naranjas escarchadas: Subtle difference between confitar and escarchar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For confitar:


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

and DLE

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

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

Now let’s look at escarchar:

Oxford (you’ll see why I mentioned escarcha)

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

and DLE

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

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

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

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

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




Something different: Ingredientes

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

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

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

As an example, we find

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

No Cabecilla Asada for me, thank you

On my virtual trek of the Camino de Santiago I’ve almost made it to Burgos. So I’ve started digging through menus there. In order to find anything useful I need restaurants that have websites with text menus. There are 379 possible (according to Trip Adviser) and I’ve dug through 28 of them so far.

I encountered an item, Cabecilla Asada, that mystified me. Now that I’m writing the post I actually can’t find that item again but I recorded in my notes that cabecilla (asada is easy, i.e. roasted or grilled) translate, via Google Translate, to nipples, knives, nuggets and heads, depending on the context.

So here are a few of the translations: says “cloth padding on one’s head”, Oxford says (with Google Translate of its definition):

Persona que está al frente de un grupo o movimiento, especialmente si es de protesta u oposición contra algo. leader: Person who is in front of a group or movement, especially if it is a protest or opposition against something.

and DLE has various definitions that match. But this isn’t much help. Somehow in doing searches I encountered cabecillas de lechal al horno which finally got me on the right track. lechal (various forms) I’ve encountered before – this is a unweaned young animal usually referring to a pig or lamb. But the search results also turned up a different variant: Cabezas de Cordero Asadas al Horno .

And cabezas is the key here. This is more simply ‘head’. But ‘head of suckling lamb”, you’re kidding, right?

But no once I’d worked the problem this far I found two recetas and photos: here and here. Yep, it’s a lamb’s head split in half and grilled (don’t believe me, follow the links to photos).

I suppose this is some kind of delicacy and maybe I’d eat it if seeing it (the brains in the skull) weren’t obvious what it was, but frankly I think I’ll pass on this. It may be wonderful but I’m just not that fond of unusual animal parts.

And the point of this is that it does help to know even fairly obscure terms used on menus. Without the ability for full conversation, who knows, I might order this. And then be unpleasantly shocked. Others may love this but I’m glad I’ll now have cabecilla in my corpus to warn me away.

Added later:

When I was composing this post I couldn’t find the online menu where I’d gotten a mention of Cabecilla Asada, but now I found it again (here).  This item actually appears twice, in the trailer of several of the pages of this restaurant and on the Especialidades linked page. In one case (for exact same Spanish) Google Translate said (for cabecilla) ‘heads’ and in the trailer mention it says ‘nipples’. And I found the other page (here) where a very similar item, cabecillas de lechal asadas al horno, is mentioned and it translates as ‘knives’. Also interesting in the original Spanish (and translation) is the redundancy of asadas and al horno (either would do).


I’ll take my sombrero sautéed

I’ve continued to work through another online glosarioGlosario de Alimentos, and found an amusing and enlightening entry. On the second page I was doing my usual process: 1) take each term (they are links to a text definition in this source) in Spanish, and, 2) get the Google Translate in a second column, then, 3) click on the link and get the definition (not the English translation of the word, an actual text definition in Spanish), put that under the Spanish term, and, 4) do Google Translate on the definition and clip that and align it with the Spanish. So this is the first part of what I got:

agaricus arvensis

Sombrero: de 8 a 20 cm de diámetro, blanco-amarillento, un poco ocre con la edad, globoso o convexo de joven, después extendido. Borde delgado, enrollado y depués redondeado. Cutícula separable, bastante gruesa y en ocasiones agrietadas.

agaricus arvensis (spoiler, this should be in italics, as a non-English word also)

Hat: from 8 to 20 cm in diameter, white-yellowish, a little ocher with age, globose or convex when young, then extended. Slim edge, rolled and then rounded. Cuticle separable, quite thick and sometimes cracked.

Given that Google Translate didn’t translate the term it was off on a chase to see what I could learn from the definition (and supplementary investigation) to get a more useful translation.

Now one doesn’t need to know much Spanish to know sombrero is a hat. But this bit of the definition, in English or Spanish, doesn’t really give us much clue what agaricus arvensis is. Obviously Google Translate didn’t either (or did it? as this story will reveal). While ‘hat’ is an amusing word to see in the definition of a food ingredient my initial lookup in the Oxford dictionary showed only this translation (as a lesson in this kind of work another dictionary had the right answer (spoiler, won’t say that option, yet) – evidence one needs to look at multiple sources to get accurate translations).

Láminas: libres, apretadas, desiguales, blancuzcas, después rosa-grisácea o encarnadas, pasando a marrón oscuro o en su madurez. Leaves: free, tight, uneven, whitish, then rose-gray or incarnate (Google botched this, should be ‘red’), turning to dark brown or in its maturity.

Now one source translates láminas as ‘leaves’. Nothing in the definition is inconsistent with the translation so this didn’t help.  But as I was grinding through another source (for láminas ) I saw this translations of ‘sheet’ or ‘plate’, but not ‘leaves’. In the authoritative DLE I saw (Google translated):

8. f. Bot. Parte ensanchada de las hojas, pétalos y sépalos. 8. f. Bot. Part widened from the leaves, petals y sepals.

While I was beginning to make guesses (other clues in the complete definition) I thought this was somehow more than ‘leaves’.  Oxford said:

The word laminas is the present form of laminar in the second person singular.

but forcing a lookup on the singular got the same ‘plate’ or ‘sheet’ definition. This is another caution about using translations dictionaries, sometimes a plural noun looks like one of the conjugations of a verb. IOW, no real clue here.

Carne: firme, blanca y delgada por encima de las láminas. Meat: firm, white and thin above the sheets (Note Google picked ‘sheets’ this time instead of ‘leaves’, why?).

So meat and hat and leaves, what sort of food ingredient is this? However, the Spanish version of Wikipedia. I can’t remember what search got me to this location (had to work some to find it again), but this Spanish language Wikipedia article revealed the key clue:

Carne o trama, es un término utilizado en micología para indicar la parte interna del basidiocarpo de una seta o cuerpo fructífero. Meat or plot (DLE has ‘flowering, for trama, which is more likely), is a term used in mycology to indicate the internal part of the basidiocarp of a mushroom or fruitful body.

The overall description had begun to register to me this was the definition of a mushroom where sombrero was ‘cap’ and láminas was gills. But before I quite got confirmation of this there was one more interesting translation from the definition:

Pie: separable, robusto, engrosado en la base, fistuloso desde el comienzo y después hueco.Blanco con algo de vello en la juventud, amarilleando un poco en la base. Piece: separable, robust, thickened at the base, fistulous from the start and then hollow. White with some hair in youth, yellowing a little at the base.

Now pie was one of the first things I looked up (I’m not presenting this post in the same order as my investigation).  In this case the authoritative DLE suggests “stem from the plants” so I later found another source that said ‘foot’ (which initially made me think ‘root’, but I was getting there). Spanish Wiktionary has a definition of “stem or trunk of a plant” derived from the Latin pes. Later I was telling someone this story they reminded me of pied (French, which any walker of the Camino who started at St. Jean should know and even I remember from 8th grade French) and looking that up in French Wiktionary it too comes from the Latin pes.

So, slowly I’m getting there. Then I do the obvious and that is just search on agaricus arvensis , which is a lot more direct path than I went through before getting to this Wikipedia article where agaricus arvensis  is the Latin (aka scientific name, and thus NOT Spanish, thus Google Translate actually was correct!) of this “plant” (not really a plant since it is a fungus).

And so there we have it, there is an English translation (the common name) which is horse mushroom. Lots of work. Problem solved.

BUT, I did one further digression that is actually interesting. Previously I’ve searched for “parts of X in Spanish” and after trying a few of the results hit a really interesting webpage,  todas partes de seta or “all parts of a mushroom”. This page has a nice diagram, which because I respect copyright I will neither embed in my post (or even an image tag, so please check the link). This describes, in good detail these parts:

sombrero, pie, volva, himenio, velo,  laminillas,  basidios, esporas

Note the diminutive laminillas instead of láminas. And that carne, mentioned in the Spanish Wikipedia entry (link above) is not included, so I’ve added one more tidbit of knowledge to mushroom parts.

So there you have it, a lesson in micología (mycology) as well as learning what to call a horse mushroom in Spanish. But in doing some reverse lookups there is at least the suggestion that there is a Spanish word for horse mushroom, mókempa, but the evidence for this is a single source so who knows what part of the world might use this term or whether you’d ever see it on a menu in Spain. I’d bet it’s more likely you might see seta de caballo, unless tying a mushroom (literal word) to a horse (literal word) is an unattractive pairing for a menu (or that the Spanish term would be a literal translation of the English common name).

Fun, huh – lots to learn digging through all this. And more, undoubtedly, Dear Reader than you ever wanted to know.

Will eating acedia give me heartburn?

I’m grinding through a lengthy and complex Glosario de Alimentos and will have much material for posts but this is a short amusing bit. Despite being in the context of food and specifically a text description of a fish (which this source claims is a ‘wedge sole’) Google Translate didn’t use any of that context and so translated acedia to ‘heartburn’. Oxford agrees this is one of the definitions:

Sensación de ardor en el estómago o en la garganta provocada por un exceso de ácido en el estómago. Burning sensation in the stomach or throat caused by an excess of acid in the stomach.

But the definition provided in the glosario goes more like this:

Pescados Blancos o magros White or lean fish
GENERALIDADES Pescado plano, muy consumido en la región andaluza. Sus capturas proceden fundamentalmente de la región suratlántica. GENERALITIES Flat flatfish, very consumed in the Andalusian region. Their captures come mainly from the South-Atlantic region.

And Oxford agrees and has this definition:

Pez marino de cuerpo plano parecido al lenguado, pero de unos 40 cm de longitud, escamas más fuertes y unidas, y color pardo con manchas amarillas o anaranjadas; vive en el Atlántico y el Mediterráneo, cerca de la costa; su carne es comestible. Flat-bodied marine fish similar to the sole, but about 40 cm long, scales stronger and united, and brown with yellow or orange spots; he lives in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, near the coast; his meat is edible.

So in the context of alimentos I would say it’s far more likely to translate acedia as this fish instead of heartburn. But the authoritative DLE only offers these two definitions:

Pereza, flojedad. Sloth, looseness.
Tristeza, angustia, amargura. Sadness, anguish, bitterness.

which are neither the fish or the stomach affliction. Huh. But interesting DLE gives a hint (a bit cryptic) with this:

From lat. Acid, and this of the gr. ἀκηδία akēdía ‘negligence’.

So off I went to Spanish Wiktionary to find more

Etimología Etymology
Del latín acidia, a su vez del griego antiguo ἀκηδία (akedía), ἀκήδεια (akédeia), del prefijo privativo ἀ- (a-) y κῆδος (kẽdos), “preocupación”, del protoindoeuropeo *ḱeh₂dos, “preocuparse”, de la raíz *ḱeh₂d-, “odiar” From the Latin acidia , in turn from the ancient Greek ἀκηδία  ( akedía ), ἀκήδεια  ( akédeia ), from the proprietary prefix ἀ-  ( a- ) and κῆδος  ( kẽdos ), ” concern “, from protoindoeuropeo * ḱeh₂dos , “to worry “, from the root * ḱeh₂d- , ” hate “

and definitions:

1 Falta de esfuerzo o dedicación para la realización de las tareas necesarias o prescritas

   Sinónimos: véase Tesauro de “desidia”.

1 Lack of effort or dedication to the realization of the tasks required or prescribed

Synonyms: see Thesaurus of “neglect” .

2 Estado emocional de dolor y descontento, desagradable para quien lo experimenta

   Sinónimos: aflicción, desdicha, pena, pesadumbre, quebranto, tribulación, tristeza.
   Antónimo: alegría.

2 Emotional state of pain and discontent , unpleasant for those who experience it

Synonyms: affliction , misery , grief , sorrow , grief , distress , sadness .
Antonym: joy .

Neither of these sound like either a fish or heartburn, but the Wiktionary more closely matches the authoritative DLE than Oxford does.  Interestingly Wiktionary then has this:

Wikipedia tiene un artículo sobre acedia

which leads to an article, in Spanish, about Dicologlossa cuneata which is a (Redirigido desde «Acedia») and starts with this sentence (Google Translated)

The acedía or lenguadillo (Dicologlossa cuneata) is a species of pleuronectiforme fish of the Soleidae family .

Amusingly here Google didn’t translate acedia as ‘heartburn’ so yet another strange inconsistency. Also Wiktionary linked to a relevant and useful Wikipedia article but not at all related to its definitions. So this is another real run-around for a single term.

Fish names are notoriously difficult for translation. Even the scientific (Latin) names are often in dispute but their common names in any language are often confusing so translating one confusing name in Spanish to another in English is often going to be problematic and a real challenge for my corpus. But in this case once we dismissed heartburn as the translation and then got to Dicologlossa cuneata we can now get to the English Wikipedia article on Wedge sole (and other search results)

But, knowing what kind of fish is going to appear on your plate can matter.  In this case this looks like a tasty fish I’d like. But as I’ve mentioned I’m not very adventurous eater so there are plenty of things from the sea I wouldn’t want.

Eating seasonal small dog in Spain – a story of hongo y seta

Actually I didn’t really find ‘small dog’ on a menu even though Google decided to translate perrochicos as ‘doggy’. But one can never be sure what is eaten in other countries. After all I did see ‘dog’ (in English) on menus of street vendors on Wangfujing Street in Beijing (along with scorpions and starfish-on-a-stick).

So why am I off on this strange tack?

I was looking at another menu of a restaurant in Logroño, that goes by the somewhat unusual name of Asador El Tahiti (website), another of the famous dining district, Laurel Street. In this case asador is actually a type of restaurant specializing in grilled food or as Google translates a la brasa ‘to the Brazil’. Come on, Google, a la brasa is one of the various terms somewhat interchangeable with ‘grill’ but in this case it means the food is actually grilled in contact with wood or charcoal fire (unlike a la plancha which is grilling on hot iron). Even I, illiterate in Spanish, know this!

Anyway this restaurant has its menu online but in the unfortunate format, first, in a PDF (not subject to Google Translate) and, even worse, it’s just an image of their menu which means there is no text to select and paste in my analysis documents. This is too bad because the carta is available in both Spanish and English which is always handy for creating word/phrase pairs to feed into my corpus. So, unable to get anything from the menu I at least grabbed some text (from the HTML) on the page that contains the links to the PDF menus. And there I found this fun entry:

Platos de temporada: espárragos, setas, hongos, perrochicos Seasonal dishes: asparagus, mushrooms, mushrooms, doggy

Here note the pair where Google translates perrochicos to ‘doggy‘.  Amusing, so what is the correct translation since ‘doggy’ is unlikely. My standard go-to dictionary, Oxford Spanish, doesn’t have an entry for perrochico but instead suggested I look at perro chico.  All right. I recall in the movie The Way Jobst being called perro which he didn’t understand but was subtitled to ‘dog’ so I vaguely remembered that and anticipated something like that for perro chico. This produced this confusing entry with indication this is usage in Spain:

Perra chica (moneda) Bitch girl (currency)

so all Oxford did was convert perro chico to the feminine perra chica and add the confusing (moneda) which does literally translate to ‘currency’ (really meaning a unit of, like a dollar). Now why Google decided to call this ‘bitch girl’ is amusing but it’s literal and the use of ‘bitch’ is not derogatory but actually what female dogs are called (go check out a dog show and see this term used in that sense). And chica doesn’t have a listing (except a colloquial usage in Mexico) but chico has various meanings that would imply young person and in the -o ending as ‘boy’ so it makes sense Google would decided the -a ending means ‘girl’.

So this was a dead end and I was left with my only other strategy for determining what  perrochico might be. And that is search which didn’t reveal much except there seems to be a town of that name. So as I usually do I added another search term to supply context, i.e. temporada. As a spoiler adding seta would have been better. But I did manage to find this link, Perrechicos, la seta reina de mayo.

And this seems to be the answer that fits the context. Normally I don’t accept a single source but this just matches too well.

Perrechicos, la seta reina de mayo Perrechicos, the mushroom queen of May


El perrechico, protagonista del campo en mayo The perrechico, protagonist of the field in May


El perrechico, identificación de esta seta en el norte de España, es una variedad extraordinaria, de carne blanca y muy tierna lo que la convierte en una de las setas más reputadas de la gastronomía tradicional asturiana.

Esta seta también recibe el nombre de “mixernó” en Cataluña, “usón” en Aragón, o seta de San Jorge en el resto de España.

The perrechico, identification of this mushroom in the north of Spain, is an extraordinary variety of white meat and very tender which makes it one of the most reputable mushrooms of traditional Asturian cuisine.

This mushroom also receives the name of “mixernó” in Catalonia, “usón” in Aragón, or seta de San Jorge in the rest of Spain.


La seta comienza a estar presente en el campo a principios del mes de abril si bien es en mayo cuando, masivamente, en grandes colonias circulares, conocidas como “corros de brujas”, comienza a extenderse por todos los campos de Asturias que tengas las características que propicien la proliferación de este manjar.

En las mejores temporadas, el perrechico puede llegar hasta el final del verano lo que indicará el carácter extraordinario de la temporada.

The mushroom begins to be present in the field at the beginning of the month of April although it is in May when, massively, in large circular colonies, known as “corros de brujas”, it begins to spread throughout all the fields of Asturias that have the characteristics that propitiate the proliferation of this delicacy.

In the best seasons, the perrechico can arrive until the end of the summer which will indicate the extraordinary character of the season.

IOW, this is a seasonal mushroom which is a delicacy and local to northern Spain. Which fits in very well with the other items on this restaurant’s webpage.

So it would appear mystery solved and for me an interesting new source (an online with numerous pages about food items). AND, it presents a clue to another common translation issue: hongo vs seta as mushroom. I’ve mentioned this before with two points: 1) hongo is primarily used outside Spain for mushroom (still true), and, 2) hongo is the cultivated (round button type) mushroom vs seta is the more wild type (like shiitake or chanterelles), which is probably wrong. Here is a more likely explanation:

Diferencias entre los hongos y las setas Differences between mushrooms and mushrooms
La confusión entre hongo y seta es habitual y puede ser que hasta algo común entre los aficionados al mundo micológico sin llegar a profundizar en el mismo, es decir todos aquellos que conocen el nombre de la seta o del hongo pero que mucha más intenso y próximo es su conocimiento gastronómico que la tipología exacta de lo degustado. The confusion between fungus and mushroom is common and may even be something common among fans of the mycological world without going deeply into it, ie all those who know the name of the mushroom or fungus but much more intense and closer it is your gastronomic knowledge that the exact typology of what is tasted.
En realidad, la diferencia es sencilla de interpretar ya que las setas son las fructificaciones de los hongos.

Es decir, el hongo es a la seta lo que el manzano a la manzana.

Actually, the difference is simple to interpret since the mushrooms are the fruiting of the mushrooms.

That is, the fungus is to the mushroom what the apple to the apple.

Todavía más sencillo es diferenciar un hongo de una seta teniendo en cuenta que el primero está bajo tierra y el segundo sobre la misma, a simple vista del aficionado y lo que, por norma general, termina en casa después de pasar un día en el campo. Even more simple is to differentiate a mushroom from a mushroom considering that the first one is underground and the second one on the same one, at the naked eye of the amateur and what, as a rule, ends at home after spending a day in the field .

It’s fun to see Google Translate notion of the title line, i.e. differences between mushrooms and mushrooms; IOW, Google thinks both hongo and seta equally translate to mushroom. But I choose to believe the answer presented in this text especially this part:

Es decir, el hongo es a la seta lo que el manzano a la manzana. That is, the fungus is to the mushroom what the apple to the apple.

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, as a common, but not always, “rule”. A plant that produces an edible part is often named such that the plant is masculine (-o) and the fruit is feminine (-a) [recall this discussion about olivo vs oliva]. So hongo is the actual fungus growing underground and seta is the fruiting body or what most of us would actually think of as ‘mushroom’.

It is good to clear this up but I suspect if you see hongo on a menu in Spain just think mushroom. After all the webpage (snippet, above) that started this digression listed BOTH as menu items which means I’m back where I started – why? Is there a difference? Perhaps hongo as cultivated and seta as wild is not entirely wrong. I doubt both would be listed if somehow some mushrooms weren’t called hongo and others called seta.

So still not resolved!




A challenging menu

I use this blog to report some stories about my Spain food project. I am trying to create first a corpus, then a good delivery mechanism (like smartphone app) for the most robust, complete and accurate translation of menus one would encounter in Spain. This is not just a question of finding literal translation of individual words (as we’ll see later in this post). Many terms simply don’t have an English equivalent. In some cases it’s like – what is the English word for gazpacho? Well, ‘ur, it’s gazpacho. That’s commonly known but what about ajoarriero or pochas or gamba de Huelva? If you can find these at all in some translation dictionary it may not help much as you really need to know, from a culinary point of view, what these items are.

I’ve mostly been working from an online dictionary written in Spanish for cooks in Spain to get a lot of my raw material. But menus may be different, more colloquial, local terms, alternate spelling (is alcahofas a typo or an alternate to the word for artichoke that has an additional ‘c’) and so forth, so I need to continue to primarily collect my corpus from those source. So I have a fairly long list of URLs for restaurants in Logroño La Rioja, along the Camino de Santiago that I am using as focus for finding restaurants as I do a “virtual” hike along the Camino.

So this is the one I did today, Taberna Herrerías (website, which has one of my favorite things, its “address” in GPS coordinates (+42° 28′ 3.14″, -2° 26′ 38.21 easy to find on maps; try GoogleMaps and you’ll also get a POI for the restaurant, click on that and you’ll get lots of photos for your virtual visit)). This carta took me a long time to decipher and so too much to include in just one post. I’ll mention a few interesting bits.

First, in the menu category Verduras de temporada (Vegetables of the season) was this item (with Google Translate):

Pisto con huevo batido Pisto with beaten egg

Oops, Google doesn’t know what pisto is; and neither does  Oops, small digression. I do the work and then come back to do posts and I double-check my claims. In this case I made some mistake that would have given me an answer right away than the roundabout story I have hear (clue, spanishdict does translate this, I must not have done my initial search correctly). Anyway, doing Google search on pisto, my usual thing if I don’t find a term in my chosen dictionaries was fairly useless because all the results were related to pistochio (is pisto a nickname for these?). So I did my usual thing of supplementing search term with ‘beaten egg’ and then I began to get some results, eventually leading to a recipe (amazing there is a domain (  just for this). Reading that I eventually learned this dish is fairly close to ratatouille which, though loanword in English, is known to most foodies. And, the reverse lookup of ratatouille does yield pisto (which isn’t, now, a surprise, given the forward lookup of pisto yields ratatouille). So I may have missed a clue, duh, to make this easier, but at least I got there.

Then under entrantes (starters) is this item:

Jamón y lomo de bellota Ham and loin of acorn

Now Google may (humorously) think this is body parts from an acorn but it takes about 10 minutes looking at food in Spain to quickly learn about jamón ibérico de bellota. You can drop over a thousand dollars buying about 12 pounds of this at Amazon (for years you couldn’t get it at all in the U.S.). This is ham from a specific breed of pigs that, we could say, are “free range” and eat a lot of acorns they find (sometimes the pigs would be prepped with even more acorns). So what’s the point here? This menu item left out the jamón ibérico de part because everyone would already known that (IOW, a) ham and loin are likely to be from animal, mostly likely a pig, and, b) this is so famous just the shorthand of bellota is sufficient). But if you were right off the plane in Spain and jetlagged and only had a simple dictionary (since you don’t know any Spanish) you would probably be confused.

Now let’s look at this one:

Caparrón de Anguiano Caparrón de Anguiano

Real good translation there, Google – helps a lot (didn’t even translate de which is trivial). When you get a blank like this (in dictionaries as well) chances are this is some highly specific and probably regional term. Fortunately it doesn’t get confused with the wrong things so eventually I arrived at this description, which is a bit of a rant about finding the real thing, i.e. a very special kind of bean. But knowing this is a bean doesn’t give me much clue what the menu item is. A bit more digging led to this recipe (complete with picture). Ah, bean soup with cerdo ibérico and chorizo instead of leftover ham. This is a fairly special set of ingredients so it would be interested to see how a fairly mundane dish would taste at this restaurant.

So now a fairly simple one:

Langostino y gamba de Huelva Shrimp and shrimp from Huelva

Once again Google was mystified by Huelva but at least spanishdict knew it was a city in the Canary Islands (a clue, but doesn’t decode this menu item). Long story short, here’s the answer:

The White Shrimp of Huelva is an exclusive species of this seafood that is only found on the coast of the towns that are located between the mouths of the Guadiana and Guadalquivir rivers and that has very special characteristics.

But, don’t assume a search for ‘white shrimp’ will help any since that turns up a creature from oceans off the coast of North America, not anywhere near the Guadiana and Guadalquivir rivers.

And, finally (there are more but out of time (and your reading patience)) there is:

Taco bacalao a la riojana Cod taco a la riojana

Ah, a fish taco, that sounds good. Now any use of a la X is a clue this is some sort of qualifier about how the cod is preferred. And you’re in Logroño which is in La Rioja – you might just guess this, cod in the characteristic style of La Rioja. But what is that? Well, if you could ask your server you could find out. Or if you had a WiFi connection you could find this (there are numerous receta online). But if you had your simple little dictionary, paper or smartphone, I doubt you’d learn much.

But then the fun part is taco. As this is effectively now an English word (at least in most parts of U.S.) we know what it is – something wrapped inside a folded tortilla. So I wondered if the Mexican taco had reverse invaded Spain and without any authoritative answer it seems unlikely (although, when I went down this road before I found now there are “genuine” Mexican restaurants in some of Spain’s cities where you actually could get a taco or enchilada or whatever). I’ve already mentioned tortilla is entirely something different in Spain than in western hemisphere. I really doubt you can fold an egg and potato “omelet” into a taco. But this was a tough one to track down until I found this (from the trusty Oxford dictionary, Spanish edition)

Small piece, thick and dice-shaped, in which a food is cut.

I can’t be certain (maybe with even more searching I could reach definite conclusion) but some of the pictures I found, searching for recetas (recipes) of ‘bacalao a la riojana’ certainly looked like this sounds. So since taco in the western hemisphere sense is unlikely for this menu item I’m going with the Oxford translation.

Now, as side question, after getting these clues and learning this (assuming I’m right), plus getting even more information about the recipe and how this dish is prepared how would I get this information into my app (my dream to build someday) and you to find it. That’s an entirely different kind of question.

A circuitous route to the right answer?

I was doing my usual process of researching entries in the GallinaBlanca diccionario. For a word, get their definition in Spanish, translate to English via, translate the term itself to see if there is simple literal translation. Then consider the result and see if this makes sense or whether I need to do further searches (and then with what search terms) to figure this term out, at least the way the author of GB diccionario meant.

I was starting with Q words and the first was quark. Right away I knew these would be a problem in my approach since ‘quark’ is a word in English and thus spanishdict would be looking for the equivalent Spanish term. But looking at the definition and translation

QUARK Es el queso no madurado ni escaldado, alto en humedad, de textura blanda o suave, preparado con leche descremada y concentrada, cuajada con enzimas y/o por cultivos lácticos y separados mecánicamente del suero, cuyo contenido de grasa láctica es variable, dependiendo si se agrega crema o no durante su elaboració It is the unripened or scalded cheese, high in moisture, soft or soft texture, prepared with skim milk and concentrated, curdled with enzymes and/or by lactic cultures and mechanically separated from the serum, whose lactic fat content is variable, depending on whether Cream is added or not during your Elaboració

I tried search terms ‘quark cheese’ which then quickly disclosed this article in Wikipedia and the translated definition and the article align nicely to strongly suggest this is it. I’m sorta a foodie and know cheese reasonably well but I’d never heard of this (it’s close, but still a bit than ricotta than is made in a similar fashion). But what was interesting is that the Wikipedia article mentions this:

Quark is similar to French fromage blanc, Indian paneer, and the queso fresco/queijo fresco made in the Iberian Peninsula and in some Latin American countries.

That peaked my interest in that I’m quite familiar with queso fresco so I assumed queijo fresco might be the version in Spain instead of the more familiar Latin American name (wrong, now, I think, that was probably the Portuguese name given it too is on the Iberian peninsula – shouldn’t jump to conclusions). But no harm, no foul, this article popped up in response to search for queijo fresco. So I’d say queso blanco is the closest equivalent to quark for Spain. So strange, a dictionary for use in Spain has the English name instead of the Iberian name (nowhere in this dictionary). I guess the point is that Iberian cooks would already know queso blanco but never heard of quark and so this dictionary is explaining the foreign term rather than the domestic one (why then, with this idea, didn’t they just define quark as queso blanco? This dictionary has a large number of terms that are not Spanish (or at most Spanish cognates to words that originated in another language). Why? As I’ve found more and more of this I’ve wondered and decided it’s an aid to Spanish cooks (given this dictionary is tied to a large list of recipes) in case they encounter the foreign term.

So done with that term right away I hit another interesting term to run down. Here’s the GallinaBlanca definition and spanishdict translation:

QUEBRADA Masa quebrada o brisé. Una masa para tartas saladas o dulces. Las proporciones son mitad de mantequilla y doble de harina. Broken mass or brisé. A dough for salty or sweet tarts. The proportions are half of butter and double of flour.

Looking up quebrada for a literal translation spanishdict suggested trying quebrado instead. This is common since it’s the gender thing in adjectives and usually the dictionary contains the masculine (‘o’ instead of ‘a’) form. quebrado has meaning translations none of which seemed to have any connection (didn’t key on ‘broken’ or lookup brisé and I might have gotten to the answer sooner). So I did a search just for quebrada and got nothing that had any connection. So looking at the definition I decided to add ‘dough’ to the search and then got something that at least made some sense, this article,  which is about gordita, but has this bit

An old variant of corn gorditas uses masa quebrada (broken dough) where the corn meal is coarsely ground, leaving bits of broken grain.

I was happy to see quebrada (turns out spanishdict’s suggestion was right, I should have noticed ‘broken’ as a translation of quebrado). BUT, I thought a gordita is: a) a lot different than the definition GallinaBlanca provided, and, b) this is Latin American, not Spain, and while the GB dictionary has had other terms that don’t seem to be used in Spain I always try to figure out if the Spain term is different (as in the notorious example of tortilla, entirely different between anywhere in western hemisphere (given tortilla is now fully a loanword into U.S. English) and Spain).

So I did a search for masa quebrada and I got one of those strange connections between Google search and Wikipedia I’ve mentioned before. Nowhere in the displayed text for the article that came up is either masa or quebrada, but somehow Google connected this too. For this example it’s good it did as ‘shortcrust pastry’ is a much closer match to the GB definition, especially this bit:

It is based on a “half-fat-to-flour” ratio (twice as much flour as fat by weight).

And then there is this bit, pâte brisée is mentioned as one of the types of shortcrust pastry (a bit different flour/fat ratio) and that triggered my connection to the untranslated term in the GB definition, brisé (which is in none of the dictionary, including the authoritative one for the Spanish language (Diccionario de la lengua Española from Real Academia Española) but the similarity might just mean it really is supposed to be the French word and they misspelled it (who knows). I call this closing the loop.

So I believe that quebrada is shortcrust pastry, but in fact quebrado is a better choice since it does have broken (and no more) as its definition where quebrada doesn’t. But perhaps dough is thought of as feminine and hence ‘a’ was used despite then conflicting with another literal lookup. I assume the author and perhaps people reading this dictionary would know that but it’s quite a bit of investigation for me. And I’m fairly sure this is not related to a gordita which provided the clue for subsequent search to the right answer.

Now I suspect this term is unlikely to appear on a menu and instead one of the 87 recetas at GallinaBlanca use it as an ingredient and those names might be on a menu. But some menus have descriptions of an item and so it’s possible quebrada might be something a traveler would want to know and not spend nearly half an hour, as I did, figuring this out.

Interesting verb marear

In my previous post I pointed out some interesting issues with the GallinaBlanca dictionary – in particular for each word there is a link to go see where this word is used in recetas (recipes) on this site. This turned out to be very helpful for this verb whose Spanish definition and spanishdict translation are below:

MAREAR Es lo mismo que rehogar. Sofreír un alimento para que se impregne de la grasa y los ingredientes con que se condimenta. It’s the same thing as a fry. Sauté a food so that it is impregnated with the fat and the ingredients it is flavored with.

usage example in receta: cook until the onions are dizzy (marear)

spanishdict has translations for marear which are:  1) a variety of translation in the sense of (to produce nausea) {I suppose that might apply to cooking}, 2) to make dizzy in sense of (to disorient), 3) to confuse in sense of (to disconcert), and, 4) to make drunk in sense of (to intoxicate) {I suppose this might apply to cooking if we’re soaking the food in booze but that’s another word}.

But looking at the English translation and then clicking the link to find the use of this word in recipes (which Google then translated as dizzy) I think the real cooking issue is to cook something (like onions in the usage example) is sufficient quantity of oil and for sufficient time for then to absorb most of the oil (and also any fat-soluble flavors).

So it would have been almost impossible to determine anything approximating the meaning of marear (relative to cooking) without this specialized dictionary and some of the usage examples. While I suspect it’s unlikely it does seem possible this verb might be used in the description of some food item on a menu and thus good to know.



Asymmetry in translation dictionaries

I’m at the mercy of online translation dictionaries to do this project and I’m using them a lot and thus gradually learned some of their eccentricities. So I thought I’d mention a very simple example. This is based on using which in general is a tremendously helpful source and thanks to them very much for providing it, free, online.

But I’ve found a challenging issue of asymmetry in looking up Spanish words to get English versus looking up English words to get Spanish. For instance, for Spanish word X you might get English results A, B, C, but then looking up A or B or C you may not get the original X and/or you get Y and Z Spanish words. Likewise, as this example will show you look up English word D, which was not in the list for lookup of X, but it does show X.

Here’s what I mean in example (this is GallinaBlanca’s definition of gourmets (yes with the s)).

Persona entendida y de gustos refinados en la gastronomía.

The spanishdict translation is

Understood person and of refined tastes in the gastronomy.

Now needless to say this looks a little clunky PLUS ‘understood’ just doesn’t seem to fit. Matching the bits of the sentence it is entendida that is being translated to understood. Looking up entendida in it is listed under the verb entender (to understand).  Digging through the conjugation on the spanishdict’s page for this very entendido is listed as the past participle (don’t understand the masculine form there and the feminine form in the sentence, but that’s a different mystery). Hence ‘understood’ is the direct literal translation.

But reading the sentence and knowing what a gourmet is (that word being a loanword into Spanish) I thought ‘knowledgeable’ would fit the definition much better. Now while ‘know’ is one of the definitions of entender (as intransitive verb) it’s hard, from just scanning spanishdict’s entry on entender to conclude ‘knowledgeable’ is one of the meanings.

So here is the asymmetry (just this one example, I’ve encountered this before in multiple case). Lookup up ‘knowledgeable’ in  Under the general sense of “knowing a lot” the first translation is informado which is qualified with the sense (of current affairs). Then second translation is  entendido  which is qualified with the sense of (about a specific area). And the third is  culto which is qualified with the sense of (in general).

Now (and I should have tried this before launching into this post) looking up entendido (instead of the entendida used in the original text) spanishdict tells me this is ‘expert’ which might be even better than ‘knowledgeable’.

So what is the point? If one has studied a foreign (to them) language a lot and really gotten into its structure and rules and vocabulary, plus colloquial usage, all these things I’m noticing are probably obvious and a fluent Spanish speaker would probably laugh at my stumbling through these things. Fine, that’s not the point. I’m writing these posts for people like me, i.e. willing to acquire some familiarity with Iberian Spanish for the pragmatic purpose of getting what you want at restaurants. Sure, fluent conversational skill in Spanish is an excellent idea for an extended tour of Spain but that may not be feasible. (I’ve consulted with a couple of people who’ve studied Spanish for years and, frankly, they haven’t been much help on some of the details I’ve been encountering as they are more focused on broad and general conversations).

And in contrast hauling along some small paper translation or phrase guide (as I’ve done in multiple countries) or these days using an app on your app (assuming you want to pay the stiff tariffs for Net connection while trekking) these tools do these same simple things I’ve been doing in this project AND THUS often getting a bad answer. Now unless you want to spend hours analyzing a menu before placing your order it’s best to have something more sophisticated than the best tools available today. Now maybe in a few decades Google (or someone) will have an incredibly great translation app but the state of the art today leaves a lot of gaps. So, now, entendida human translation beats the machine and if I succeed, at least for a narrow area of discourse, I hope to create that more sophisticated translation for diners.