Yesterday I introduced this thread: finding, analyzing and discussing Spanish food terms on menus in Spain. So today I’ll continue with the restaurant I mentioned yesterday: O Curro da Parra.
Now first I want to introduce the idea of finding human translations. In my earlier work I usually used Google Translate to translate the Spanish and then did additional research to try to improve translations. Now that I’ve learned a bit of Spanish I can do that better, but there are many reasons why the Google Translate is wrong and/or may not be that helpful which I’ll point out with a few examples in this post.
But in terms of learning to read Spanish getting human translations is interesting. To supplement my study on Duolingo I’ve found as many stories as I can with human translation to compare to Google Translate and my own stumbling attempts to translate.
So in terms of the main topic of menus, some like O Curro da Parra do have human translation, which, of course, might be wrong too. But my first point is also that sometimes they can be tricky to find. Some websites, like a couple others I tried in Santiago detect your location and, for me, automatically switch to English. Sometimes it takes a little hacking of the URLs to find both the English and Spanish or sometimes there is something in the UI (often flags to click) to pick your language. Of course there is no guarantee the English version will just be a translation of the Spanish version so you need to compare these carefully.
In general (and this specific case) the URL is likely to contain /es or /en in the URL. Sometimes you can just manually change the URL for which language you want. But for this restaurant they added an extra trick. Their standard URL for Spanish version of the a la carte menu is https://www.ocurrodaparra.com/es/carta, Replacing the /es with /en doesn’t work since they also translated carta in the URL to its English equivalent thus producing the URL https://www.ocurrodaparra.com/en/menu.
Seeing carta and menú on webpages (or perhaps the printed menu) deserves a little explanation. carta, which Google literally translates to ‘letter’, as in escribo muchas cartas a mis amigos (I wrote that myself, see I’ve learned a little), but in the case of a restaurant it does, usually, refer to the a la carte menu or just menu as commonly used in USA. Seeing ‘letter’ originally confused me but I had to learn words may have multiple translations. While Google Translate does use some “context” (not just literal word-by-word) I’ve learned GT pays little attention to the broader notion of “context” (or discourse) and thus seems to usually pick the most common translation. And menú often refers to some special offer, like menú del día, (menu of the day, common in small restaurants along the Camino) or even more specifically menú de peregrino (the pilgrim’s menu) or sometimes menú degustación (the tasting menu). IOW, these are particular selections essentially equivalent to prix fixe, which is, of course, French for fixed price. So one of the first things to know about reading menus is which section to look for and so I hope this helps.
So onto a few interesting things about this menu. First we’ll start with the section on the Carta, EMPEZAMOS. Now actually this is a bit surprising since the more common section you’ll see is ENTRANTES, literally ‘entrances’ but probably what would be called appetizers in USA. But is fun for me because just recently I’ve been doing Duolingo drills of variations of the verb empezar (to begin, to start). So empezamos is actually the first personal plural conjugation in indicative mood present tense, so big surprise that GT translated this as ‘we start’ which would be correct in the right context. But here it just means (and its human translation at the website) ‘starters’. But the way empezar is one of the Spanish verbs that is somewhat irregular known as a stem changing verb so empiezo is ‘I start’ (I don’t know when I named this blog that subject pronoun are usually omitted to the to (I) is not typically used since person can be deduced from the conjugation. So for you Dear Reader I can also use the familiar tú conjugation, just as empiezas for ‘you start’. I realize including Spanish lessons in my posts may be tedious, but relax, I’m just bragging.
Second, under the “main” course part of the carta (in this case labeled PESCADOS Y CARNES, fishes and meats) one finds Media ración/Ración. This was a tiny mystery until seeing, for each item, 11,5/22. That’s the price, in euros I presume and note the /. ración is repeated with media in front of one instance. It would be a mistake to assume that’s a cognate and thus “medium” (or worse, ‘media’ itself). In fact it’s the word for ‘half’, which in the case of a time, a las cinco y media, means “half past” (AKA 5:30). ración can get confusing; it’s literal meaning is ‘helping’, ‘portion’ or ‘serving’. It’s most commonly used where tapas or pinchos might also be available. Instead of just a serving for one bit usually it means a larger quantity, sometimes also described as al centro (to the center), IOW, it’s a portion that potentially gets shared. Given it appears in the main courses I would assume the full portion might be for sharing (two diners trying two different dishes (platos) which can be fun) and the half portion is for an individual diner (comensal).
So let’s move on to a couple of items. I’m going to show these in three columns: the original Spanish, the human translation at the website and the Google Translation.
|Brevas, queso del Cebreiro y foie||Figs, Cebreiro cheese and foie||Brevas, Cebreiro cheese and foie gras|
I’m not sure why GT missed the translation of brevas to figs, except perhaps that the more usual word for fig is higo and breva refers to a particular fig, often called ‘early fig’. But my point for this item is Cebreiro which is not translated by either human or AI. And this is common (you are getting the ‘cheese’ clue in both translations, which is not in the literal Spanish) as some words just don’t have English translations. Cebreiro is a local cheese (PDO), Galician in origin. There are numerous sources for quesos de espana but take it from me, it’s fairly hard to learn them all.
|Sardina, pan de maíz tostado, mayonesa de laurel y Padrón||Sardine, toasted corn bread, bay maho and Padrón peppers||Sardine, toasted cornbread, laurel mayonnaise and Padrón|
Interestingly GT does a bit better job with mayonesa (really is) so I’m not quite sure why the human translation calls it maho, other than perhaps having seen ‘mayo’ in English sources and assuming the phonetic spelling in English would be maho. In the Spanish, Padrón is sufficient because anyone would know what these are (we even have some growing in our garden in Nebraska, not even too hard to find the plant stock). These are very popular peppers, usually toasted in oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. They’re partly popular because while they’re usually mild, one might be hot, so while I forget the term (read it somewhere) sometimes they’re referred to as Spanish lottery. They’re smaller than a Jalapeno with more wrinkles but otherwise look similar.
|Canelón de gallo de corral, bechamel de foie e shimeji||Rooster cannellone, foie bechamel and shimeji mushrooms||Cannelloni with poultry, bechamel with foie e shimeji|
This one is fun because it demonstrates it is global world with food terms from France, Italy and Japan all combined with Spanish. In this case the GT translation is better (sorry for my critique to whoever did the translation). I’ve encountered de corral before and while a literal translation could be ‘of the farmyard’, we’d probably call this “free range” in USA. But using gallo (instead of pollo) is interesting. pollo is the generic name for chicken, well known in USA due to heavy use on Mexican menus. In fact, pollo is even masculine (gender is such a thrill learning in a language) and so gallina would be a likely term for ‘hen’ and so gallo is indeed rooster, but a little stranger because roosters are much less commonly eaten than hens. I assume they note this because most likely gallo would probably have a stronger flavor. Canelón is cannelloni but as Italian is fairly particular about the last vowel in words, cannellone might be confusing.
And wrapping up (there are more items but this is enough for this post)
|Helado de tarta de Santiago, cremoso de chocolate y bizcocho cítrico||Almond ice-cream, chocolate mousse and citrus sponge cake||Ice cream cake of Santiago, creamy chocolate and citrus cake|
tarta de Santiago is very common (usually dusted with powdered sugar) so they must have used similar ingredients to make an ice cream and I’d bet GT’s translation of ‘ice cream cake’ is not likely to be correct. But here’s a good example of why I (eventually) decided to learn Spanish, this is an item were the menu description is probably less than you’d like to know so a little conversation with your camarero might be in order. GT is probably wrong on cremoso just being ‘creamy’ (which it literally is) but the human translation as mousse is more likely. Then GT omitted ‘sponge’ in the translation of bizcocho cítrico (bizcocho is usually translated as sponge cake) and reading this, as a diner, I’d think citrus sponge cake and just citrus cake were two different things.
So wrapping this one up: 1) don’t trust any translation source completely, 2) they are often terms that can’t be translated so you just have to know what they are (or ask), and, 3) if you’re really interested in knowing what these items are you’re probably going to have to be able to speak and hear some Spanish, even though I’d bet a top-rated restaurant in a popular tourist destination probably has someone to explain it to you in English, figuring it out in Spanish is more fun.
And as your homework assignment you figure this one one:
|Cerdo pibil, crema de maíz y pico de gallo||Pibil style Galician pork belly, corn purée and pico de gallo salad||Pig pibil, corn cream and pico de gallo|
and what does gallo have to do with a relish? And why ‘belly’ is missing in the Spanish and whether that would matter to you in choosing whether to order this or not.