Finding verbs related to cooking

As you can see on the tabs above this post I have a list of verbs used in cooking, recipes, food and restaurants. Like many such lists I create these from all the lists I can find that other people make, consolidating many sources, some often wrong (spelling, definitions) and then looking words up in dictionaries, including the most authoritative until I think I have an accurate and comprehensive list. Needless to say this is a lot of work so if you look at my list you’ll see it’s mostly unfinished, but has a large number of verbs as candidates.

But is my list even complete? Even after combining all the sources I can find?

So in this post I’ll describe another way to find cooking verbs from original source textual material.

But first:

So I’ve wanted to get back and do more work on this blog, but alas for 898 days I’ve been almost totally occupied with trying to learn Spanish and it’s amazing that I never seem to have time to work on this blog, which, actually is more fun and potentially of benefit to others (my list of verbs is the third most referenced page on this blog; gradually my accumulated lists are being found by other people).

When I started this blog, with plan to build a portable app to decode menus in Spain, my sister said I couldn’t do that without learning Spanish. I was kinda sure that wasn’t the case (after all it is just solving a puzzle, don’t have to be able to speak or listen to do that). But I fell for her pitch and so got trapped in an almost endless cycle of all available time (really mental energy) going into learning Spanish. I won’t bore you with all that (or see other posts), but it is a trap, in that the more you learn, the more you forget and therefore have to do more drills to refresh your memory. Soon that becomes all consuming and thus other things fall to wayside.

Well, at least, as this exercise will show I got something from 898 days and over 200,000 individual drills. While my speaking is horrible and I can only understand clear and slow speech (and then only 70% of the words) my reading is not too bad. So I figure let’s use that a bit more to help with this blog.

I also realized, in previous tries at decoding menus, that actually one needs to know about the cuisine itself, the dishes, the ingredients, and how they are prepared. Even with words on a menu accurately translated there is more one needs to know in order to be able to order what you really want. And, duh, guess what the best way to do that is?

Read recipes in Spanish from Spain!

Now there is a trick to finding recipes in Spanish (as original language) but also for Spain (since food terminology in Latin America can be quite different). So don’t search with English queries! After a bit of experimenting I found

comida recetas en linea de espana

gets some good results (food recipes online from Spain, without the comida you get some strange results). So I’m going to spend a while with the results I’m getting from this but I want to start with a simple example.

Aguacates rellenos de pollo mechado (otherwise known as Avocados stuffed with shredded chicken). With simple word-for-word dictionary lookups of each word you might come close title (mechado as we’ll discuss is tough to understand) and this might sound good to try. (Question, are you eating some avocado or just using their skins as a bowel for the chicken? It there anything mixed with the chicken? Would you really want to order it?)

This just happens to be the first receta I picked (from RTVE’s recipe site (the public TV in Spain). So here is the preparation part of the recipe in original Spanish and with a Google translation I added.

Cocinamos la pechuga de pollo como más nos guste; al horno, a la plancha o cocida, y la mechamos con ayuda de dos tenedores.We cook the chicken breast as we like best; Baked, grilled or cooked, and we mix it with the help of two forks.
Abrimos los aguacates por la mitad, retiramos el hueso y, con ayuda de una cuchara, vaciamos parte de su pulpa para poder rellenarlos con facilidad.We open the avocados in half, remove the bone and, with the help of a spoon, empty part of its pulp to be able to fill them easily.
En un bol, machacamos la pulpa del aguacate que hemos retirado.In a bowl, we mash the pulp of the avocado that we have removed.
Picamos las hortalizas en brunoise y las mezclamos con el pollo mechado, la pulpa del aguacate, el cilantro, el maíz y la mayonesa.We chop the vegetables in brunoise and mix them with the shredded chicken, the avocado pulp, the coriander, the corn and the mayonnaise.
Para hacer la mayonesa, en un vaso de batidora disponemos los ingredientes. Introducimos la batidora de mano y comenzamos a batir sin mover la batidora, pegada al fondo.To make the mayonnaise, put the ingredients in a blender glass. We introduce the hand mixer and begin to beat without moving the mixer, glued to the bottom.
Cuando observemos que la emulsión comienza a crearse, comenzamos a hacer movimientos suaves hacia arriba y hacia abajo con la batidora de mano.When we observe that the emulsion begins to create, we begin to make smooth movements up and down with the hand mixer.
Rellenamos los aguacates con esta mezcla y ¡disfrutamos!We stuff the avocados with this mixture and we enjoy!

Now since it turns I can “read” (at least parse the sentences and know enough vocabulary) I’ve marked all the verbs, which is the point of this post, i.e. how to find verbs related to cooking. I think you should be able to do what I just did when you reach about the A2 level (basically one year of high school Spanish). To skip to the chase here are all the verbs (infinitive) that can be extracted from this receta:

abrir batir cocinar comenzar crear disfrutar disponer gustar hacer haber introducir machacar mechar mezclar mover observar pegar picar poder rellenar retirar vaciar

Of these verbs the ones marked would be likely in cooking prose and many of the others are either common verbs in Spanish (hacer, gustar, haber, poder) or used in many contexts other than cooking. IOW, if one is trying to accumulate a list using this approach (analyzing an appropriate corpus) you need to apply some human intelligence, which, thus as my sister claimed, requires some amount of fluency in the language. Of the verbs I marked, all are in my list at this blog, but finding them used in context can be helpful to focus on the translation most relative to comida.

In fact picar is a good example as the primary dictionary definitions are to sting, to itch, but in culinary context it is to chop, or as I have mentioned in previous posts in a restaurant setting the to peck (like a chicken) fits because this describes basically snacking finger-food appetizers. So context matters and dictionary lookups can be misleading (or what you learn in Spanish course that might be more likely to teach the more common meaning)

The Google translation is pretty good (given my ability to read the Spanish and compare) with just a couple of bad choices: while hueso has bone as primary translation, it is also pit which fits the context, The other two, pegada (stuck) and crearse (create) are a bit more subtle and I’ll cover those later. And vaso de batidora (blender glass) really takes some analysis as GT translation is very literal and not very helpful (we’ll cover this later as well)

Now I also marked a couple of words that are either not verbs or being used as verb in the context: for instance, in the first line ” con ayuda de dos tenedoresayuda is a noun (help), but it is also the third person singular present conjugation of ayudar (to help). Given subject pronouns are often omitted in Spanish, he helps would be translated just as ayuda. So how do you know whether it’s help the noun or help the verb? Context, which means some fluency in Spanish.

Another example is batidora, which is a case of making a noun from a verb root (IOW, knowing just verbs gives you a shot at guessing nouns). Most of the time a word ending in -dora is some kind of tool to do the action implied by the verb part, i.e. computadora, a tool that computes (computar), or in this case a tool that beats (batir).

con el pollo mechado and pegada show another common construct in Spanish. The past participle of a verb, for instance cocinado (cooked) from cocinar (to cook) can often be used as an adjective. Since the participle ends in -o, which is usually masculine, it becomes cocinada (feminine) when used with a feminine noun, which is why it’s carne asada and pollo asado, from asar (to grill). While mechado follows this pattern and gets translated (accurately) by Google as shredded, mechar is a bit mysterious to produce shredded. And pegada, used here as adjective, is really tricky, with -a there is dictionary entry of ‘punch’ (no fit in this context), but pegado is stuck or glued, from the verb pegar (to hit, to paste). So Google translated this as glued, which is kinda right, but this is referring to a mixing bowl and that one wants to have firmly “stuck’ to a surface so you can mix the stuff inside without the bowl spinning all around or sliding over the surface.

The point of a lot of these details I mention is that you can’t just grab a Spanish dictionary (in paper or on your phone) and type in a word and get a definition and, often, get a meaning that really tells you something. That’s why reading lots of recipes could help a lot to them reading menus. Menus don’t usually contain cooking instructions BUT they do often contain derivatives of verbs (as adjectives or nouns) to do tell you something.

So learning a selection of verbs, like from my list if I ever finish it, can help a lot in reading a menu.

And knowledge of Spanish help to figure out something like hemos retirado. Again, you might guess retirado is a past participle (and guessing it’s regular, thus the verb is retirar). Guess what, that’s right! retirar (to remove) is directly used in the instructions as the conjugated form retiramos, which (again missing subject pronoun, but deduced from conjugation is ‘we remove’). It’s interesting the style of writing this recipe used we do xxx a lot, which is a polite form of language (instead of the imperative, commanding you (the cook) to retira (if being familiar and addressing you as ) or retire (if being formal and addressing you as usted). This is also a good example of false cognate (not so obvious with retiramos, but you might guess retirado is retired and it’s not). Now hemos is the present we conjugation of haber, or we have. As in English this is one of the “moods” in Spanish (the perfect as spanishdict.com calls it or Pretérito perfecto in Spanish). So I have removed and I removed (retiré or retiraba, which gets into the messy distinction between imperfect and preterite (both for action in the past) are different in Spanish, just as in English and have slightly different meanings.

And finally I’ll show off a bit more of 898 days of studying Spanish to explain poder rellenarlos. poder is used a lot in Spanish and basically means ‘to be able’ (aka ‘can’). But the -los on rellenarlos is one of those things that defeats looking up derivative words in a dictionary. The -los is for an indirect object pronoun, in this case, them, which we affix to the verb infinitve rellenar (to stuff). There is quite a bit of this in Spanish and it can be confusing.

For instance dámelo is three words stuck together (the accent just shows it’s not pronounced with the same stressed syllable as normal). is the imperative polite ‘you give’ (a command to you (usted) to give) from dar (to give); me is just me as the indirect object, and lo is just it (the object), IOW, give it to me. So, of course you can figure out that estas manzanas, dáselas is ‘those apples, give them to them’, right?

So why am I “showing off” so of what I learned and pretending I could teach you some Spanish. Instead of that interpretation what I am showing is how knowledge of the language does facilitate reading. Even if you don’t know all the root words in a piece of text (like cooking instructions) all these little bits of Spanish grammar and conjugation and sentence construction can let you find the words that really tell you something.

And for this post my lengthy discussion also demonstrates how to get a really good verb list – go through lots of recipes in tedious detail, finding verbs in context and then with a combination of the not-too-bad but often flawed Google translations and the rest of the context you can build up a reasonable corpus, i.e. the infinitive form of a verb and its (possibly multiples) meanings you extract from the translation and deduction.

So I’ll finish with something basic in this recipe, from its title; pollo mechado

mechado is the past participle (so -ed in English) of mechar. But a dictionary lookup of mechar (several good online dictionaries) doesn’t yield ‘to shred’. Instead you get to stuff, or to throw into, neither of which fit shredded very well. There is an additional meaning to lard that is intriguing (certainly sounds like a cooking term).

In fact from an excellent source I mention on my cooking verbs page, www.mamirecetas.com/glosario. The somewhat crude Google translation yields this

At the time of wicking , holes are opened in the selected piece, and then they are filled, introducing in them foods that compensate for this tendency to dry out, usually bacon or bacon type fats , these are called wicks. Likewise, you can add elements that help make the piece tastier once cooked, such as aromatic herbs , vegetables, dried fruits, etc.

If you’re familiar with cooking, this is a description of the process of larding. Excellent, got it, but how does this get to shredding. The closest match in the dictionary (under culinary contexts) for ‘to shred’ is cortar en tiras (cut into shreds) or triturar (to grind).

Now in the past when dictionary searches fail to reveal a clue, I do just ordinary searches. Why try mechado , you’ll find a Filipino dish. So the best I could find, which fits this recipe is (from a user contributed site, just like this, attempting to explain Spanish phrases, but therefore often wrong)

Carne mechada is “pulled meat”…generally it is pork shoulder meat slowly cooked and then “mechada” (pulled) with a fork…like the pulled pork you put in a bun. Mechas is slang for hair threads….

It’s the ” y la mechamos con ayuda de dos tenedores ” in the first line (btw, that la before mechamos is not ‘the’, but an indirect pronoun it, which in this case precedes the verb, not affixed to it). So I guess. I have made pulled pork before, when the pork was too hot to shred by hand so I used forks, but wow, this one is tough. Given the “slang” is not used in Spain, presumably this must be a Latin American recipe.

All this work and now to summarize it all into a corpus and then do it a few hundred more times and I might be able to build a really good page that meanwhile a fluent Spanish speaker attending culinary school could create from memory.

p.s. In a little proof reading I notice I forgot to discuss nos guste (in the first line) so I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader to deal with verb gustar and how to say you/someone/we likes/liked/will-like/would-like in Spanish. Hint it involved the rarely taught in beginner Spanish subjunctive mood conjugation, but the often taught reflexive form.

te gustarás esta entrada de blog, sí

and you will say, por supuesto, excelente, me encanta.

An interesting interesting restaurant find in Mexico – part 1

Most of my posts in this blog have been about restaurants in Spain, mostly because of my interest in the Camino de Santiago and in doing a “virtual pilgrimage” along it (the idea of doing things virtually has become not so strange any more but I was doing it before it became commonplace). Seeing (on Google maps) every town and thus restaurants along that route (via a GPS trace) was the source of menus I studied and discussed.

But more recently, since actually taking a “live” (Zoom) Spanish class with a flesh-and-blood teacher in Cuernavaca Mexico I’ve switched some of my focus to looking at restaurants in Mexico, to extract food vocabulary to add to my corpus that will train my automated translator I’m slowly creating. But unlike Spain I don’t have any geographical focus in Mexico, i.e. a path I can plod along virtually and see what I find. OTOH, I actually like Mexican food a lot more than Spain (one thing I learned with previous years of posts is that food in Spain is pretty unexciting). And now with travel so curtailed it’s entirely possible that a trip to Mexico is more likely than Spain (I’ve just barely been in Mexico, a touristy area just south of San Diego, where I’ve only seen Spain while still in Portugal). So without a plan for study I just stumble onto interesting restaurants which then become my post.

Anyway, as I’ll expand below circumstance led me to another interesting restaurant and so most of the day I spent doing research. My first Mexican restaurant post came as a direct result of my Spanish teacher telling me about a fun town (Tepoztlán) where many locals go for R&R and thus I found an interesting restaurant. While Mexican restaurants can have very interesting food, thus far, at least in smaller towns, they are less likely to have websites and especially online menus where I can easily extract text of the menu and then do my analysis. So it’s a lot more work, but fun work.

So in this first part let me explain how I found this place. I’m a fairly big fan of tequila and recently I exhausted my supply of bulk (but good) Hornitos reposado from Costco. So despite trying to avoid shopping I had other stuff to buy so I also shopped the liquor section of my local grocery store. Right next to the Hornitos was an intriguing bottle of Correlejo Reposado. I haven’t had a chance to make my own photo of the bottle but it’s easy to find online. The tequila was pleasant and I ended up sharing it with my esposa and we found it a bit too good so that it too is gone now (without the ill effects that sometimes, especially silver tequila, can cause). So after already buying it I started doing a little research online.

It’s a bit tricky to read the label to figure out who actually makes this (is Correlejo a brand (yes) or a distillery (yes) or a location?) but I eventually found it geographical origin to be Pénjamo Guantajuato. Being almost completely ignorant of Mexican geography and place naming, fortunately Google Maps easily found this where Pénjamo is a small village in the state of Guantajuato (Estado Libre y Soberano de Guanajuato). When looking at the Google Map result a point of interest, Ex hacienda corralejo, showed up a few miles away. Looking at what information Google had plus all the user contributed photos, this is at least the place where the tours related to Correlojo Tequila happen. It’s cool, take a look yourself.

But now that I had Pénjamo up on the map I started looking at both hotels (shocked at seeing prices < $30) and also restaurants. Google Maps has a useful feature that if you just click a POI on the map for either restaurant or hotel Google also shows up a few similar place with their ratings. So I’ve learned (did this is Spain along the Camino) this is a good way to find the “best” (i.e. most expensive) restaurant or hotel in the same vicinity.

So that process led me to the hotel, Hotel Real De Piedra, that has a 4.6 star rating and a whopping price of $36. The photos, however, show a charming place where I’d happily stay. It would be nearly impossible to find a decent place for that price along the Camino, much less something this nice. However, a few of the photos of food were confusing, hardly the usual B&B type items. A bit more searching and a bit of coincidence then led me to Remedios Restaurante, which is just across the street from the hotel, but requires almost maximum zoom in in Google for it to appear, which is strange, given it has a 4.8 rating and looks to me to be the best restaurant in Pénjamo.

So take a quick virtual paseo there by just searching for ‘Remedios Restaurante Pénjamo’ in Google Maps. The pictures are fun and scrolling down a ways you finally encounter photos of several different menus, which I could then study, finding such interesting words as xoconostle which doesn’t look very Spanish (and isn’t).

And menu study and vocabulary will be the subject of the next post, but I’ll provide a teaser now.

It is generally my policy not to put material from other people’s web pages in my posts, but in this case: a) I doubt the restaurant will disapprove of the limited publicity I’m giving them, and, b) sorta like quotes in a term paper I’ll just do snippets of images with this attribution to both Google and Remedios, and thus fall into “fair use” instead of copyright infringement.

 

The title of this snippet of menu is BEBER EN REMEDIOS, which should be fairly obvious Spanish. COCTELERIA also is no mystery, right in dictionaries, cocktail bar, from cóctel (cocktail) and most any type of store in Mexico is a xxx-ría. The few items above that  line are from the CERVEZAS portion of this menu.

BTW, the prices are pesos, often shown in Mexico with $ which really used to scare me but I challenge you to find any place that would serve a Modelo Negra for a mere $1.42 or any beer in Spain for 1.17€.

Note that my tequila (made nearby and on this menu) that was the coincidence that led me to this restaurant shows up here but I’m not sure what it means to mix it with tonic (or just call a shot that) and then sell it for $4.30 (the entire 750ml bottle only cost $30 here in Omaha)

So the interesting items here (that I researched) are:

  • Micheladas (corono clara, obscura, light o pacifico)
  • Bugambilia Rosa (ginebra)

ginebra is a word I’ve frequently found and easily found in dictionaries as gin but bugambilia isn’t in dictionaries (rosa, easy, just pink or possibly rose). When I can’t find something in a dictionary my next step is off to Google search which reveals lots of items about Bougainvillea. I’m quite familiar with this pretty but nasty plant from my backyard in Los Altos California and then tons of it on the big island in Hawaii. But what does it have to do with a cocktail?

So this is where you have to get more creative with search to solve the mystery. Adding rosa to the search, no help. Adding cocktail to the search, no help. But finally ‘bugambilia rosa gin cocktail’ gets the job done and shows various recipes. Which coincidentally led me to figuring out a word in another part of the menu “aderezo de Jamaica” which Google thought was Jamaican dressing, but, da-ti-da, thinking in terms of flowers it’s much more likely to be hibiscus. I’ll come back to this.

So one mystery solved but then what is micheladas? Now an obvious (and wrong) guess is it has something to do with a brand of beer, possibly what Michelob is called in Mexico (the stuff inside the parenthesis kinda disputes that idea). Well, despite being a reasonable fan of cerveza, but less of a fan of mixing it with anything I learned this is a popular mix (even with a Wikipedia entry; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelada) of beer, lime juice, Worchester, hot sauce and tomato juice (might try it, perhaps OK mix of beer).

Now maybe dedicated drinkers would know both these items but a casual reader of this menu might skip these.

btw: This leads to a small personal joke. Omaha has several good mercados for Latino products. Years ago we went looking for something someone told us apart TAYJEAN (phonetically). Eventually we found something called Tajín, which is a brand name and product that is a wonderful spice and salt mix, great for putting on cantaloupe or other melons. While trying to find this a kindly gentleman who didn’t seem to speak any English understand our conversation and came up and pointed – “muy bueno” which was enough. One recipe formicheladas shows using tajín on the rim of the glass instead of salt as used in margaritas.  Everybody in USA knows a tiny bit of Spanish from contact with Mexico, but this was fun because there was a billboard along 101, near Santa Rosa, California, advertising milk, with the cute slogan “moo-ey bueno”, my little inside joke, since at the time I didn’t know what it meant, but not exactly difficult Spanish.

So this is enough lead-in and digression that soon I can do the remaining part. But for now I’ll just give you some homework. Here is a sign in front of the door of this restaurant – what does it mean?

 

See you soon with part 2, with an answer and more fun food puzzles.

 

Weird pulse of views

The topic of this blog is rather esoteric and thus not likely to generate much interest. I don’t write these posts to try to attract a lot of readers. Native Spanish speakers, in Spain or Mexico, and especially foodies, already know all the menu and cooking terms I discuss, so they’re unlikely to be searching for the kind of information I discover. Also most non-Spanish speakers probably think they can get by just fine with only knowing a few bits of phrasebook Spanish. So what audience is really interested in fairly obscure food terms, not available from dictionaries, on menus? Not many?

But I might expect, every now and then, someone struggling with the same words/phrases I’ve encountered and thus searches might bring them here. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, even when I’m searching for something obscure Google never sends me to this blog even though I have far more extensive information than anywhere else Google finds.

So I don’t expect a lot of traffic, but like any writer it’s interesting to see if anyone comes to visit and WordPress does provide some simple statistical analysis. Long ago I actually wrote code to process the logs that web servers create so I know what can be extracted from them, a bit more than WordPress provides, but not a lot. So I do find it curious to check from time to time. Which means I have a fairly good sense of what steady state level of visits are.

So it was very surprising that during December I registered a fairly large pulse of hits, both page views and visitors. Unlike the case where a particular post attracts attention I saw: a) much larger number of unique readers (as contrasted to one reader viewing multiple posts), b) most readers read only one post and conversely the posts that were read only had one reader, and, c) there was no apparent pattern in which posts were read (not in any single category or under a tag nor in any list). The data almost looks completely random (and perhaps it is, maybe someone experimented with web spidering, i.e. a bot doing the reads).

Now my hypothesis was that perhaps some teacher (possibly for cooking instead of Spanish) had stumbled onto my blog and recommended to students to take a look, but the data didn’t support that. Likewise I thought, until seeing it was many people only reading one post, that someone discovered my blog, possibly writing a cookbook, and so found a ton on interesting material, also an idea not supported by the data.

So, IOW, I have no idea what this pulse, about 300% more than normal, was all about and I didn’t get any new subscribers and the pulse has disappeared so it is just a mystery. So back to the normal.

Back to Menus in Spain, Part 2D (Ponferrada)

As a break from tedious discussion of Spanish, I found something else to talk about for this restaurant (MESÓN LA TABERNA in case you didn’t read the previous parts) One interesting photo that appears on Google Maps in the photos section for a restaurant is a copy of the check (cuenta). I guess people think they are doing a favorite to readers to see what a meal might cost in the place, which could be handy, since there are already tons of pictures of the food.

Normally I don’t copy photos from public sites as even though people take these pictures and contribute them free to the site (thus relinquishing their IP rights) most websites consider their content to have IP rights. There is a doctrine of “fair use” I won’t bore you with it (simple case, quoting a few lines from a book in your paper giving credit and source), but I figure all parties involved like publicity. I’ve given Google seven photos that Google keeps telling me that one has 95K views and all of them together have 240K views. So the small number of views of this photo I clipped from Google is a tiny fraction of what I’ve given them. So sue me, Google. BUT I do advise readers not to follow this example.

I chose this particular check because it’s a hefty total, but also because it has a lot of line items to talk about. The fun part of this is that the receipt is fairly narrow and thus the entire name of the food item can´t fit, so for those what was the item? We’ll get a few of those to talk about.

But first, the text at the top of the check is fairly straight forward, but there are a couple of abbreviations as the labels of the columns, which require the full vocabulary to understand. Also, for my USA readers, remember , is used in Spain (and most of Europe) where we’d use . AND € is Euros, now the only currency as the peseta was abolished in 2002; for your info today the € is about $1.17, so IOW about the same as the item would be in USA with the tip which, usually, is included in the bill in Spain, as is the IVA tax, so you can just think of the price as essentially the same.

Cant la cantidad the number of this particular item ordered
Descripcion la descripción description and it appear their printer can’t handle accents
Precio el precio simple enough, the price of an individual item
Total el total cant x precio

We deduce there were four people for this ticket from four big dishes, 8 (two per person) orders of bread, but five desserts and only three drinks. So $42 each isn’t cheap, but certainly not a luxury restaurant.

Moving to the items ordered by this group I’ll repeat the all uppercase descripción from the cuenta and then complete the item with the remaining letters/words in lowercase in red. Our first item is MENU FIN DE SEMana, which doesn’t mean anything specific, but whatever the weekend menu is (remember, in Spain, el menú is a set combination of (usually three) items and carta is the list of individual items).

The next one took some work, BOTILLO CON CAChelos which is not an obvious answer. It took careful scanning of multiple online photos of the restaurant’s menu (no online text) to find botillo con cachelos, verdura, garbanzos, y chorizo 15,00 . This was my best guess as it means “chunks of potato” which this dish usuallycontains, but it might also refer to cachetes (cheeks) as we’ll find when we look at preparing this “classic” dish of Ponferrada. At least one preparation of this dish contains cachucha de cerdo, which is a vulgar body part in Latin American but in Spain it’s instead an awful looking dried head of a pig (ears, snout, skin and all).

We’re going to have a whole post on what this dish is, since it is “famous” in Porferrada in the next post.

So let’s try a few more, which are the starters, completing the truncated descripción from the carta posted outside the place: a) CROQUETAS DE BOletus, on the Tapas Tradicionales section of the carta, where boletus is actually a Latin term (and a genus of mushrooms), so, IOW, wild mushroom croquettes, b) HUEVOS ROTOS COn patatas (four different possibilities), while rotos literally means broken, this is closest to a scramble, from the Toque el Huevo section of the outdoor carta, c) SALTEADO DE VERduras de temporado, sauteed seasonal vegetables, from the De La Huerta (Of the garden) section of the carta, d) CACHAPO DE TERNera con queso de cabra and cecina (no translation for cachapo, just an Asturian dish, typically of two pieces of veal (ternera) and cheese and ham (or cecina, sorta jerky), in this dish, breaded and fried from the Las Carnes section of the carta, e) ESCALOPINES DE ternera al cabrales, veal scallops (thin pounded cuts of veal) with the famous Spanish blue cheese, also from the Las Carnes section, f) CALAMARES A LA andaluz, squid in Andalusian style, from Tapas del Mar section of the carta.

Wow, these people ate a lot, two appetizers each and a full main course. I get llenísimo just thinking about it! A few of these items I can match up with the photos at Google maps or TripAdvisor and they are a substantial serving size. For fun you might to see if you can find these dishes in the photos.

But they’re not done. Either someone had two desserts or I’m wrong and there are five guests, because they finished with these postres: a) ARROZ CON LECHE, basically rice pudding, b) TARTA DE CASTADcastañas, not sure why the D is in the truncated version as castañas is the only thing on the carta that matches, basically the chestnut tart, and, c) TARTA DE LA ABUela, pretty certain it would be abuela, not abuelo, as this is a common thing in Spain, basically Grandmother’s Tart. Now TARTA can be confusing since it can be pie, cake or tart, but since cake has its own word, pastel, tart is probably the best guess.

So there we have it. This receipt alone, due to the limited space for the descripción doesn’t completely tell us what these people had to eat. Without the menu some items might be difficult to guess. So while a posted photo of this cuenta tells us something, we might need to do more research to guide our choices. And I think this is more food that most people would get, perhaps it’s a special occasion for them and they’ve starved for a day to have a grand meal. So the $42 each is probably a bit high. BUT, unlike the bills for most people in many restaurants in the US, booze is only a small amount. In fact, they only had a jarra (pitcher, and in Spain that’s less than pitchers in the USA) of beer, and the rest was just two bottles of water, one even free. So 8,50 € just barely would buy the grande margarita in my favorite place.

SO, if you’re looking at one of this checks someone posts you may need to do more research to figure out what it really means. But it can be a helpful guide, if you can’t find prices before you enter (prices are on the conveniently posted outdoor menu, I love those, fun to look at even you’re not stopping).

Back to Menus in Spain, Part 2C (Ponferrada)

After a few fun digressions let’s get back to looking at text we can find on the Internet and how that helps us look at restaurants in Spain. We’ll continue with just the text describing a restaurant (Mesón la Taberna) and compare that to how much ones learns in 642 days of studying Spanish. Recall that I mentioned earlier I wrote so code for tools of analyzing text which I use here.

Let’s try to get through the text and study how Spanish fluency is described by searching in Ponferrada  and maybe the other restaurant connected with this website. So here’s all the text, from the main page and the Más Info for Mesón La Taberna with the Google translate for the English:

Legend: not Duo but Spanish, not Duo but specialized, in Duo but not with standard meaning. One portion of the text (under the see more) is exactly the same so I marked that out. All words emboldened have not been encountered in 102 Duo lessons, nearly two years of study.

Home Page  
MESÓN LA TABERNA MESÓN LA TABERNA
Antigua bodega de piedra y madera rehabilitada.

Cocina casera tradicional berciana, elaborada con los mejores productos de temporada que ofrece nuestra tierra.

Disponemos
de Botillo completo todos los días del año sin necesidad de encargo y de una amplia variedad de tapas y raciones de elaboración tradicional.

Cuenta
también con menú del día casero durante toda la semana.

Old restored stone and wood cellar.

Traditional home cooking from Bercia, made with the best seasonal products that our land offers.

We have a complete Botillo every day of the year without the need for an order and a wide variety of tapas and traditionally made portions.

It also has a homemade menu of the day throughout the week.

   
Más Info Page  
TAPAS Y RACIONES CAPS <huh> AND PORTIONS
La Taberna se encuentra en una antigua bodega del siglo XVII, construida en piedra y madera rehabilitada. La Taberna is located in an old 17th century winery, built in restored stone and wood.
Cocina casera tradicional berciana, elaborada con los mejores productos de temporada que ofrece nuestra tierra. Disponemos de Botillo completo todos los días del año sin necesidad de encargo y de una amplia variedad de tapas y raciones de elaboración tradicional.

Cuenta también con menú del día casero durante toda la semana
, y una amplia selección de vinos D.O. Bierzo.
Traditional home cooking from Bercia, made with the best seasonal products that our land offers. We have a complete Botillo every day of the year without the need for an order and a wide variety of tapas and traditionally made portions.

It also has a homemade menu of the day throughout the week, and a wide selection of D.O. Bierzo.

UBICACIÓN Y CONTACTO LOCATION AND CONTACT
Para cualquier consulta, puedes llamarnos o enviarnos un email con los datos que aparecen arriba. For any questions, you can call us or send us an email with the information that appears above.
Si quieres que lo hagamos nosotros, por favor, déjanos tu teléfono o email en este formulario y lo haremos lo antes posible. If you want us to do it, please, leave us your phone or email in this form and we will do it as soon as possible.

So this text contains 84 unique words of which 34 are not found in the first 102 lessons in Duolingo, IOW, I’ve learned 59.5% of the words used to describe this restaurant but do I understand? Another way of looking at that is it has taken me 12.76 days of study per word I know. At my rate of learning it would take 433 days to learn the remaining words, or a total 2.96 years – good luck with studying Spanish to teach you to read a menu.

So here’s what’s left:

amplia  antigua  aparecen  berciana  bierzo  bodega  botillo  casera  casero  construida  consulta  datos  déjanos  disponemos  elaboración  elaborada  email  encargo  enviarnos  favor  haremos  llamarnos  necesidad  piedra  productos  raciones  rehabilitada  selección  taberna  tapas  temporada  tierra  tradicional  ubicación

So these four words are not really Spanish vocabulary or have English translation; these two words shouldn’t count (favor comes from por favor which is in any Spanish lesson); these four words are close enough to call cognates. Now using a little general knowledge learned from studying Spanish these two words (adjectives) have the same meaning, just different gender, so only need to learn one (homemade, which I’d learned from my previous menu study); these two words are verb infinitives that are in Duolingo with a so-called object pronoun affixed, something you’d learn by A2 Spanish. So that culls our list a bit to:

amplia antigua aparecen bodega casero construida consulta datos déjanos disponemos elaboración elaborada encargo haremos necesidad piedra raciones rehabilitada temporada tierra ubicación

Now a few of these are closely related to cuisine so if one had been just studying menus and looking words up (and remembered what you learn), you would know these words:

  1. bodega, a bit complicated for us in USA who encounter Spanish from Latin American influence, since we’d think of this as a small grocery store, but in Spain it much applies to winery, places where is stored (wine cellars) or specialized wine shop. Some restaurants have this in their name.
  2. casero is fairly common on menus and is derived from casa (home) to be homemade, or something made in the restaurant as opposed to bought from a supplier; this often applies (in menus) to postres (desserts).
  3. elaboración and elaborada are also often found in text explaining menus. elaboración is equivalent to its English cognate EXCEPT in the context of cooking it really refers to the overall process of generating the dish. For our general knowledge of Spanish we’d know elaborada is the feminine adjective for elabarado which is the past participle of the verb elaborar (to produce, make, prepare, devise) or then elaborated in English. But the meaning in terms of cooking is fairly specialized so knowing the English equivalent isn’t that helpful.
  4. encargo you, Dear Reader, should know if you’ve looked at my restaurant phrases page because in the restaurant context (often por encargo) it means on/by request where the dictionary literal translation is order (something ordered)
  5. raciones is quite common, especially in Basque Country, since it close to its literal meanings (ratio, portion) but usually a larger quantity of some small plate item (tapas) to be shared (para compartir in my phrases page) between multiple diners, usually in the center of the table; but look where this occurs in the prose above and the Google Translation and see if that makes any sense to you. But a Spanish class would take a long time to getting around to teaching the dining meaning of ración (btw, do you see the ó in the singular (did you know you could drop the -es), what’s that all about?)
  6. temporada and tierra are trendy restaurant terms everywhere which we could just call, seasonal or local. tierra is literally land/earth/soil (also EARTH) but it really implies something raised in the nearby countryside (although huerto or campo are also used for this)

So not that leaves us:

amplia antigua aparecen construida consulta datos déjanos disponemos haremos necesidad piedra rehabilitada ubicación

No so bad and some of these are likely to appear in future Duolingo lessons (or your choice of classes, say the equivalent of two years of high school Spanish). So between Duolingo AND Google Translation one can read most of this.

But there are two words in this text that have appeared in Duolingo but have a very different meaning here. Here’s one in context.

Cuenta también con menú del día casero durante toda la semana. It also has a homemade menu of the day throughout the week.

Now cuenta is very important restaurant word (the check, as in la cuenta, por favor) but if you line words up with the Google translation you’ll see it corresponds to “it has” (también is the also so ignore it). But “it has” is very common and would be learned in baby Spanish as tiene (this is the third person singular conjugation of tener (to have) AND subject pronouns (it) are usually omitted in Spanish because they can be deduced from the conjugation (yes, this is all in beginner Spanish). But this didn’t make any sense to me (I guess I’ve learned something). If you look up cuenta in dictionaries you just get ‘bill’ but if you’ve been around the block a bit in Spanish you’ll notice this is a “stem changing” conjugation of an irregular verb, which I eventually guessed was costar which means “to cost” which still doesn’t make any sense.

So now another thing you might learn in classes, sometimes Spanish uses several words to mean something, like a veces (sometimes), a lo mejor (maybe), querer decir (to mean, weird since it is literal, to want to say). Or what came to mind for me is intentar is the infinitive for to try, but tratar de is also to try and that de is critical because tratar alone means to treat.

So an eureka moment, maybe costar and con together mean something else, and, behold, it does mean to count on, to expect, to anticipate. SO, wow, using my nearly two years of Spanish and so lookup try putting “also count on” into the Google translate instead of “it also has”. Makes a bit better sense, eh! So here’s at least one case I could not have improved the Google Translation (or even understood what was meant) without my study – hurrah, but to get one sentence in 638 days of work, pretty low yield.

And one I can’t figure out (possibly need to be B1/2 level)

Si quieres que lo hagamos nosotros, por favor, If you want us to do it, please,

I was surprised to see I’ve had this word in Duolingo since I don’t know what it is. Well, this is a bit on me. Often Duo will only introduce a conjugated form in its drills, in this case, I would have seen haz and haga in the exercises. These come from the verb hacer (highly irregular, to do it, to make it): haz is the “command” (imperative mood in Spanish) for the informal you (), IOW, what you’d say to your kid (or spouse) DOIT!, haga is a bit more complicated, because it is: 1) DOIT to a formal/polite you (usted), like a waiter, but it’s also a conjugation of present tense in subjunctive mood (definitely well beyond beginner, no direct equivalent in English). Anyway, in the structure of my XML vocabulary so a verb, mood, tense word is introduced in Duolingo I put in the whole thing (in my notation that gets parsed into XML)

HACER (-, haz, haga, hagamos, haced, hagan) to do, to make (imperative)

Amusing Spanish has no word to tell yourself to DOIT, I wonder why, so that’s why I have -, where the yo conjugate should go). I had forgotten this since Duo has never used the nosotros conjugation in imperative, but my file is more complete. And sure enough Google translated it to DOIT, but it’s not the imperative DOIT, it’s the subjunctive one which is used in situations that may or may not happen, so when GT saw the si (if, and, not , yes) that triggered it to make this be subjunctive.

OK, that’s as far as I got, the total sentence, still doesn’t make sense to me, given it followed a fairly clear sentence.

 

Now as a side thing there is a “scam” (I believe a fair term) online to Learn 100 words in Spanish and you’ll know 80% of Spanish writings. Like English, or probably any language, a lot of small words get used a lot but actually carry little meaning in and of themselves (they may be critical in sentence construction). So here are the most common words (where I group some together, not because they’re the same (like el/la) but they have a similar role in prose.

de (8) del (3) 11
y (8) o (3) 11
en (3) por (1) para (1) con (3) sin (1) 9
la (2) los (3) 5
un (1) una (3) 4
lo (3) 3
que 3

The total number of words in this descriptive text (remember there are 84 unique words) is 129, but the simple words above are about half (65) but it is the less common words that really make the sense in this prose description of this restaurant.

Well, whew, this is even long for me! I can’t imagine anyone reading all this, but perhaps I will in a few years (especially if I have learned Spanish better and want to see my struggles) but it might give some hint of what one does need to know to interpret a menu (or just description of the restaurant).

 

Back to Menus in Spain, Ponferrada (Interlude)

Before I continue with the other subparts of the Aroi Hotel’s two restaurants (see previous posts) I want to do an interlude of an amusing side story. I was trying to determine if the Mesón la Taberna that I found earlier was really the correct one since Google Maps calls it Meson Cerveceria La Taberna and that’s the photo I showed in a previous post. But why would the Hotel’s homepage refer to it by one and Google another if it’s really the same thing?

So, after reading the description from Hotel Aroi’s homepage I did some virtual roaming around the Hotel Aroi Bierzo Plaza (in Plaza Ayuntamiento). You can search for this in maps.google.com, possibly appending Ponferrada (my browser remembers this as qualifier). I recommend this because it is interesting. The hotel is located on a larger plaza, Plaza del Ayuntamiento and Google has 360° views and street views right in front of La Violeta (and/or the hotel itself). Note that Meson Cerveceria La Taberna (Google doesn’t do the accents right) behind La Violeta (my clipping doesn’t show the hotel but it’s just to the left of La Violeta

 

You can get to a Google Streetview directly in front of La Violeta. If you walk (virtual) a bit, to the right (or just look on the map view), you will see a restaurant El King Kong (not King Kebab, also in this plaza).

 

 

 

 

The reason this caught my attention is that here in Omaha we have a local fast food chain (been here since I was long ago in high school) and I wondered, really!, they have a franchise in Ponferrada Spain! So I had to take a look, via this link (or click on the Google map). The link I provided gets to the entire menu on one page with tabs along the top to just look at each section. Clicking on the menu icon on the Google map, brings up, in Google Maps, information about this restaurant and also photos.

This photo immediately told me this is not the King Kong’s from Omaha. Looking at the pictures I saw it was a fairly “classic” Mexican restaurant. So, given Spanish people don’t much like spicy (hot) food, I wondered how this transplanted restaurant would match Mexican restaurants elsewhere.

Now while I’ve only been in a tiny bit of Mexico once (and didn’t eat). Mexican restaurants are the most popular “ethnic” restaurants in the USA. AND, in many cases, especially in California and Texas, they aren’t “fake” transplants (those do exist, e.g. Taco Bell) but the Latino population is large enough now in US there are totally real Mexican (although primarily northern Mexican) in the USA, especially in some place like San Antonio (not those for tourists on the River Walk or even the Mercado, but more hidden and treasured by locals).

The midwestern part of the USA also has a large Mexican origin population, including here in Omaha where there are some “real” restaurants targeted at Latinos (also a few great mercados where you can find ingredients you’d never find elsewhere). But again the connection to me is that our favorite restaurant, in fact the only one we’ll risk going to during COVID is Plaza Azteca in Atlantic Iowa (sure, you’d expect to find one there). We’ve eaten Mexican all over the US and Plaza Azteca is hands-down the best. BTW, “Mexican” food is complex because there are all sorts of regional influences, so most of what you find in the US is largely the Tex-Mex variety, plus the interesting offshoot of that in New Mexico. Recall that Texas (where I was born) was part of Mexico for a long time, so actually, other than a few more recent additions, Tex-Mex is not so derivative, it is the regional food of northern Mexico and southern US.

So after looking at the decorations and the photos of food to see how “authentic” I thought King Kong is, given my claim that USA has numerous “authentic” Mexican restaurants, well, at least it is a good imitation. Without actually tasting the food I can’t tell and in some photos it’s certainly not items I’ve ever seen (for instance, they make their quesadillas like a hamburger with two tortillas, instead of folded over as would be usually done here, the guac looks a little dicey too; and the margarita is way too tiny). And their decoration only favors the Day of the Dead which is not that common in restaurants here.

But then I took a look at the menu and a few things seemed strange. Under Entrantes they had SuperMachos? Come on, really, you can’t spell that right! But then I noticed other odd spelling and detected a pattern and then realized they were having fun with word play or puns.

Chimpanchile? Guacamono? And that’s the one that woke me up, in my Spanish lessons, well, mono is monkey. And then you see the theme – Chimpxxxx. In the burritos section of the menu they have Donkey Kong, which I assumed they picked because someone there was old enough to remember the video game. And they watch US movies to have a taco Puerco Kill Bill. And back to the primate theme Orangutacos. I’m missing the joke on Gilitaco de Gilipollo (Gila Monster?). There are a couple of others that I think are word play, but I don’t get them, maybe you can.

Now under quesadillas seeing nopales was unexpected (I have seen photos of cactus in Spain, but never seen it on any menu); and I’ve never seen jalpaños on any Spanish menu, but cuitlacoche (spelled in an H in Mexico) really blew me away; they call it hongo del maíz, which is technically correct, but it makes more sense as ‘corn smut’ (which I’ve actually seen in cornfields around here as it is fairly rare). And in their list of beers they do manage to get some Mexican ones in there. It’s funny they show items with jalapeños with the hot chili symbol as that is only beginning to be hot here, but at least their additional salsas make it up to four chilis since it’s using habernos.

It’s also amusing that their menu is almost entirely in Spanish, whereas the same menu in USA would be in English but with the Spanish words as needed, which is the one reason that without really knowing it many people in USA know more Spanish than they think they do. And so I learned totopos fritos which didn’t entirely look like real word, but sure enough it would just be ‘chips’ here (both fried and corn would be assumed).

So this was a fun digression to discover this, and, frankly, if I were walking around this plaza, comparing restaurants, I suspect I’d eat here instead of the bolitto cocido (now that I’ve learned what it is, another subpart I’ve added to this post series).

In general I had the view that Spain had little interest in Mexican food but the photos did look like locals rather than tourists. However, the band, sad – I guess they can’t find the costumes for Mariachis.

So now I’ll get back to my sequence on Hotel Aroi, finish Mesón La Taberna and then cover La Violeta, but, guess what, in exploring those I find yet another diversion, so just a teaser for the next posts.

Back to Menus in Spain, Part 2B (Ponferrada, gastronomía berciana)

In the previous subpart I included a photo of a restaurant that was mentioned by Trip Advisor and now we’ll look at it a bit. The Trip Advisor page for the restaurant has a website link that is actually for a hotel that then mentions two restaurants connected to the hotel. Studying this led to a discovery of an even broader culinary topic that is connected to Ponferrada.

The two restaurants, RESTAURANTE LA VIOLETA and MESÓN LA TABERNA, have a single paragraph on the home page and then a MÁS INFO link. So I’ll start with MESÓN LA TABERNA, analyzing the paragraph from the home page and then a few paragraphs from MÁS INFO page. I couldn’t find any human English translation so I’ll do, as usual, side-by-side Spanish and Google translation to English, which I’ll correct a bit.

Now the point is, this is just text, nothing from the menu. Well, as one of the few places in Ponferrada with a website at all then I might try to use my newly learned Spanish to read this material and decide if I want to dine at either of these, perhaps also judging from the user contributed photos at the Trip Advisor site.

So how well would I do. Below is the paragraph on the main page. The words that are embolded are words I have not learned after 102 lessons in Duolingo. I’ll elaborate more about all the text associated with this restaurant in the next sub-part as it turned out just looking at a two words led to a lot of discoveries about food in Ponferrada.

MESÓN LA TABERNA MESÓN LA TABERNA
Antigua bodega de piedra y madera rehabilitada. Cocina casera tradicional berciana, elaborada con los mejores productos de temporada que ofrece nuestra tierra. Disponemos de Botillo completo todos los días del año sin necesidad de encargo y de una amplia variedad de tapas y raciones de elaboración tradicional. Cuenta también con menú del día casero durante toda la semana. Old restored stone and wood cellar. Traditional home cooking from Bercia, made with the best seasonal products that our land offers. We have a complete Botillo every day of the year without the need for an order and a wide variety of tapas and traditionally made portions. It also has a homemade menu of the day throughout the week.

First, amusingly Google didn’t translate the name of this place: MESÓN LA TABERNA at all. Now while I haven’t had taberna in any of my Spanish lessons I’d encountered it before in studying menus so didn’t have to look up that it is the, fairly obvious (i.e. cognate), ‘tavern’ or just ‘bar/pub’. Gosh, one would think Google would know that (and in does when not all CAPS and inside some prose). One tiny bit of my Spanish learning is that I correctly guessed that is feminine noun, even without depending on the obvious la in the name.

But mesón confused me (and also MSWord, where I’m using the Spanish spellchecker which decided this was misspelled and changed it to meson). Was it something like French maison which is a favorite (and often pretentious) part of a restaurant name? Well, kinda. spanishdict.com just defines it as: inn, tavern, bar, which kinda then means the literal translation would be “tavern the tavern” or “inn the tavern”. So I just double-checked in the Oxford translation dictionary would then said ” old-style bar/restaurant” as well as saying that tavern was a archaic use of the term. Interesting. Meanwhile back at spanishdict.com I noticed the “sense” (aka context) for a particular translation is ” old-fashioned” and “rural restaurant”.

Added: I later discovered GT doesn’t translate since it’s all CAPS and in lowercase it comes up with “inn the tavern”, as I figured out on my own, above. I also had second thoughts whether the picture I posted in the previous part, which I found via Google Maps is really the right place. Note that on the picture it also says Cervecería although it’s not clear that is part of the name (a cervecería is a beer oriented bar, aka, beerhall). Study of the map, however, shows this place behind the hotel and the LA VIOLETA in front of it, so hard to say.

Now only a fussbudget would waste 10 minutes and two paragraphs on this, trying to translate something Google couldn’t, but as usual, I learned something. Maybe you did too. IOW, I’m sum it up as saying they’re trying to position their taberna a bit more high end than the usual tavern by adding mesón to it. And looking at the photos I’d agree, it looks like a cool place and better than your run-of-the-mill bar, in Spain, that does have some food.

So let’s get on with and look at the text. But I’m going to analyze this from the POV of what could I read, after 638 days of learning Spanish. As my regular readers know I also spent my professional life in various jobs of creating software, so now I just do a bit of programming for fun, or some little thing I need. So I had developed a simple lexer (extract all the words in some text, a bit trickier than it sounds) and then a drill tool with an XML vocabulary I create from extracting vocabulary in my Duolingo lessons, which, therefore, can also compare a lexicon to see what is missing. So this means I have this:

Now the first bit of this I want to explain, two words Google couldn’t translate and are hard to find in dictionaries, is Bercia (also berciana) and Botillo. The full text is the in next part and the cyan was my coloring scheme for unknown words.

I immediately thought bolillo was a misspelling as my lessons have had la botella (which more than once I’ve misspelled as el botello). Now sometimes in Spanish a word can be both genders (not the same as neuter in other languages), e.g. turista or dentista or principiante but other times the last letter changes, e.g. el gato or la gata., el maestro or la maestra. IOW, is botillo something related to botella? Well, just barely. Google can’t translate this, but spanishdict.com says “A small wine-bag, a leather bottle” and but Oxford and the DLE (official regulated dictionary of Spanish) have no clue.

But it turns out, and this has often been the fun thing to figure out analyzing menus, botillo is actually a food item, ” a dish of meat-stuffed pork intestine” that is also a specialty of El Bierzo, a county in the Spanish province of León. So while there must be some connection to a wine bag (more likely bota as backpackers would know) the real definition is, as with other menus I blogged, a totally regional reference (possibly not even well known in other parts of Spain, but I doubt my Spanish teacher would know.

Now I actually just fooled myself which led to another mystery. When I saw El Bierzo my mind thought this was the other untranslated word, Bercia. But, alas while I was trying to get a link for you I couldn’t find it (but kept getting hits on Bierzo) so there is a connection. And here it is, after more research, “Bercian is the generic name of the linguistic varieties spoken in El Bierzo region, in the province of León, Spain.” And guess what, Ponferrada is capital. And, while I’ve never had it in Spanish classes, usually something like berciana is just a resident of this area (or possibly member of this ethnic group).

 

So there is quite a bit of research just to cover two words that I’ve neither learned in studying Spanish or that I can figure out, just from Google translation or dictionaries. AND, I’ve found this over and over again in Spain, some term that is some kind of regional reference that then implies certain culinary dishes. IOW, there is nothing to “translate” so it does raise the challenge of what to put into an app to aid people looking at menus.

 

p.s. I just discovered I insulted Google Translation a bit. Here’s the relevant bit:

Cocina casera tradicional berciana,. Traditional home cooking from Bercia,

 

so, a-ha, Bercia never appeared in the Spanish text, but Google figured out that berciana should be “from Bercia”, clever Google. Now I discovered that while spanishdict.com didn’t know this at all, Oxford dictionary has these definitions: Adjective “Relativo a El Bierzo, comarca de la provincia española de León, o a sus habitantes.” (Relating to El Bierzo, a region of the Spanish province of León, or its inhabitants.) or Noun “[persona] Que es de El Bierzo.” ([person] Who is from El Bierzo.) It’s amazing what one finds if we keep digging.

 

Now if you want to learn more about la gastronomía berciana, you can try this link but you’ll have to figure out the Spanish yourself (and there will be a quiz)

https://www.ponferrada.org/turismo/es/gastronomia

And just for more fun here’s the official website for Botillo, including recetas – enjoy

https://botillodelbierzo.es/

 

Back to Menus in Spain, Part 2A (Ponferrada)

To restart my search for menus in Spanish and studying them I started in Ponferrada just coincidentally. In all my previous work on this project the larger cities, often also the ones popular with tourists, have the most raw material, but several towns along the Camino are more interesting, i.e. Logroño and now Ponferrada.

I recently happened to see another story about the Camino and also about Ponferrada and that rekindled my interest. I did some quick searching and it seemed like Ponferrada would have interesting material. Many of the people who do the Camino for the tourism value, not the original religious pilgrimage, start in Ponferrada, often in escorted tours, and just do the last 206kms. Frankly, from my virtual tour this makes sense to me because: a) it’s really the prettiest part (much of Camino would be like walking the Cowboy Trail in western Nebraska, dry, hot, boring, treeless and brown), and, b) it’s much greener and then mostly into Galicia which has the best food since Navara (and even there the Camino Frances doesn’t hit the Basque Country culinary hotspots).

So I did the usual thing, an initial Google search which either yields direct results or a link to Trip Advisor which has been a reliable guide (even if I don’t buy their ratings) to all/most of the restaurants in a given area. I could use this as starting point to then find websites for some of the listed restaurants, or as I’ll do in this series of posts, just some photos (either on Trip Advisor or back on Google Maps) to get raw material.

Now, the “top” (as rated per Trip Advisor) restaurants in Ponferrada are not particular Spanish and I’ve found this to be in other cities in Spain. Usually European, even “Italian” oriented restaurants get the highest ratings, also often with the highest prices, which probably just indicates a bias from tourist reviews instead of locals. And frankly, the highly touted tourist places don’t interest me (either for this project or to actually visit) since I can find equally good restaurants closer to home. If I’m in Spain, I want a Spain culinary experience. Perhaps I’m a bit more confident about that as I could struggle through ordering and eating with my newly learned Spanish, but really it’s just closer to the original point of this project.

So, after my usual excessively long preface, I looked at Trip Advisor’s top 30 restaurants and, disappointingly, found few online menus, in fact, only one as a document (a few others as photos). But one restaurant did have an appealing website even without a menu AND it triggered an idea.

 

After doing some of what I intended in this post it was getting long (big surprise) I’ve decided to split discussion of the first restaurant I’m looking at in Ponferrada into three sub-parts. In the second sub-part I’ll discuss a couple of words from one restaurant that Google didn’t know and do have any real translation. Then I’ll cover the rest of the language about that restaurant in the third part, and who knows I may have to split that because there are two restaurants at the same website.

 

Also I know I wander a lot in these posts but that’s actually what I find interesting. Little did I know when I started this I’d end up looking at la gastronomía berciana and Botillo del Bierzo (check out part 2B).

 

Normally I have a rule not to use someone else’s picture from the web, but a free picture from a guest on a free website that support the restaurant I’ll be talking about in the next part, here goes:

 

Back to Menus in Spain, Part 1 (Ponferrada)

This is another post of how I keep switching my focus from the original intent of this blog (which documents a project I’m doing) and I’m coming full circle back to my original studies.

638 days ago I switched my focus on studying menus in Spain to actually learning Spanish. Many people said: a) I couldn’t read menus without knowing Spanish, and, b) knowing Spanish means I could read menus. After 43 months on this project I’m prepared to conclude: a) one can read menus just fine with only rudimentary Spanish, a good dictionary, Google Translate and searches for hard to find difficult terms, and, b) knowing Spanish, at least through all the learning techniques I’ve tried does relatively little in helping to read menus (and for that matter, in discussing them with the camarero unless you get a lot better at the speaking part of a new language than I have).

In the 638 days learning Spanish, despite my conclusion it isn’t much help in reading menus, I’ve tried many different ways to learn. My primary work (at least an hour a day average) is Duolingo (which is actually fairly similar to other online learning tools, I’ve sampled most of those) and I’ve now completed all of the drills (L5) in about 2/3rds of the lessons (aka skills) for something in excess of 100,000 individual drills!

Meanwhile many advocate doing reading instead and so I have numerous books (or online stories I’ve found) where I’ve tried both “intensive” and “extensive” reading (not worth explaining). Later I found lots of online listening exercises including a couple of great podcasts and several great YouTube tutoring exercises. And I finally I’ve now finished Spanish 1 (somewhere between CERF A1 and A2) with 30 2-hour live sessions (in Zoom mostly with a native Spanish speaking tutor).

In short, about the only thing more I could do is pack and move to Spain, to some small town, where no ones knows any English and I’d have to speak/understand Spanish exclusively. So, IOW, my efforts are certainly equivalent to at least one high school year of Spanish, maybe a bit more. And, this is not a lot of help reading menus.

And since the teacher for my live classes was in Mexico and providing a lot of Mexican life (not just Spanish) including food and dining I began to get more interested in menus in Mexico. I like (and know from US experience) Mexican food better than Spanish, but I did acquire multiple Spain cookbooks (as well as two extensive cooking/recipe online sites) and even growing Padrón peppers in our garden and learning to prepare them as in a common appetizer in Spain. So I started to look at menus in Mexico, but: a) fewer restaurants (at least Mexican food) have online menus to study, and, b) so many of the terms on menus are either native language (or derivatives) and thus not in any Spanish dictionary, including the official one, and/or the terms are just very unique to Mexico and might not even apply to other Spanish speaking countries, say Colombia, where I’ve also been studying an excellent cooking and recipe site.

And, for some other post in detail, but a brief mention here, I’ve gotten very burned out on all this study, plus I beat myself up for all the mistakes I continue to make (of things I’ve “learned” but still often get wrong). It’s frustrating to me that for something half a billion people easily do I struggle. I admit to having zero talent for languages, plus I can fall back of the being old (actually really old for this point) and that learning a new language is easier for the young.

But the key point is that it’s not much fun anymore. And, in comparison, I didn’t get tired of reading menus. All this Spanish study consumes almost all the energy I have and therefore I’ve essentially stopped working on my original project, i.e. building a software tool to “translate” menus in Spain, which I’ve also learned can’t really be done, since it’s not just words (to English words, even counting grammar and structure), but you have to include Spanish cuisine as well to understand a menu since many dishes have no English (at least USA) counterpart.

BUT, I remain undaunted on trying anyway.

So for all these reasons I’m back to studying menus in Spain and thinking about how to create my corpus to feed my specialized translation tool I still hope to create.
So with all this as background I’m going to do a series of posts as elaboration of the background material, starting with some menus in Ponferrada Spain, an interesting city along the Camino de Santiago. I hope, Dear Reader, you’ll could along for the ride for perhaps more interesting material than this preface.

Cooking Verbs in Action

I’ve previously written posts about my ongoing effort to get a complete list of Spanish verbs (see tab above) used in cooking, but here I’ll describe a great way to see some verbs in action. As part of my effort to actually learn Spanish I constantly look for new resources and I found a really delightful one, a YouTube channel, Why Not Spanish. It’s a great way to practice escuchando with a very entertaining couple.

But in particular there is one video that applies to cooking verbs.

Gringo Makes Empanadas For The First Time!

where María (a Spanish teacher and native of Colombia) is helping her husband Cody (Spanish learner from USA) to make empanadas. The video is better than any post I can write about it so I’ll just list a few things I extracted from the video.

Also, this video triggered me to make some more searches and so I found a wonderful receta/cocinar site, Mis Recetas Colombianas that has an almost identical recipe Empanadas Colombianas  to the one in the video (and in English) with a lot more detail and some good vocabulary to learn.

So first is a list of the verbs shown on flashcards in the video with what they say is the English, what Google Translate says and SpanishDict says. These are very common cooking verbs that are very good to know (unlike some of the most obscure verbs on my list).

from YouTube shown on the screen as flashcards from YouTube shown on screen GT SD (primary)
agregar to add add to add
añadir to add add to add
calentar to heat warm to heat
cocinar to cook cook to cook
colocar to put place to place
cubrir to cover cover to cover
dejarla reposar to let ___ rest let it rest to leave ..… to rest
doblar to fold bend to fold, to turn
escurrir to drain drain to drain
formar to shape form to form
freír to fry fry to fry
mezclar to mix mix to mix
picar to chop chop to sting, to itch
under (to divide into pieces) chop, mince, cut
revolver to stir stir to stir
romper to break break to break
sellar to seal seal to stamp
triturar to mash crush to grind

Second, if you listen the video closely you will also hear other verbs being used in this cooking lesson they didn’t make flashcards, but I’ve included for a bit of completeness. Recall (in previous posts) that the infinitive for a verb gets conjugated in actual prose BUT also there are other derivatives, commonly the first person singular present conjugation is also a noun and sometimes an adjective, so, por ejemplo, molida (modifies noun carne so is the feminine of the adjective molido, so ground meat) which is the past participle of the verb moler (to grind).

in audio of the video SD
acompañar to go with, to accompany
amasar to knead, to amass
aplastar to crush (squash)
dorar to brown
faltar to miss, to be missing
llenar to fill
molida (moler) to grind, to mill
oler to smell
retirar to remove

And this is an interesting phrase used in the video

sí manos a la obra let’s get to work

They also show the various ingredients used (image and its English and Spanish name) and I’ve just re-arranged their list a bit and also merged with the recipe website.

para la masa: for the dough
·                     el maíz precocido ·                     a masa flour ( from hominy nixtamal)
·                     el agua ·                     water
·                     el aceite vegetal ·                     vegetable oil
·                     el sazón (con Culantro y Achiote) ·                     seasoning mix
·                     la sal ·                     salt
para le relleno: for the filling
·                     las papas ·                     potatoes
·                     pastilla del caldo de pollo ·                     a tablet of chicken stock
·                     el aceite de oliva, ·                     olive oil
·                     la cebolla blanca ·                     white onion
·                     el tomate ·                     tomato
·                     la sal ·                     sal
·                     la cebolla larga ·                     scallions, aka green onion
para el resto: for the rest (a quiz in the video)
·                     el ajo ·                     garlic
·                     el cilantro fresco ·                     fresh cilantro
·                     el pimentón rojo ·                     red (bell) pepper
·                     la pimienta negra ·                     ground black pepper
·                     la carne molida ·            ground meat