a list (e.g. pizca (pinch), cucharadita (teaspoon)) are unlikely to appear on menus they are interesting to add to my corpus. cucharadita is interesting since it’s a diminutive derived from cuchara (spoon). But the two terms marked in pink which have “strange” translations warranted additional research.

I do a fair amount of baking, either with yeast or other leaveners and I’ve never encountered ‘chemical yeast’ (Google’s translation of levadura química). Now Oxford does literally translate levadura as ‘yeast’ and química as ‘chemistry’ so Google has the  translation literally correct. But looking for this we can find this article in the Spanish Wikipedia that then offers, as a synonym, the more obvious polvo de hornear (also literally, ‘baking powder’). Now this is what I suspected this ingredient was but I couldn’t immediately conclude that without a literal research, a common issue when encountering a suspect machine translation (which is an issue in menus as well). So levadura (which clearly stems from same root as leavener) would be better translated, as minimum, as ‘chemical leavener’ (a bit more generic than ‘baking powder’) but knowing whether this means baking powder or baking soda is rather important in making cookies.

Additional the adjective modifier, glas, to azúcar (a common enough word I know it by memory, i.e. ‘sugar’), without any translation to English left another puzzle. But I’ve seen, in a glossary (a different way of extracting terms) multiple azúcar xxx type terms to cover the various types of sugars (note the contrast in the above-mentioned panela, however, it’s not  azúcar marrón). Again the Spanish dictionary provides a good explanation with this article where glas is translated (in the article text, by Google) as ‘icing’.  Looking at spanishdict.com ‘icing’ is the UK literal translation and . ‘confectioner’s’ is the US literal translation but it would be best known as ‘powdered’ when applied to sugar.

So while levadura química (or polvo de hornear),   colorante amarillo or ralladura de medio limónare unlikely to appear on any restaurant menu panela or azúcar glas or mantequilla (or any of the common terms in this ingredient list) might.

So receta websites do seem a potential rich source to extract for my corpus (as well as some interesting stories).

Tidbits from Appetizers and Starters recetas

Following up on my previous post I’m going to comment, briefly, on a few fragments from the new source, specifically recetas (recipes) for Aperitivos y Entrantes (Appetizers and Starters). Even just the first page (of 26) has some interesting translation issues.

Tortillas de trigo integrales rellenas de langostinos en salsa de piquillos Whole wheat tortillas stuffed with prawns in piquillo sauce

I’ve previously mentioned that tortilla is one of those words that has different meaning in Spain than in, say, Mexico. In Spain this is an egg-and-potato dish somewhat akin to the Italian frittata. But in this case there is a photo of the dish and sure enough it’s a plain old tortilla as we’d call it in the USA.

Palmeras saladas con tapenade negro y pesto verde Salted palm trees with black tapenade and green pesto

This is one of those cases where I shouldn’t jump to a conclusion (or label this as a ‘literal fail’). I figured ‘trees’ didn’t fit and it was probably palm ‘hearts’ (a more normal ingredient). But no, this is a cute pasty where a sheet of puff pasty is stuff and then rolled up from both ends and sliced and baked, making something that does look like a palm tree.

Brazo de gitano salado de pimientos del piquillo, queso, canónigos y nueces Salty gypsy arm of piquillo peppers, cheese, lamb’s lettuce and walnuts

Here I figured translating brazo as arm was probably wrong so I went to look up brazo in Oxford. Oxford helpfully provides some typing completion aids so as I was typing brazo it suggested the phrase brazo de gitano so that’s a bit two specific not to be the match, whose definition (Spanish from Oxford, English from Google Translate)

Pastel dulce de forma cilíndrica elaborado con una capa de bizcocho que se rellena con alguna crema y se enrolla sobre sí misma. Sweet cylindrical cake made with a layer of sponge cake that is filled with some cream and rolled on itself.

I was hoping to find the origin of this term so there I use search but in the unclear trick I’ve mentioned in a previous post an English Wikipedia article is served by Google search (I now suspect they translate to English and search Wikipedia). So this appears to be a “Swiss roll”  or  ‘jelly roll’ but still where does this come from? This article has only a partial explanation.

And finally is ‘cherry tomato’ really just tomates cherry? The standard Spanish word for ‘cherry’ is cereza, but again using Oxford typing completion aid it uses both cereza and cherry following tomate. So a loanword from English filters into Spain?



A blogging dilemma

I’m using this blog (partially) to “document” interesting tidbits I encounter while doing research for my anticipated smartphone app to translate menus in Spain. That app needs to have a comprehensive and accurate dataset to use in the translation, not just the equivalent English term (which doesn’t always exist) but also some description. For example, what is sobrasada? Yes, it’s ‘sausage’ but saying that (or even ‘spicy pork sausage’) doesn’t tell you very much.

So I’m using various sources to build up a “big data” corpus which will have translation errors and other errors. But algorithmically I can extract from that corpus what I’ll need to power the app. But I have to build that corpus manually, often exploring “puzzles” I find in trying to figure out a proper equivalent in English for some culinary item I find in Spain (btw, I am focusing on Iberian Spanish and trying to prevent terms only found (or used differently) in the New World from defocusing my corpus).

So I’m doing several things with these posts. First they are a kind of journal (or lab notebook) for various translation/description puzzles I try to solve. While I have many MSWord files with the raw work the blog posts highlight some interesting (at least to me) bits. Second by writing for potential readers I have to work a bit harder to try to have my posts accurate and at least somewhat coherent (instead of the real-time stream-of-consciousness in my raw material). This more careful writing makes the posts better but does have a real downside – it’s SLOW. It might not seem like it to you, Dear Reader, but I probably spend more time writing a post about something interesting in a menu than it took me to decipher the entire menu. So at some point the blogging gets in the way of my work.

But the real “dilemma”  I have is that I just don’t get the posts done, at anywhere near the rate I’m discovering the tidbits I want to write about. And days later when I go back over my raw data I often can’t recreate my thoughts or discover I forget to include links or definitions or whatever and don’t much feel like repeating my work.

My posts are fairly long which is good and bad. It’s good because I try to weave multiple points into a post, often with some background research. It’s bad, because the posts are probably too long for most readers’ attention spans and because I don’t get them done.

So every now I’m tempted to do short posts, literally for each situation I encounter, rather than trying to organize multiple examples into a single post.

For instance, I’ve started looking at a new source. Previously I’d used menus I could extract from restaurant websites along the course of the Camino de Santiago, and several online glossaries and dictionaries. But I’d also stumbled on many sites (focused on Spain and entirely in Spanish) for recetas (recipes). These are more tedious to process but often contain information I don’t find elsewhere and therefore can stuff in my corpus so potentially less frequently used (in menus) terms are still incorporated.

So I just started a small trial to look at this recipe site. Under its recetas tab it has 14 categories, and under Pasta y Arroz (pasta and rice) there are 15 webpages with about 12-16 recetas per page. IOW, this is a lot. And every receta is presented on the webpage as a caption (to a photo) where I can use Google Translate and then manually produce a side-by-side Spanish and English pair, such as:

Ñoquis de calabaza y boniato con salsa de gorgonzola Pumpkin and sweet potato gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce

For this I’d extract for my corpus ñoquis (gnocchi ), calabaza (pumpkin), boniato (sweet potato), salsa (sauce), and gorgonzola (gorgonzola). If I double check these term associations by looking in the Oxford dictionary or the DLE (more authoritative, but harder to use than Oxford) I  could add these associations to my corpus with higher confidence levels. IOW, mistakes are bound to get into the corpus without a lot of checking, but I’m also hoping the “big data” type filtering will eliminate the spurious pairs.

But what I just described as the process in this post took me quite a bit more time than it did for me to extract the side-by-side pair (still tedious but relatively quick) and do a quick visual parsing (really looking for any terms that require more research). Note that while I have no fluency in Spanish I do know a bit about the grammar and thus know how to spot parts-of-speech and change the word order used in Spanish to my normal English and thus find the term-by-term association. This entry was simple to do and the only (slightly) interesting part is that the original ‘gnocchi’ does have a different word in Spanish but ‘gorgonzola’ doesn’t (and as a somewhat interesting question, are these “Italian” words or now so incorporated in English, at least by foodies, to consider them English words (known linguistically as ‘loanwords’).

So of the first webpage of pastas this was the most interesting puzzle:

Escudella con sopa de galets, el plato estrella de la Navidad catalana Escudella (in Oxford as -dilla, but some searches appeared with this spelling; is it a typo? here? and on web?) with soup of galets (is this short for galettas?), the star dish of Catalan Christmas

but Oxford has it with a definition (didn’t have translation) in which case it was a specific dish

no, galets appears to be a type of pasta (shells) https://www.tienda.com/products/galets-nadal-pasta-sandro-desii-su-40.html

This is my raw entry. Since escudella and galets appear in the Google Translate as same word in English (i.e. not translated or perhaps there is no translation) this is the type of thing I look for to do more research. When I merely asked Oxford for the translation of  escudella it said that was missing. What it does show (helpfully) is close matches which in this case I tried its suggestion of escudilla (which is bowl and kinda seems to fit this recipe name). So you see the note I made to myself (in Oxford as -dilla, but some searches appeared with this spelling; is it a typo? here? and on web?) but that’s just a start. Since I’ve done this a lot I immediately used the Oxford a different way; instead of asking for translation I asked for definition (of escudella ) and it had this in Spanish (then with Google’s English:

Plato que consiste en un caldo de carne y hortalizas, colado, en el que se cuece arroz, fideos u otro tipo de pasta; es un plato típico de Cataluña, comunidad autónoma de España. Plate consisting of a broth of meat and vegetables, strained, in which rice, noodles or other type of pasta are cooked; It is a typical dish of Catalonia, autonomous community of Spain.

Now I could immediately point out that Google’s translation of plato as ‘plate’ is not correct as plato also means ‘dish’ which fits better but that’s the typical kind of digression I get into that just makes posts take even longer.

Now meanwhile I thought I recognized galets. I did a previous post about the menu from a store selling cookies (as a bit of diversity from just restaurant menus). So I double checked by asking Oxford for the Spanish translation of ‘cookie’ (which is lists also as biscuit in British English) and it has galletas (as I thought I recalled). So I thought this might be some colloquial term for cookie.

But now my “translation” ‘bowl with soup of cookies’ is pretty obvious nonsense and so no better than the untranslated correspondence. So, since this is a new source and I’d already discovered I could click on each receta and get a full page explanation (intro to the disk, ingredients, preparation) I began to see the flaws in my attempt to unravel this puzzle. As the recipe page itself is entirely in Spanish I have the same kind of puzzle, i.e. Google again botched some of the translation. But there is enough text and importantly a picture that I could try some searching and I found galets as an item I can buy online (I’ve often used this source in this project). These look like (in both the recipe picture and the tienda picture as fairly ordinary pasta shells (I don’t see what’s special about them) but pasta shells are pasta shells (except maybe tiny details) so now I’d know what I am getting if I’d picked this off a menu in a restaurant.

So finally I know both these words don’t have English translations so I’d want a different kind of entry in my corpus of a short description and then potentially a longer one. Thus a diner using my app could learn about this dish.

So there, you see what I mean. This post has taken me far longer than the original analysis. Yet it’s good (for my purposes, hopefully somewhat interesting to you, Dear Reader) to have this more complete explanation (I can re-read this post someday when I’ve completely forgotten this and have to resolve something in my app). But if I’d simply written this one item in the most brief form (to jog my memory later, plus at least some glue prose to make it read better than my raw notes) I would have gotten this done.

But it also means I’d probably have many more posts which is mixed benefit as well. So, IOW, there really isn’t a great answer.

So I have a solution. I can use categories to distinguish the posts that are really minimal and that I create almost immediately after doing the work for the corpus. These will really be post “fragments” but at least I get more recorded.

For instance, I was looking at a menu on Friday and its Menu del Dia was for Mother’s Day so I had in mind a post to create on the 5th. But instead I spent most of the day cooking for our Cinco de Mayo feast (and drinking a few too many margaritas). So I never did that post and now the “joke” of it is gone as its timeliness is past.

So I’ll continue to struggle with this, fragmentary and terse posts, or (sometimes too long) complete posts.

A few random bits

Rather than a focused post I’ll just catch up on a few disparate items.

First I’m recording another milestone along my virtual trek which is arriving in Burgos. Burgos was one of the main locations in the movie The Way (where Tom’s pack was stolen) and its main feature is the cathedral. A virtual trek, (i.e. actually exercising on a treadmill in the basement and transferred the accumulated miles onto a GPS trace of the Camino de Santiago) may seem silly but it serves two purposes for me: 1) walking on a treadmill is really boring so I need to have some goal and sense of accomplishment, since I need the treadmill exercise (esp. during the winter here) so I’m in shape to do some real outside walking, and, 2) the slow pace gives me a chance to fairly thoroughly investigate the route (using satellite views, Google StreetView (often available on the Camino and I see lots of peregrinos) and Points of Interest (so I look at photos of albergues and restaurants, plus sometimes find menus). It’s certainly not the same as the real thing but better than nothing.

Before reaching Burgos I’d not found any online menus in other small towns on my virtual trek since Logroño so I had begun to extract terms from a couple of glossaries I’d previously found. I’d already spent a long time (previously reported) on the GallinaBlanca online dictionary so I was also interested in seeing whether the two other lengthy lists I’d found would just be redundant. So that led me back to a bit of coding (haven’t done that for a while) in order to automate the comparison (each extract I’d done was in an incompatible format so first my code had to generate a canonical extract to compare). During that process one of my lists just disappeared (I was only about 1/4 done with it). That’s disappointing since it was a good list and had many terms I hadn’t previously found. Crunching through dictionaries or glossaries is very tedious and nowhere nearly as interesting as looking at menus (which is the purpose of my project here). But it’s a different way to get a sufficiently large corpus to feed into the menu translator I’m building.

So with Burgos on the horizon I began, once again, to focus on restaurant menus. In the small towns I find the restaurants directly as Google Maps POI’s which are clickable to get some info (esp. user contributed photos) and perhaps then linked to a website. Those with websites (fairly uncommon on the small places in small towns) might have a textual menu (many just have photos) and that allows me to generate side-by-side Spanish and English (usually translated by Google Translate, sometimes other ways) terms that I’ll feed into my corpus. Without all the fancy deep learning AI Google uses to train their translator I’ll be using a more algorithmic process to train mine, but mostly to spot Spanish terms that have multiple translations and try to determine the best (more on that below).

So for Burgos the area is quite large (you have to zoom in a lot on Google Maps for the POIs to appear) so I used a different approach. There are numerous rating services for restaurants (I only partly trust them here in USA, so no clue whether they work well in Spain) so just because it has a convenient format I used the Trip Advisor list, which has a total of 376 restaurants. I’ve only looked through the first 40 or so. Less than half of these have websites and probably only about half of those have text I can scrap off the website (often the menu is a photo or some other type of document where the browser can’t select any text that I can then paste in my working document). So with this vast amount of material I’ve been quite busy with menus, having now crunched through six already (with some stories to tell). And I’ve got enough more to finish to keep me busy as in fact my virtual trek has already left Burgos.

But as a random tidbit, tied to the notion of producing entries for my corpus, is the variable translation of the term ración. And I do mean translation (not definition) and usually by Google. The simplest (and most frequent) literal translation is ‘ration’ but even seeing exactly the same word (although sometimes modified with 1/2) on the same page Google translates it differently and also as ‘portion’ or ‘serving’. That’s a bit of a mystery to me why there is the inconsistency but of course Google claims (in its limited online explanations of how Google Translate works) that it is “context-sensitive” in doing translations (IOW, Google also had a large corpus, mostly of translated material in the United Nations, that their AI analyzed to decide both the translation and the “context”). But within a single website, all about food, one would think the context would always be the same. But it’s not the webpage that represents “context” (I realized) it’s the source corpus where “context” is being deduced. So the notion of using “context” to improve translation doesn’t mean quite what one would think.

Now instead of translation here’s what Oxford has as definitions:

1 Cantidad de alimento que se da en una comida a una persona o animal. Amount of food that is given in a meal to a person or animal.
2 Porción unitaria de algo que puede dividirse en varias partes iguales. Unitary portion of something that can be divided into several equal parts.
3 Cantidad determinada de alimento que se toma como aperitivo entre varias personas o comida informal; suele tomarse como acompañamiento de una bebida en un establecimiento público. Quantity of food that is taken as an aperitif among several people or informal food; It is usually taken as an accompaniment to a drink in a public establishment.
4 Cantidad suficiente de algo, generalmente la que se consume en un solo día o a intervalos regulares por una persona o animal. Sufficient quantity of something, usually that which is consumed in a single day or at regular intervals by a person or animal.

Since porción is literally portion it makes some sense to have that as a translation (along with ‘helping’ and ‘serving’) the part of the definition that seems to make the most sense in the context of a restaurant menu is #3 (also #2) more than the sense of the literal ‘ration’ (as in #1 or #4, more a military term). But it is also a quantity designation (more than pincho) even if it is only consumed by one person. Now deciding how much a 1/2 or 1/4 ración is yet another challenge but it appears most restaurants do price a 1/2 at more than 50% of the price of a whole, so if you want a whole order it as two 1/2’s will cost a lot more. IOW, you probably need to be able to discuss this with your server, once again evidence that a menu translator (vs fluency in Spanish) is not going to be sufficient.

Finally as yet another random tidbit one dessert item that didn’t translate (as I’ve described before, it just is what it is) was mantecado. It wasn’t heard to find this (I thought it might be a brand but it’s just the name of a cookie) with an interesting description (here) where it is described as being similar to polvorón which has its own Wikipedia page (here) that also that mentions mantecados and says they are not the same as polvorón (you could fool me looking at the pictures in that page).

From that same menu (here) for the item espárragos cojonudos Google Translate doesn’t have English for cojonudos (espárragos is asparagus in case you’re wondering). Tracking down cojonudos with search quickly led to the connection to cojones which is a term many Americans know as part of slang but it’s not clear how ‘ballsy’ would apply to asparagus . But this article assures us the slang meaning is not the relevant one and the more respectable is ‘awesome’ or ‘outstanding’. Furthermore a particular asparagus from Navarra chooses to label itself with cojonudos  so I guess the connection to cojones doesn’t bother them (or maybe they’re not aware of the etymology of cojonudos).