Still moving, even if slowly

May and June have had a lot of deviations, for me, from my daily routine. As a consequence I haven’t done much work on this project nor much in terms of my virtual trek. I’m using a GPS trace of the Camino de Santiago to map my workouts on a stationary treadmill in the basement, as an incentive to keep up my miles. With the interference I’ve had in the last two months I’ve fallen quite a bit.

For the first five months of my virtual trek I average about 25.5 miles/month. Not much when compared to an actual trek (typical distance of 1.5-2 days). But I’ve also averaged 537 miles/month on a stationary bike so overall my exercise is fairly high. However during May-June I’ve only averaged about 14 miles/month, more due to missing days than shorter days. Hopefully I’ll get back on track.

But all this has brought me, as of yesterday, 208.1 miles on my virtual Camino, which is probably more than most do on the real pilgrimage which is now mostly tourists joining the fad on short guided trips. So where does that put me?  Just a bit beyond Castrojeriz, still in Burgos Province in the autonomous community of Castile and León. Actually Castrojeriz is the biggest town I’ve passed through in some time and there are enough tourist/pilgrim accommodations to “visit” numerous albergues and restaurants, one of which has an online menu.

So that means I get to look at another menu for any interesting details beyond the simple (nearly-)literal translation Google does for webpages. (Google claims to be context-oriented but I think that’s an overblown claim as I’ve previously documented in older posts). Reading menus (with some smartphone app) is the long-range goal of my project and finding menus (critical from Spain, not just in Spanish) and translating them and researching eccentricities in translation will produce raw material for my corpus of dual Spanish-English entries on which to base my app.

So, let’s look at Casa Cordón’s carta (menu) in Castrojeriz, Burgos, Spain. It has two sections of entrantes (starters), frío (cold) and caliente (hot), a section of primeros (first) and a section of segundos (seconds), a fairly typical menu listing.  [Note: usually carta is equivalent to a la carte in USA versus menu which is usually some limited set of choices for a particular price, i.e. equivalent of prix fixe in USA] The entrantes have few surprises (in translation) but here are a couple of interest:

cecina de León Lion smoked beef

While cecina might indeed be beef it is usually translated as just ‘cured meat’ and thus might be from any animal and some people might care which. At least ‘cured meat’ is, at minimum, a more useful translation.

I also note three different “meanings” of de (simply of):  1) queso de oveja (sheep) or queso de cabra (goat): in this case de describes which animal’s milk is used to produce the cheese; 2) variedad de setas (literally: ‘variety of mushrooms’, more correctly means an “assortment” of mushrooms, not a particular variety as per the literal translation): in this case de is used in the conventional manner of a preposition; and, 3) morcilla de Burgos (which Google didn’t “translate” as all): in this case de means a particular type of morcilla (blood sausage) typical of the Burgos area (not made out of bits of burgoses). Now some visitors might know what morcilla is (it is common and often found) but again some people might actual want to know it is a sausage with blood in the mix. So these translations, at minimum, could be a bit more helpful than what Google (or probably any smartphone translation) would provide.

There are a couple of other interesting failures in translation that a little research (hard to do while a server is waiting for you to order or if you don’t have an Internet connection to do searches).

Crema Castellana Cream Castellana

This is a named dish (in the style of Castile, aka Castilian) for which there are multiple recetas (recipes). Translating crema to creme can be literally correct but also often refers to a cream-based soup. In most of the recipes for this item ‘puree’ would be a more accurate translation (the key ingredients are garlic, eggs and old bread). This is a typical case where a really good menu translation would require a description of the item not just a literal translation.

Tallarines con tomate Noodles with tomato

Now some type of noodles with some type of tomato sauce is probably all you need to know but ‘noodle’ is fairly vague (although the literal translation from Oxford for the singular (and accented) tallarín). Somehow Google search connects this to a Wikipedia entry on tagliatelle (this is a mysterious process I’ve previously reported) but I can’t confirm any definition connection of tallarín as tagliatelle,  so simply ‘noodles’ will have to suffice. Often in photos I’ve seen penne more commonly with simple tomato sauce, but probably pasta is just pasta to a hungry peregrino.

Lechazo de Castilla y León Lechazo de Castilla y León

Somehow Google missed this (I’ve seen it get it right, maybe the “context” of de Castilla y León confused it despite the fact any trekker would know they’re in Castilla y León and thus this is just a regional designation. Remember leche is milk would help but really knowing lechazo is one of several terms for ‘suckling’ (not weaned young animal) is better. But this term is used for both piglets and lambs, so the menu alone, even translated better, might not be sufficient to decide to order this item and thus conversation would be needed.

Perdiz de Monte escabechada Pickled Monte Partridge

Here learning perdiz (correctly translated as partridge) is helpful and escabechada is derived from the verb escabechar (to pickle, to souse) is fairly literal, but what about monte – is this some additional (and relevant?) qualification of partridge.  monte normally would mean ‘mountain’ but it can also mean ‘woodland’. This was a bit difficult to track down but it does appear to be a particular wild partridge that is now fairly rare although there is a farmed version that is similar. But searches also revealed a tinned pâté of this bird so it’s still unclear exactly what this menu item might be.

And finally, lubina a la espalda or dorada a la espalda. lubina is correctly translated by Google as ‘sea bass’ but, as I’ve usually seen dorada is translated (literally, but wrong in this context) to ‘gold’ or ‘golden’. In fact it’s a particular type of fish with some dispute whether it is ‘gilt-head bream’ (more likely as this is a Mediterranean fish) or ‘dolphin [fish]’, aka, ‘mahi-mahi’ which is less likely as this is not commonly found in Spain. I’ve had mahi-mahi (and like it) but never gilt-head bream so it would be a bit of adventure to order this (and given the typical blandness of fish could I even tell which it is).

But items then use a la espalda as further description but what does this mean? Google did a literal translation of ‘on the back’ but that’s not helpful. Often on menus for fish there is a qualifier of which part of the fish, e.g. cheek, belly, filet so is ‘back’ something like this? No, as best I can tell from photos in search results it simply looks like a cooking method where the entire fish is split and flattened and then fried with skin (back) side down, i.e. a fairly simple preparation. I can’t confirm this so this is one of those terms I’ll add to my corpus, provisionally, with a lower confidence value.

So hopefully I can pick up my pace, both trekking and posting, but at least one of the issues that has reduced my activity will continue for a while so posts may be less common.

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Spanish Food in Walla Walla, Washington (USA) !!

Hi, I’m back. 5100 miles of driving from Nebraska to Oregon and back, via Black Hills, Devils Tower, the Columbia gorge, Yellowstone and the Bighorn Mountains. Tiring but beautiful country especially at this time of year when everything is very green. Higher than usual snow in the mountains and suddenly warm days made for some very high water in all the rivers. And we got sick of bison. We first encountered them in Custer State Park in South Dakota. They ignore cars and stand in the highway as long as they like. It took an hour to go just a few miles. But it was worse in Yellowstone as the humans now had to admire the bison and so it was human traffic jams on top of large animals in the road. But I suppose we deserve some payback from them since we consumed some of their cousins as well as some elk.

But we had a real surprise in Walla Walla, Washington. I haven’t been there for at least 50 years and so didn’t remember anything. Walla Walla was not one of our planned destinations, just a midway point between Sandy Oregon and Boise Idaho. So we were surprised to see the profusion of wineries, at least 40 in the valley. Being from California naturally I can’t imagine wine in a cold state but the Walla Walla valley has mild weather so all types of fine grapes can grow there but it seems Syrah is what does the best.

But the real find was a restaurant, Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen. Often any region that has wineries will also attract interesting restaurants and there were several in Walla Walla. We chose this one because it had some menu items typical of Spain (as well as other parts of the Mediterranean).  Here’s their menu, easy to read (at least for me as it’s in English, but with a few terms from Spain. On all this trip we tended to get too much food, which we then hate wasting (or accumulating as new fat) so my initial choice of patatas bravas gave way to wood grilled octopus instead. While patatas bravas is a fairly simple dish it is quite tricky to get the crunch just right so I wanted to see if Saffron could do it right. But my wife wanted the octopus and, actually, I’ve mostly avoided it but as it’s common in Spain decided to try. It was delicious. My main course was the Green Garlic Pappardelle and it was terrific, great lamb so while not particularly a dish from Spain at least a common ingredient used there. I’ll have to find out some day how Walla Walla compares to some comparable restaurant along the Camino, but for now this is the closest I’m getting to Spain.

While I didn’t get my patatas bravas I did get a great potato fix at Boise Fry, a place that says it serves burgers as a “side” to their fries. Being Idaho naturally the potatoes we saw growing in vast fields end up as a specialty item. I had a special that day (unfortunately I forget its name) that ended up with the second frying of my hand cut fries in duck fat. Talk about crisp. More sauces to try than I’ve seen anywhere else. We toured the Basque Market (a couple of blocks with Basque flags everywhere) but had already eaten so we didn’t get a chance to try more Spanish food there.

And I have to give a shout-out to Mama Inez in Pocatello Idaho where my wife, an aficionado of chile rellenos said she had the best she’d ever had.  And a shout-out too for Sanfords Grub and Pub in Spearfish South Dakota, really funky but delicious. So good we timed our day’s drive to stop there on the way back after discovering it on the way west.  So definitely some good eats on this trip.

And now back to the heat and humidity of Nebraska (after refreshing mountain weather on most of our trip) and the daily routine.