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.

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, 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 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:

 

Nuevas aventuras en español

Perhaps the old, “seek and ye shall find” applies for this post. Two days ago I complained how my routines for learning Spanish (most of what I do during my day, being retired and now stuck indoors due to COVID) was getting tiring. Well, I just got a new burst of energy. Sometimes to supplement class type study I just watch the many Spanish language TV channels on my cable subscription or try to find Spanish TV shows or movies I can follow. As is well known the speech is way too fast for me to keep up, but I do hear/understand some of the words; some people claim just continuing to do this will eventually produce comprehension. Well, maybe, but while listening might train me to hear the sounds of the language better I doubt I’m going to guess the meanings of words and plain old-fashioned cram vocabulary is required.

Also, I’ve never been a big fan of YouTube, not necessarily due to any specific content, but the whole idea. Unfiltered stuff can go there and get huge audiences, so all sorts of misinformation is rampant, esp. climate change denialism and anti-vax (and generally anti-science), and of course a huge dose of truly horrible political propaganda. Not my favorite source of information.

But when it comes to Spanish it is a rich resource. I’d done some exploring before, looking for some material, mostly course material which is usually pretty dull and dry and I have a hard time paying attention, plus it’s like some meals one eats, an hour later you’re hungry again. And since most of the content is aimed at beginnings, I get a lot of repetition of stuff I already know and then when I do find something new I rarely retain any of it. I think it’s partly I’m just used to TV as idle time entertainment, not learning, so the material is in one ear and out the other with nothing sticking.

Well, that’s a long windup to get to my point, so ya basta.

Somehow, while doing some searches I stumbled on my first find, the YouTube channel, Why Not Spanish. There are a ton of episodes and the hosts, Cody and María are a delight. The balance of María as a native speaker and then Cody as a second language speaker still learning is a great format for entertaining and informative lessons. And I get the extra kick that my 600 days of less fun type of study is paying off because I can understand most of what they’re saying (of course, as a teaching video they make that a bit easier than just a TV program with native speaker).

Once I got into the part of YouTube with this kind of content Google’s suggestions (right hand side of web pages) revealed other channels, some also interesting and helpful (so many I haven’t sampled them all yet), but then I found another delight, Butterfly Spanish. Ana, the host/teacher delivers a real punch and is quite fun to watch as well as doing a great job of organizing and presenting the material. Connected to the subject of my blog you might sample Vegetables in Spanish, or Learn to Order Food in Spanish, or How to order food in Spanish, Learn how to talk about eating in Spanish, and covering some of the material I’ve presented What’s the difference between Spanish in Mexico, Latin America, and Spain?

Ana reminds me a bit, in personality and method of teaching, to my current teacher, Erika. Both discuss subjects in English, but insert lots of Spanish (often then repeating in English). So in addition to whether the lesson is the student gets a lot more practice hearing. Interesting I find hearing both Spanish and English intermixed in a conversation is very helpful to me. But also, with both people I encounter via video (our teacher is using Zoom from Cuernavaca) the incredible enthusiasm, energy and friendliness is a huge incentive to learn Spanish and go meet people like this in real life.

So just after admitting to some learning fatigue I have a new burst of energy, thanks to these people (and others I’ve discovered or am still exploring).

Spanish Study Fatigue

When I started this blog to study and analyze menus in Spanish I had no “required” activity; I could pick and chose what I’d look into and when. Then I decided to actually try to learn Spanish. It’s been fun but now it’s become a chore.

See I don’t really have any knack for languages. I can manipulate symbols, find patterns in raw data, analyze and comment on findings – that’s easy. But none of that requires actually committing anything to long-term memory.

OTOH, learning a language means practice, practice, practice. And more practice. If you stop for a while you start forgetting what you learned. Use it or lose it – progress is easily lost if you don’t constantly refresh your memory.

Now learning your first and initially only language is easy. What else do you have to do. Every waking hour you’re exposing the that language, listening, even if purely passive in the hearing range of some conversation (as a baby would), reading (what else could you read except that language), writing and speaking. But when it comes to a second language, especially one you don’t actually ever need during your waking hours, except in the context of study, you don’t get that constant repetition.

And here’s a tough thing. When you start learning a language and don’t know anything, it’s actually pretty easy. Most of the online learning systems depend on this, starting from scratch in a few weeks you think you know something.

But here’s the bad news. Even you learn faster than I do you’re looking at years before you even approach fluency. And worse, the more you learn, the more you forget. You learn a lot of words and some prose constructs you rarely use, a variant of the 80-20 rule. IOW, 20% of the language you use 80% of the time. I can’t even do anything without seeing y or el or para, so naturally that’s easy. But how often do I use pasillo or pizarra or patines.  Even if you only look at menus or recetas, how often do you see berza, cebollino or remolacha

If you don’t repeat what you’ve learned you will forget. I use two primary techniques to learn Spanish – Duolingo (self-study, online) and now my live class. I’ve done Duolingo for almost 600 days, faithfully every day, through now 98 of the lessons. I’ve done nearly 90,000 individual drills and have accumulated at least 5000 word forms. My real classes are now nearly 50 hours of immersion (Spanish only conversation and lessons).

I’m quite pleased with the progress I’ve made, given three times before I failed to make any headway at all trying to learn Spanish. But now it’s becoming an ordeal. It’s not just my age, as it is commonly believed that learning another language is harder as one ages and much harder in one’s twilight years, but I got nowhere with this language, that half a billion people can easily speak fluently, even when I was younger.

So, of recent I’ve gotten a bit tired of my routine I’d developed over 1.5 years and began to try other things. Also I decided to focus more on learning new material than repeating old material.

What are the consequences?

My error rate has skyrocketed. Constructs that were once easy and I now miss in stupid ways. It is inevitable that repetition, given the same amount of study time per day, is going to decrease. If you’ve done ten lessons and you do 5 lessons per day, half new material, half repetition, it will only take you four days to repeat all previous drills. But push that to 100 lessons and more than half the study time to newer material now the average duration (I keep tons of records to analyze) between repeating a lesson is now over 15 days. And that, being a statistic means a classic Gaussian (bell curve) distribution which means some lessons are repeated every 30 days and some others every day or so. In fact, the program I wrote for myself to schedule what lessons I should do now has a bias to almost force me to repeat lessons I haven’t done for 30+ days. That bias is now slowing down my time devoted to lessons in new material.

And I’m only 61.6% done with Duolingo lessons, about 40% done with vocabulary from various “stories” I used for reading practice and only about 20% done with the vocabulary at least mentioned once (that I can record) in my immersion lessons. Despite working really hard it feels like I’m just falling further and further behing.

And then every now and then I go try to read online real-world stuff (not the graded materials for learning, like CERF A2 stories which is about where I’m at). Discouraging. As much as I feel I’ve learned trying to deal with real world Spanish makes me feel like I’m a baby, hardly able to communicate at all.

But, and the point of this post, is the more I learn, the more I forget, plus the more I realize I need to learn. Almost every day, certainly every week I learn something (not just more words) that I hadn’t seen before, so, por ejemple, now I just learned what se vende queso really means, i.e. using the passive instead of active voice (I’d muddled through this before, catching most of the meaning (simple) but not the actual phrasing).

So now, every day I feel like doing something else than just drills, I end up feeling guilty. If I don’t do drills there another something I’ll forget. Go a week without drills and my error rate (which I record and analyze diligently) noticeably increases. And that’s on top of the fact that many mistakes I made months ago I make again today. Try as I can and the usual difficulties, ser vs estar, preterite vs imperfect, por vs para, I still make almost as many mistakes as I did when I first learned about these things.

I feel like if COVID weren’t stopped me, now if I went on a vacation I’d forget everything I’ve learned.

So this is turning out a bit like my exercise routine. Almost every day I do miles on my stationary bike and my treadmill. If I skip one day, it’s fine because I’ll actually have rested a bit and the next day doing exercise is easier. But skip a couple of days and then it’s hard to do the same workouts I routinely did. And try as I do to avoid the ravages of age, my obsession with record keeping and programs shows my steady decline even when I manage to keep it up.

So when I realize how much more I have to learn losing any progress I’ve made feels awful. And that makes me a slave to all this. Simply put: a) the language learning isn’t fun any more, and, b) I’m not even doing the things I originally wanted to do, i.e. reading menus and recipes. Just trudging along every day.

And, por cierto, I’m retired and don’t even have the time conflicts of work, plus now stuck at home due to COVID, even much of any other activity to do. I clearly have the time but now I’m really losing the motivation.

So I really hope the COVID thing gets over (as almost every other person does) so I can have a goal. If I were headed to Spain next April or even Oaxaca in December there is a reason I need to be able to have some Spanish fluency. Sheesh, even something locally available, shopping in the Latino grocery stores, would be an incentive, but unfortunately the highest local infection rate is in that part of the state. I’ve love to ask a grocery what the difference is between jitomate and tomate (not just one is used in Latin America and the other in Spain).

I started all this because I had extra time and I had just doing nothing as all my life I’ve worked hard on projects. It was fun, now, I’m not so sure.

Does learning Spanish help to read menus?

I suppose the short answer is obviously yes, but a more complex answer is “not very much”. It is also tied to how one “learns Spanish”. Most any form of Spanish instruction is oriented to a broad brush of the language, mostly focused on conversational forms and vocabulary. That could be handy in dining conversation but not so much for reading menus.

I used a variety of learning methods: 1) mostly Duolingo, which seems roughly equivalent to most online courses, 2) more recently actual teacher course that quickly became virtual due to COVID, but is interactive and responsive to individual student needs, 3) reading, although mostly the typical books for beginners and students, so little emphasis on food or dining, and, 4) listening, a variety of sources, Netflix Spanish language movies, Spanish language TV and Spanish language podcasts – this is a helpful adjunct to the other methods, but I have yet to find a Spanish language cooking show.

So in all these methods only a small fraction of the learning time is focused on food. Sometimes the lessons on shopping contain as many food nouns and the lessons on dining.

So as the only real quantitative data I can provide from 89 lessons (about 60%) of Duolingo in 502 days I have 202 terms (nouns, verbs, adjectives) directly or at least related to dining. Of those, and just masculine singular version of nouns, I have 124 (only 87 of which I’ve seen on menus) which I’ll list here:


aceite, agua, alcohol, almuerzo, arroz, azúcar, banana, bar, bebida, boca, bosque, botella, brazo, cabeza, café, cafetería, camarero, campo, carne, carta, casa, cebolla, cena, cerdo, cereal, cerveza, champán, champiñón, chef, chocolate, chorizo, cliente, cocina, comida, conejo, copa, corazón, cuchara, cuchillo, cuello, cuenta, cuerpo, dedo, desayuno, dulce, ensalada, espalda, estómago, frijol, fruta, fuego, galleta, granja, grupo, hamburguesa, hielo, huevo, jamón, jugo, leche, limón, limonada, mango, mano, mantequilla, manzana, mar, menú, mermelada, mesa, miel, naranja, nariz, océano, ojo, oreja, oveja, pan, papa, paquete, parrilla, pasta, pastel, pato, patata, pera, pescado, pez, pie, pierna, pimiento, pizza, planta, plátano, plato, pollo, postre, precio, primavera, primero, queso, refresco, reserva, restaurante, sal, salsa, sándwich, silla, sopa, taza, tazón, té, tenedor, tinto, tomate, tostada, vaca, vaso, vegetal, vegetariano, verdura, vino, yogur

If you compare this list to my glossary you’ll see this is only a small fraction of what I’ve compiled just from the menus I’ve looked at.

So, IOW, you’re not going to learn very much of the vocabulary you’ll find on menus in a generic Spanish class. And it will be worse if you just do some quickie conversation class before going on a trip.

Now, OTOH, I have two phrasebooks (one acquired over 30 years ago) and since dining is a big part of what is covered in those guides the vocabulary from those (which I can only report anecdotally as I don’t have detailed analysis) is actually quite a bit larger than I’ve learned in 500+ days of various Spanish learning methods. So a phrasebook can be handy BUT, frankly, those also cover only a fraction of what one finds on menus.

A menu is not prose so all the grammar and verb conjugations and such are almost entirely useless for reading menus. The vocabulary used is quite extensive compared to standard classes. And, especially in Spain, many of the words on a menu aren’t even in any dictionary, so rather unlikely to have been encountered in any Spanish courses. And beyond nouns, other words in the menu entries are closely tied to unique vocabulary of cooking. And some of those words not in dictionaries are just the names of dishes or ingredients.

So, you want to learn how to read menus, here’s what I would suggest (and I’ve never seen any class or book oriented to this curriculum).

  1. read cookbooks, in Spanish, doing whatever you have to do (Google Translate, dictionary lookups, web searches for terms not in dictionaries) to “read” the material and then make your own set of flashcards of every word you think you’ll need to know.
  2. read online recetas (recipes) websites which are easier to analyze and translate and create a set of flashcards from that.
  3. search for any websites oriented to cooking, in Spanish of course, and extract what you can from those.
  4. And, guess what, do what I’ve been doing, i.e. finding menus online and analyzing them.

Now when it comes to food you definitely have to be careful to concentrate your study on the country you expect to visit and be reading menus. There is a huge diversity of food/cuisine terminology in the Western Hemisphere Spanish-speaking countries where terms have different meanings in different countries (or often are unique to just a few countries, even regions within the larger countries) and are quite different (even contradictory) to Spain.

So you’re in for a major bit of work to spend weeks in Spain, dining with only Spanish source material (menus or verbal). So the difficulty of finding what one needs means there is a big hole to fill, which can be the revised purpose of my effort here. A couple more years of studying Spanish and then doing a ton of my four steps above, and then converting all that learning into a form that can be more easily accessed for someone who is merely going to visit.

 

 

A couple of food pictures

I just felt like posting a couple of my photos. I have a ton, though only a few I’ve converted to screen saver backgrounds. And, since I’ve never been there, none from Spain (alas, when I was close, in Portugal, I didn’t have a digital camera). But pictures are pictures and these show an interesting contrast, with what I’d expect to find in Spain.

KA26

This is from an open air market (mercado) near Oaxaca Mexico. Oaxaca is a popular foodie destination and some of its charm is access to wonderful local ingredients. When I took this picture I knew no Spanish so hopefully I can do a market stroll again and have a bit of conversation.

So here’s an interesting contrast:

YY92

It’s not completely clear this is China (Beijing) but given I saw markets like this in Japan (before I had a digital camera) it’s very easy for me to tell the difference: a) no English in Japanese markets, b) no katakana or hiragana in the signage in China, just pure Kanji, and, c) just a bit more utilitarian and less luxury oriented than Japan. This is a real market, not just gifts for party hosts, as so many in Japan.

I’ve always enjoyed going to markets, mostly observing from a distance as I didn’t speak the language (even once in Germany where I was amused to see artichokes from California, given I’d come from California).

I think markets, and good in general, say a lot about a culture. While many people only encounter border and “gringo” Mexican food, wow, is this a foodie culture. And China is staggering. I once had dinner with a local who was (politely) offended by my referring to some food item as “chinese food”. He said to me, again politely, you wouldn’t call Italian and French food “European”. He had a point, cuisine in the country of China is enormously complex and has too many major variations to ever be put under a single label.

There really is no such label as “Spanish” food, which is entirely appropriate because Spain and Mexico are really different, but then Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, and more are really different. People put down TexMex or CaliMex, but after all those geographical areas were part of Mexico and its food heritage almost as long as they are part of the US.

Food is just a wonderful way to explore the world. We all have to eat, so it’s really fun to eat well. On my first European trip, a bicycle ride through Germany and Austria an Iowa couple (which has a lot of German heritage) was so excited to get to Munich and go to McDonalds. Are you kidding me? The best French Fries (amusingly often called pome frites in Germany) were fantastic!

Since I can’t go there, previously and especially now with COVID, I at least got one popular item from Galicia. My wife is an avid gardener and I only participate in that a little, but once while following her shopping for seedlings I saw Padrón Peppers. We got a couple of plants and had a substantial yield. I tried two ways to imitate preparing them as one might get in a restaurant in Santiago – fried (lots of oil) and even deep-fried (oh, yum, I sold my wife on a childhood favorite of okra and so have a good frier). Tried both crunch Kosher salt and sea salt. I get the fascination. Most of the peppers are mild, but every now and then one is hot (at least by Spain standards, still pretty tame by USA standards). We got so many from a couple of plants we kinda got sick of them by the end of the summer.

Well, anyway I digress but every now and then I’ll try to throw in some photos for a bit more visual interest than my usual long and tedious “academic” posts about Spanish food vocabulary.

Unplanned post of menu translation

Instead of my planned post I’ve digressed into analyzing the menu of restaurant in San Sebastián Spain, recommended by a loyal reader, Gandarias.

I’ve been working (offline) on a series of posts comparing my experience of now nearly 500 days of learning Spanish language with my original approach of analyzing menus from Spain and deducing menu vocabulary. My purpose has been to first find source material and translate it, create a corpus of translated material, extract from that corpus “translations” (not word-by-word, but more meaningful translations) and then create a smartphone app to contain all the deduced vocabulary and food/cooking terminology for a person trying to read menus in Spain.

I had originally planned to find source material and create a corpus without learning Spanish. I felt I could accomplish my purpose without language fluency. But somehow I got convinced to learn Spanish (I’m not good at languages so this is quite a challenge for me) and so for the past year I’ve had few posts about menus and interesting items I was finding. Just having a Spanish dictionary is not very helpful for figuring out what items on a menu happen to be.

So before posting some more on this general topic I had planned to show some menu items to just present some examples of some of the issues. I’d picked a restaurant, more or less at random, in Leon and had some examples ready to go. Instead circumstances provided me a different opportunity. While reading a post of another travel blogger about San Sebastián I decided to take a hint. While I can’t actually go to the restaurant, as recommended, I did find it had a good website that also resulted in an unexpected adventure.

On most of my previous analysis of menus I have not had a human English translation, partly because I was looking at small restaurants along the Camino de Santiago. So for my initial analysis I’m dependent on Google Translate, which often botches menus as I’ve pointed out in previous posts, plus then other investigation to figure out items.

In a few of the larger cities restaurants sometimes do have English translation and this provides some extra calibration. When one is trying to build a corpus it is inevitable some errors creep in, but the quality of the final consensus view of translating menu items is enhanced by having as much raw material as possible, so human English translations really supplement the guesses, I and Google, are making in our translations.

So Restaurante Gandarias has both Spanish and English, as well as Euskara, the Basque language given this restaurant is in the heart of Basque Country. It is also a very popular resort and thus likely to attract many clients who will appreciate the English version. And even in the Spanish menu some items still use the Euskara terms.

Now a note about “menu”. In most restaurants that’s what a diner gets, but in Spain it is common that there are designed menú, that is several courses chosen by the restaurant and combined as a single order, also as prix fixe to use the French term. The “menu” I had originally planned to use for this post is in that category. OTOH, some restaurants (and their websites) also provide a carta, which Google translates as ‘letter’ which is nominally correct and totally correct in other circumstances (ahora escribo una carta, see I’ve learned something, did that from memory) and it can also mean card, as in cartas de juego (playing cards, as opposed to tarjeta de credito for credit card; also fun when there are so many meanings for words, both to and from Spanish). But for this restaurant carta has the meaning, from the French and sometimes found in USA, a la carte. Or basically individual items ordered separately at the diner’s choice.

For the Gandarias carta it’s divided into sections: Todas (all), Ensaladas (salads), Entrantes (starters), Pascados (fish), Carnes (meat) and Postre (desert) – and yes, I’ve had all but Entrantes in my Spanish lessons. So I selected Todas (in Spanish version) and got four webpages of pictures of food with captions as to the item. Fine, I scooped up all four pages, did some fiddling to reformat and created the first column of my typical table I use for analysis. Knowing there was English I wanted to get the Google Translate first so I did that and lined up items in a second column of those (all this will be at the end of the post).

Then in what I expected would be a routine mechanical process I switched to the English version of the website.  Since Ensalada de bogavante was the first item I didn’t even need the picture to realize that Roasted baby lamb was not the same thing. A bit more poking around and I realized while it appeared the English and Spanish menu had the same items they were in totally different orders.

AH. A challenge. Now I have to take the English description of the item and find the corresponding Spanish. Now for this item,  Lettuce and onion salad I was able to pick   Ensalada de lechuga y cebolla even without looking at the Google Translate with is exactly the same, easy-peasy.

But it wasn’t all so easy; for instance Scrambled eggs with cod matches with Revuelto de bacalao, not just because one easily remembers bacalao is cod (about as common a food term as there is in Spain, even obvious from bacalhau where I actually had it multiple times in Portugal).  But also because while  Revuelto has dictionary translations: messy, upside down, mixed up, disheveled,  untidy, nauseous, cloudy, turbulent (and more), but most usefully scrambled. I have dug through enough menus in Spain to known that scrambled (and implied to be of eggs) fits, hence scrambled eggs with cod (even though huevo is missing in the Spanish). Amusingly Google doesn’t get the implied eggs and therefore thinks it’s the cod that got scrambled so it says: Scrambled cod so if you were using your phone do you think you’d order this.

Now a few stumped me a bit more than others, but like one of those games where you match up things in columns I only had a few left and thus got my clue:  Grilled magret was the human English translation. ¿Qué?  Magret stumped my usual translation sources and Google had missed it, but in a Spanish dictionary (with Spanish definitions of Spanish words, not translation) I did find:

Filete de pechuga de pato o de ganso muy utilizado en la cocina francesa.

which I can almost translate myself but here’s the GT

Duck breast or goose fillet widely used in French cuisine.

So, in other words, it isn’t a Spanish word, but the key hint (as well, a bit, the picture) is pato, so I was able to match up with Magret de pato (I never just did searches in my text, instead trying to translate myself).

So I wanted to do a couple of more to finish my point, about some challenges of translating menus (which, btw, are NOT solved by just learning to speak Spanish):

Almejas a la marinera Clams a la marinera Fisherman´s style clams

So it helps to know, a la marinera, which one would more typically associate with Italian food, is a particular style, really, just a typical tomato sauce, EXCEPT, typically in Spain and with clams it is NOT a tomato sauce – fooled yah. Yep, the human translation of Fisherman style is real helpful, might be useful in San Francisco.

Arroz con leche casero Rice with homemade Milk Rice pudding

Google is just too literal, arroz con leche is just rice pudding so the homemade (a valid translation of casero) just applies to the desert, not the milk,

Besugo a la plancha Grilled sea bream Grilled sea bream
Bogavante a la plancha Grilled lobster Fresh lobster grilled

Both of these provide a little fun as to exactly what a la plancha means. Yes, it does, more or less means, grilled, but then think about what a la parilla means (also grilled).  Usually a la plancha (literally on a plate, or in Italian, on the iron) means just cooked on a hot steel plate, cast iron pan or ‘flattop” in a diner.  a la parilla usually means a grate over some kind of open heat, either just gas or it can be wood (a la brasa). Now being fairly good with a grill myself these are quite different and I’d want to know which it really was. Which therefore brings up another point – reading a menu is not enough so being able to speak to your waiter (if knowledgeable) or even the chef may be required to really figure out if this is the dish you want. And therefore, that’s a different reason to actually learn to speak Spanish.

Chipirones a la plancha Grilled squid Grilled squids

chipirones can be interesting because it’s only one of the words for squid, but in this case it means baby (small) squid and frequently, in Spain, battered and fried squid, or as we’d order in USA as fried calamari. BUT, in this restaurant, given the picture, that’s not what this dish is.

Now: A brief side personal digression. For a couple of years I made multiple business trips to Japan. Learning Japanese was not going to happen but worst trying to learn the written is hard. My job required me to learn how Japanese is written (not the 1945 standard Kanji, just the algorithms of typography). At the time most Japanese restaurants had displays of plastic food (rarely picture menus) with little labels in Kanji. I quickly learned, while I had no clue what the Kanji meant, how to copy them into a little notebook and chose my item from the plastic food and then show the Kanji to the waiter. It worked fine and I always got what I expected. But I have no idea if the actual menu in this restaurant (unlike the website) would have the really dumbed-down version to show the pictures.

Now a few interesting ones that being fairly fluent in Spanish or knowing much about Spanish food won’t help so much, plus these stumped Google a bit.

Changurro al horno Baked Changurro Baked spider crab

You see Google didn’t know changurro. BUT, remember we’re in Basque country, so a bit more searching is that this word is really txangurro, where the tx, even just the x is a giveaway this is the Basque word and thus the Spanish spelling of it.

Kokotxas de bacalao al Pil-Pil con almejas Cod Kokotxas al Pil-Pil with clams Cod cheeks in pil-pil sauce with clams

The unusual spelling of kokotxas is another giveaway this is the Basque word, literally, cheeks, and really one needs to know this is a particular dish unique to Basque cooking to really have a clue what this means.

And

Pantxineta Pantxineta Pantxineta

I think you get this, obviously Basque, dessert where this is as good a description as any.

Rodaballo con su refrito ligado Turbot with its tied rehash Turbot with its thickened sauté

An amusing Google translation.

Tarta “Gandarias” elaborada por Rafa Gorrotxategi “Gandarias” cake made by Rafa Gorrotxategi Pastry chef Rafa Gorrotxategi´s “Gandarias” cheesecake

Totally meaningless terms, in any language. Even the generic Spanish tarta is ambivalent exactly what this might be.

Solomillo de vaca vieja con foie al Oporto Old beef sirloin with foie gras in Porto Old cow sirloin with foie in Oporto style

So here are a couple of interesting terms that just don’t translate (at least from Spanish): foie (the French word for liver, most foodies would just know this as language independent) and Oporto (second biggest city in Spain so probably most travelers would recognize it, but is it Port or OPorto (clue, in some language O is the)). And what style is that? If I was telling you about BBQ and said “Texas” style would you know that’s brisket withOUT sauce?

Tabla de ibéricos de bellota «Joselito» Table of Iberico de bellota «Joselito» Mixed iberian “Joselito”

I’ve mentioned Iberico de bellota in many posts before and if you go to Spain you’d better know what this means as you’ll pay a seriously premium price to get some slices of ham.

Personal Note: Here in flyover Nebraska there is actually a farmer who grows very similar pigs and lets them roam, yes, among oak trees and eat some acorns. AND, there is a gourmet butcher in Fort Calhoun, CURE (just there yesterday) who makes very similar (air dried, no smoke or salt) hams from those pigs, and, yes for a really serious price. I may never had had Spanish Lomo but it’s delicious from CURE.

Callos calluses Tripes

I had to include this one because, well, one reason I want to know about menus in Spanish is there are things I choose not to eat and this is one of them. Given Google can’t translate it, I’m glad I’ve got this in my lexicon.

And just for fun

Coulant de chocolate Chocolate coulant Chocolate fondant

chocolate is the literal word in Spanish for the same word in English (and nearly the same in French) BUT it doesn’t belong to any of these languages since it’s really xocolātl, so even Spanish has plenty of loanwords. But what about coulant, which is really a French word, meaning flowing, but interesting fondant in Spanish but that’s just another French word. And there is no English word, so if you don’t know what this is, there is no point in trying to translate.

So after a long post, you’re probably ready for dessert, so how about

Crema de yogur con mango crujiente y sirope de fresa Yogurt cream with crispy mango and strawberry syrup Yoghurt cream with crispy mango and strawberry syrup

Looking at the words on menus only reveals a bit about dining. Knowing a bit more about cooking, in general and Spanish in general, helps a lot. But if a person only had one chance to go to this restaurant and wanted to get the most interesting items some discussion with, hopefully, knowledgeable, waiter is essential.

So one conclusion from all this is that the basic idea of my project, translating food, is fundamentally a failure. One can translate words, or even combinations or words, and still have little idea what a menu item is.

Translation, as it is said in math, is a necessary, but not sufficient condition.

Serious dining in San Sebastián

I’ve been moving to return to doing posts about translating restaurant menus after nearly 500 days of spending most of the my free time working on learning Spanish instead of studying menus. I’ll comment more about this in a future post I’m working on, but as luck would have it I bumped into a subject that requires this post now.

I’ve been fortunate in life to, very rarely, have some superb dining experiences but nothing like I’ll show you here. Interestingly my most fantastic (nearing the level of this San Sebastián restaurant) were in Tokyo or in Beijing, which was expense account business dining (ridiculous companies get the tax write-offs but that didn’t stop me from enjoying my luxury). And for a few very special occasions I’ve indulged in luxury, but again never at this level.

What do I mean? Well how about 240€ per person! And with no drinks! (and given the look of their wine cellar I’d guess that would double the tab). I can’t quite even imagine blowing $1000 for our next anniversary dinner (though it might be fun).

Anyway I’ll get on with this subject. I bumped in an article about one of my favorite people, Lidia Bastianich (I’ve managed to at least go to her restaurant in Kansas City, nothing like this place). In the article she’s talking about her five favorite dinners and she mentions:

Hotel Akelarre

in the hills west of San Sebastián. The hotel itself is really beautiful (and seriously expensive) but its restaurant is over the top. Now I’m sure Lidia can afford this, and as a famous chef she got the VIP treatment I can’t even imagine, but can only dream about. But it’s places like this that make me think about my life choice to pursue “interesting” work over a more lucrative option, but, no regrets, I’ll settle to just dream, especially also the beautiful site (search for this in Google Maps for some fantastic photos)

They have three set menus (9 courses, choice for “main” course, each 240€) that look fantastic. I’ve extracted the menu in Spanish and the English (from the website) and then appended the Google Translations. Of course there is a lot of “exotic” culinary vocabulary on top of the ordinary Spanish. So I’ll come back to some parts of this menu in a future post, but here it is now (a little easier than scanning the website).

First I’ll post the text and human (&Google) translations that explain the three menus I post after that.

La fórmula de menú degustación tiene tres propuestas variadas diseñadas a conciencia para que disfrutéis de la alta gastronomía desde todos los sentidos y puntos de vista.

 

Los clásicos de AKELARRE es una fórmula con la que conocerás nuestra cocina a través de platos que llevan muchos años en nuestra carta.

 

Los Menús Aranori y Bekarki son dos variantes que te ofrecemos para combinar diferentes opciones que incluyen nuestras últimas recetas.

We propose three choices of thoughtfully curated tasting menus, designed to offer you an unforgettable dining experience you will thoroughly enjoy.

 

 

 

The Akelarre Classics is a selection of the most representative dishes of our cuisine through the years,

 

 

whilst the Aranori and the Bekarki are two proposals that combine signature dishes and our latest creations.

The tasting menu formula has three varied proposals carefully designed so that you enjoy haute cuisine from all senses and points of view.

 

 

 

The AKELARRE classics is a formula with which you will get to know our cuisine through dishes that have been on our menu for many years.

 

The Aranori and Bekarki Menus are two variants that we offer you to combine different options that include our latest recipes.

and following the menus I’ll post a quick (edited, generic or non Spanish removed, but a few Basque left in) lexicon of the vocabulary from these menus – see how many of these words you know. OR, guess how many one might learn in 500 days of generic Spanish lessons (hint: not many)

Note: The first column is Spanish (from Website, minor editing), the restaurant’s English translation (definitely human) and the third column is the literal Google Translate with a few of the amusing and classic mistakes.

 

Aranori    
     
Huevo con Caviar sobre puré de Coliflor y Mantequilla de Cebollino. Egg with caviar over cauliflower purée and chive butter. Egg with Caviar on Cauliflower Puree and Chive Butter.
Ostra a la parrilla con salsa Ostra. Grilled oyster with oyster sauce. Grilled oyster with oyster sauce.
Xangurro en Ensalada de Hojas. Txangurro (crab) in leaf salad. Xangurro in Leaf Salad.
Finísimo y ligero Tartar de Buey, nueva Patata Soufflé y Pan de Hierbas Aromáticas. Very thin and light beef tartare, new potato soufflé and aromatic herbs bread. Fine and light Beef Tartar, new Potato Soufflé and Aromatic Herb Bread.
Merluza al Vapor de Algas. Plancton y Hoja de Ostra. Hake in seaweed steam with plankton and oyster leaves. Algae Steamed Hake. Plankton and Oyster Leaf.
Calamar como un Risotto, Flor de Mantequilla. Risotto-like squid, butter blossom. Squid like a Risotto, Butter Flower.
Pojarski de Cierva, Especiado. Spiced Deer, pojarski. Pojarski de Cierva, Spicy.
o or or
Lomo de Cordero y Rulo de Hierbas Frescas. Loin of lamb and fresh herbs roll. Lamb Loin and Fresh Herb Roll.
El Postre de la Leche de Oveja. Sheep’s milk dessert. Sheep’s Milk Dessert.
Refrescante de Cítricos Exóticos. Exotic citrus fruits refresher. Refreshing Exotic Citrus.
     
240€ (IVA incluido) – Bebidas aparte €240 (VAT inc.) – Drinks not included € 240 (VAT included) – Drinks apart

 

 

Bekarki    
     
Gambas con Vainas al Fuego de Orujo y huevas del mar. Prawns and green beans on orujo fire and sea roe. Prawns with Pods in Orujo Fire and roe from the sea.

 

Las hojas y el Foie bajo la lluvia. Kokotxa, Emulsion de Pipas de Calabaza Pan de Ajo y Perejil. Leaves and foie gras in the rain.

Kokotxa, pumpkin seeds emulsion, garlic and parsley bread.

Leaves and Foie in the rain. Kokotxa, Emulsion of Pumpkin Pipes Garlic Bread and Parsley.
Infusión de Caldo Verde, Cigala y Rape Ahumado. Green broth, langoustines and smoked monkfish infusion. Infusion of Green Broth, Norway Lobster and Smoked Monkfish.
Pulpo mimético. Mimetic octopus. Mimic octopus.
Lubina “UMAMI”. Sea bass “Umami”. Sea bass “UMAMI”.

or

Presa de Ibérico a la Brasa, Risotto de semillas de Pimiento y Ajo en tres variantes. Grilled Iberian “presa”, three versions of pepper seeds and garlic risotto. Grilled Iberian pork, Pepper and Garlic Risotto in three variants.
o or or
Pato Azulón Glaseado y Etiqueta Especiada. Glazed blue duck and spiced label. Blue Glazed Duck and Spicy Label.
“Un Poco de Queso antes del Postre”. “A bit of cheese before desserts”. “A Little Cheese Before Dessert”.
La Otra Tarta de Manzana. The other apple tart. The Other Apple Pie.
     
240€ (IVA incluido) – Bebidas aparte €240 (VAT inc.) – Drinks not included € 240 (VAT included) – Drinks apart

 

 

Los clásicos de AKELARRE The AKELARRE classics The AKELARRE classics
     
Ensalada de Verduras del Huerto y Bogavante. Garden vegetables and lobster salad. Vegetable Salad from the Garden and Lobster.
Tubérculos en Infusión de Hierbas. Tubers in Herbal Infusion. Herb-Infused Tubers.

 

Carpaccio de Pasta, Piquillo e Ibérico con Setas y Parmesano. Pasta, Piquillo peppers and Iberico carpaccio with mushrooms and Parmesan. Pasta, Piquillo and Iberian Carpaccio with Mushrooms and Parmesan.
Arroz con Caracoles y Karrakelas en film de Tomate y Albahaca. Snails and periwinkles rice in a tomato and basil film. Rice with Snails and Karrakelas in Tomato and Basil film.
Foie Fresco a la sartén con «Escamas de Sal y Pimienta en Grano». Pan-seared foie-gras with “salt flakes and pepper grains”. Pan-fried Fresh Foie with «Salt and Pepper Flakes in Grain».
Salmonete Integral con “Fusili” de Salsa. Integral red mullet with “fusilli” sauce. Wholemeal Mullet with “Fusili” Sauce.
Trinchado de Vacuno Mayor, Tendón y Piel lacada, “Patatas y Pimientos”. Carved beef, tendon and lacquered skin, “potatoes and peppers”. Carving of Greater Beef, Tendon and Lacquered Skin, “Potatoes and Peppers”.
o or or
Royal de Pichón con Morokil. Pigeon royale with “morokil” (polenta). Royal Pigeon with Morokil.
Gin-Tonic en Plato. Gin & Tonic on a plate. Gin-Tonic on Plate.
“Xaxu” con Helado Espumoso de Coco. “Xaxu” with foamy coconut ice cream. “Xaxu” with Sparkling Coconut Ice Cream.
     
240€ (IVA incluido) – Bebidas aparte €240 (VAT inc.) – Drinks not included € 240 (VAT included) – Drinks apart

Lexicon of these menus (non food words removed, non Spain words removed); words learned in first 88 lessons in Duolingo (equivalent to a one term generic Spanish class) marked in bold. Basque words in pink. So think about how much of these menus you could “read” with a year of high school Spanish!

ahumado ajo albahaca algas aromáticas arroz azulón bebidas bogavante brasa buey calabaza calamar caldo caracoles cebollino cierva cigala cítricos coco coliflor cordero ensalada escamas especiada especiado espumoso etiqueta exóticos finísimo flor frescas fresco fuego gambas glaseado grano helado hierbas hojas huerto huevas huevo Ibérico incluido infusión integral IVA karrakelas kokotxa lacada leche ligero lluvia lomo lubina mantequilla manzana mar mayor merluza mimético morokil orujo ostra oveja parmesano parrilla pasta patatas pato perejil pichón piel pimienta pimientos pipas piquillo plancton plato Pojarski postre presa pulpo puré queso rape refrescante risotto sal salmonete salsa sartén semillas setas tarta tartar tendón tomate trinchado tubérculos vacuno vainas vapor variantes verduras xangurro xaxu