A simple country menu

I happened to notice this small restaurant (see menu below) as I was examining the small town of Hornillos del Camino in Burgos Province as I just passed through on my virtual trek, now at a distance of 193.8 miles. It’s a rather inconspicuous place (in fact, somewhat hard to find) but has some interesting info in its Google listing. So here’s it’s simple menu (hand copied from photo, translated by Microsoft) and you can see a couple of the dishes (shown in blue in menu) in the photos on Google maps. This one is fairly easy to translate with just modest amount of learning Spanish; I only missed remolacha (beet, not a favorite for me) from memory.

Based on the photos I think I’d need more food after walking all day. As much as the Camino fascinates me, frankly, this part of it is really boring and this small town is uninteresting. But that may be part of the trip, plenty of opportunity to be contemplative here rather than exciting sight-seeing tourism.

Note: In case you’re not using to using Google Maps go to maps.google.com in your browser and then search for Hornillos del Camino, Burgos, Spain. You’ll see the Green Tree as a POI indicator – click on that to bring up the information page with photos.

Neson    4.8    ⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗


Calle San Pedro, 30, 09230 Hornillos del Camino, Burgos, Spain


Menu del día           9.5₡

Primero: First
Sopa del día Soup of the Day
Ensalada de queso de cabra con fresas y remolacha Goat cheese salad with strawberries and beetroot
Hummus de la casa con verdura y pan Hummus of the House with vegetables and bread
Segundo: Second
Currie de verduras Currie of Vegetables
Risotto de Espárragos Asparagus Risotto
Kimchi con Albondigas o Tofu Kimchi with meatballs or Tofu
Postre: Dessert
Postre de día Day Dessert
Pudín de pan y mantequilla Bread pudding and butter
Yogur con fruta y miel Yogurt with fruit and honey

A few random bits

Rather than a focused post I’ll just catch up on a few disparate items.

First I’m recording another milestone along my virtual trek which is arriving in Burgos. Burgos was one of the main locations in the movie The Way (where Tom’s pack was stolen) and its main feature is the cathedral. A virtual trek, (i.e. actually exercising on a treadmill in the basement and transferred the accumulated miles onto a GPS trace of the Camino de Santiago) may seem silly but it serves two purposes for me: 1) walking on a treadmill is really boring so I need to have some goal and sense of accomplishment, since I need the treadmill exercise (esp. during the winter here) so I’m in shape to do some real outside walking, and, 2) the slow pace gives me a chance to fairly thoroughly investigate the route (using satellite views, Google StreetView (often available on the Camino and I see lots of peregrinos) and Points of Interest (so I look at photos of albergues and restaurants, plus sometimes find menus). It’s certainly not the same as the real thing but better than nothing.

Before reaching Burgos I’d not found any online menus in other small towns on my virtual trek since Logroño so I had begun to extract terms from a couple of glossaries I’d previously found. I’d already spent a long time (previously reported) on the GallinaBlanca online dictionary so I was also interested in seeing whether the two other lengthy lists I’d found would just be redundant. So that led me back to a bit of coding (haven’t done that for a while) in order to automate the comparison (each extract I’d done was in an incompatible format so first my code had to generate a canonical extract to compare). During that process one of my lists just disappeared (I was only about 1/4 done with it). That’s disappointing since it was a good list and had many terms I hadn’t previously found. Crunching through dictionaries or glossaries is very tedious and nowhere nearly as interesting as looking at menus (which is the purpose of my project here). But it’s a different way to get a sufficiently large corpus to feed into the menu translator I’m building.

So with Burgos on the horizon I began, once again, to focus on restaurant menus. In the small towns I find the restaurants directly as Google Maps POI’s which are clickable to get some info (esp. user contributed photos) and perhaps then linked to a website. Those with websites (fairly uncommon on the small places in small towns) might have a textual menu (many just have photos) and that allows me to generate side-by-side Spanish and English (usually translated by Google Translate, sometimes other ways) terms that I’ll feed into my corpus. Without all the fancy deep learning AI Google uses to train their translator I’ll be using a more algorithmic process to train mine, but mostly to spot Spanish terms that have multiple translations and try to determine the best (more on that below).

So for Burgos the area is quite large (you have to zoom in a lot on Google Maps for the POIs to appear) so I used a different approach. There are numerous rating services for restaurants (I only partly trust them here in USA, so no clue whether they work well in Spain) so just because it has a convenient format I used the Trip Advisor list, which has a total of 376 restaurants. I’ve only looked through the first 40 or so. Less than half of these have websites and probably only about half of those have text I can scrap off the website (often the menu is a photo or some other type of document where the browser can’t select any text that I can then paste in my working document). So with this vast amount of material I’ve been quite busy with menus, having now crunched through six already (with some stories to tell). And I’ve got enough more to finish to keep me busy as in fact my virtual trek has already left Burgos.

But as a random tidbit, tied to the notion of producing entries for my corpus, is the variable translation of the term ración. And I do mean translation (not definition) and usually by Google. The simplest (and most frequent) literal translation is ‘ration’ but even seeing exactly the same word (although sometimes modified with 1/2) on the same page Google translates it differently and also as ‘portion’ or ‘serving’. That’s a bit of a mystery to me why there is the inconsistency but of course Google claims (in its limited online explanations of how Google Translate works) that it is “context-sensitive” in doing translations (IOW, Google also had a large corpus, mostly of translated material in the United Nations, that their AI analyzed to decide both the translation and the “context”). But within a single website, all about food, one would think the context would always be the same. But it’s not the webpage that represents “context” (I realized) it’s the source corpus where “context” is being deduced. So the notion of using “context” to improve translation doesn’t mean quite what one would think.

Now instead of translation here’s what Oxford has as definitions:

1 Cantidad de alimento que se da en una comida a una persona o animal. Amount of food that is given in a meal to a person or animal.
2 Porción unitaria de algo que puede dividirse en varias partes iguales. Unitary portion of something that can be divided into several equal parts.
3 Cantidad determinada de alimento que se toma como aperitivo entre varias personas o comida informal; suele tomarse como acompañamiento de una bebida en un establecimiento público. Quantity of food that is taken as an aperitif among several people or informal food; It is usually taken as an accompaniment to a drink in a public establishment.
4 Cantidad suficiente de algo, generalmente la que se consume en un solo día o a intervalos regulares por una persona o animal. Sufficient quantity of something, usually that which is consumed in a single day or at regular intervals by a person or animal.

Since porción is literally portion it makes some sense to have that as a translation (along with ‘helping’ and ‘serving’) the part of the definition that seems to make the most sense in the context of a restaurant menu is #3 (also #2) more than the sense of the literal ‘ration’ (as in #1 or #4, more a military term). But it is also a quantity designation (more than pincho) even if it is only consumed by one person. Now deciding how much a 1/2 or 1/4 ración is yet another challenge but it appears most restaurants do price a 1/2 at more than 50% of the price of a whole, so if you want a whole order it as two 1/2’s will cost a lot more. IOW, you probably need to be able to discuss this with your server, once again evidence that a menu translator (vs fluency in Spanish) is not going to be sufficient.

Finally as yet another random tidbit one dessert item that didn’t translate (as I’ve described before, it just is what it is) was mantecado. It wasn’t heard to find this (I thought it might be a brand but it’s just the name of a cookie) with an interesting description (here) where it is described as being similar to polvorón which has its own Wikipedia page (here) that also that mentions mantecados and says they are not the same as polvorón (you could fool me looking at the pictures in that page).

From that same menu (here) for the item espárragos cojonudos Google Translate doesn’t have English for cojonudos (espárragos is asparagus in case you’re wondering). Tracking down cojonudos with search quickly led to the connection to cojones which is a term many Americans know as part of slang but it’s not clear how ‘ballsy’ would apply to asparagus . But this article assures us the slang meaning is not the relevant one and the more respectable is ‘awesome’ or ‘outstanding’. Furthermore a particular asparagus from Navarra chooses to label itself with cojonudos  so I guess the connection to cojones doesn’t bother them (or maybe they’re not aware of the etymology of cojonudos).


Menú peregrino

This post was going to start as one of my milestones on my virtual trek but along the way I found something more interesting. In terms of milestones I just passed through the small village of Villambistia and while doing my usual search and investigation of either restaurants or albergues/hotels I found this delightful place: Casa de los deseos (I guess the literal translation of ‘home of the wishes’ could make sense, but deseo has a few other meanings). A search for it in maps.google.com will get you information or you can use this coordinate as the search in Google maps: 42°24’15.6″N 3°15’37.1″W.

On the satellite view it appears to be an empty lot (a bit ambiguous on the Street View) but the photos that Google has associated with Casa de los deseos show a charming place that looks quite new, so perhaps it has been built since the last satellite photo of this village. In one of the photos the following menu for peregrinos (pilgrims) is clearly visible and I’ve copied it for here. It’s a simple menu which is typical of the fairly cheap, but hardy food options for trekkers.

* Espaguetis – Macarrones

con tomate – carbonara

* Legumbres

Garbanzos, alubias, lentejas

* Ensalada Mixta

Tomate, lechuga, maiz, zanahoria

* Lasaña

* Filetes de lomo con pimientos

* Pechuga de pollo con pimientos

* Huevos fritos

* Tortilla francesa

* Pollo asado

* Panini

Pan, agua o Vino



Despite having no fluency in Spanish I did recognize most of this, either simply as cognates to English or as a consequence of short-term memory acquisition of some food terms in Spain doing these blog posts and my project. zanahoria (carrot) and lentejas (lentils) are the two items I couldn’t remember. A ELEGIR is not obvious but I’ve mentioned this in other posts (to choose). lomo, the subject of one of my earlier posts is probably the cured meat, not the loin of some unmentioned animal, but this is probably something one would want to ask (or see at some other table).

I was a bit mystified by Tortilla francesa. As I’ve mentioned just the plain term tortilla is seriously different in Spain (potato and egg dish) than anywhere in the western hemisphere (masa flatbread). It’s often qualified as tortilla española but it’s such a common dish on the Camino it is usually seen on menus just as tortilla. This blog post and this blog post, here at WordPress.com, have a  nice explanation of these two egg dishes and the difference. I suppose I should have done the ah-ha moment and thought francesa might be the omelet.

For me I think I’d be hungry enough I’d go for 2 PLATOS and choose Pollo asado (probably simple grilled chicken, I’m guessing dark meat since chicken breast (pechuga de pollo) is a different item) and the Ensalada Mixta.  If the Legumbres dish had included chorizo I’d go for that as the usual hearty meal for trekkers, but I think they’d mention that if it did. And, for me, not much of a tossup between agua o Vino. (The bar in this place looked fun to so I suspect they’d have some decent ordinary vino.) cerveza I’d skip in any of these places since that’s one area where I’m spoiled with great craft beer in the USA (nearby Iowa has the most breweries per capita of any state) and it’s almost always watery lager found in Spain.

8,95€ isn’t cheap but it’s hard to find an actual sit-down restaurant in small towns we visit while geodashing in USA that would be much less. But this is one very appealing part of the Camino, the support found in these tiny villages, such as Villambistia. There is a trail here in Nebraska, the Cowboy Trail, that doesn’t look much different (than the Camino) in terms of the walking but it’s around 30-50 miles between towns that even have a restaurant and even further between towns with overnight accommodations. So trekker there can only work if you have a support team with a car (also, needless to say, there is no public transportation to take you to some town). So finding not just the usual albergue but this very nice one would almost make it worth visiting Villambistia.


Left La Rioja

These “progress” reports of my virtual trek on the Camino are probably the least interesting posts I make here, but bear with me. But I want to record this progress as a kind of journal. I’ll attempt to spice up these posts with some personal story.

In this case today, with my increased mileage on my basement treadmill, I passed through the town of Redecilla del Camino. As I always do I used Google maps to “explore” any POI (points of interest) Google notes. These include both the restaurants I find to use as source material for my Spain food terms corpus, but also lodging, stores, etc. So when I was looking at an albergue in Redecilla del Camino I noticed the address indicated Burgos.

At first I was confused by this. I am familiar (from a distance) of the city of Burgos as an important place on the Camino but I’m still some distance from there. So digging around a bit I also learned, today, that Burgos is a province, part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. Looking back at the Google map I discovered the boundary between La Rioja and  Castile and León is between Redecilla del Camino and Grañón, the milestone of my last post, so I realized I had crossed this border. I wonder if there is even a sign had I been actually walking.

When I became fascinated with Spain several years ago I attempted to learn the geography and the political entities. Thus I learned a bit about the  autonomous communities as the major divisions of Spain. I tried to memorize what all these were and where they were. Later I learned some of these are then divided in provinces. La Rioja was both province and autonomous community (as well as a regional designation not exactly aligned on the political entities, somewhat like Nebraska is part of the “Great Plains” region of the USA). So it didn’t take very long to “walk” through La Rioja after leaving Navarra.

All this would be familiar to a resident or actual traveler but as someone who has never been to Spain it’s all new. As Sarah Palin once was ridiculed for saying she could see Russia from her home (she’d have to go way west in the Aleutian Islands for that to be true) I “saw” Spain while touring the Algarve in Portugal. I thought about driving a few more hours and at least crossing the border, so I could claim I had at least been in Spain, but that would have been a silly trip (somewhat like I can claim I’ve been in UK/England since I went through an airport there on the way to Portugal). Having merely crossed a border is not the same as an actual visit so I’ll have to wait until I really can visit Spain to claim I’ve been there.

Castile and León appears to be the largest autonomous community and since the Camino seems to cross most of it this will be a long trek. My impression is this area is far enough from the coast to be primarily the hot and dry part of Spain, less influenced by the cooler and wetter weather along the northern coast. My comments in the last post about the appearance of the countryside (not much different than western Nebraska or the Central Valley of California) suggest to me this is probably the least interesting part of the Camino. At least it appears fairly flat and so less strenuous walking but the lack of shade makes me wonder why so many people do the Camino in summer – do they know about this?

Without actually visiting a country it’s hard for an outsider to know much about geography. I’ve been in almost every province of Canada (and 49 of USA states) so I can relate to those from personal memory. But merely looking at maps is no substitute to try to really learn geography of a country by visiting. What I do know is that there is both a strong cultural difference and also gastronomical difference between the autonomous communities covered by the Camino, which, of course, is one of the appealing points, both to visit or just virtually visit as I’m doing.

So while this is not a “real” milestone it is a significant one for my journey. It feels about like going to Texas in the USA. I was born in Texas but left as a child and actually never expected to return. To my surprise I’ve returned a number of times. You can drive long days and still not be out of Texas so I suspect my virtual experience in  Castile and León (even just Burgos province) will be even longer.

So with this post out of the way I can return to my main topics. FOOD!

Moving faster, again

I’ve previously mentioned that in order to encourage myself to burn up miles on a treadmill in my basement I transfer that mileage to a GPS track I have of the Camino de Santiago. Thus I can track “progress” (also find new restaurants to virtually explore) and so at least have the virtual experience keeping alive my dream of someday having  the real experience.

Anyway a few weeks ago I suddenly started having severe enough pains in my toes to decide to rest a bit and then reduce my workouts. Recently, as mysteriously and quickly as the pain came on now it appears to be gone. Bodies are sometimes a real mystery.

So cautiously I went back to my mid-intensity workouts. My machine records a lot of data and I analyze that in spreadsheets. My recent low intensity workouts require about 120 calories burned per mile (this is zero slope and 2.0 mph). My medium intensity is more like 170 calories burned per mile (5.5 degree slope and 2.5mph). The high intensity that I was doing just prior to toe pain is a bit more erratic in the data since I boost the slope to 15 degrees and 2.8mph as long as I can stand (usually just a couple of minutes) and then back off to recover (in essence, simulating interval training which is superior for cardiovascular benefits than endurance training). So my high intensity was running about 215 calories burned per mile. When I was much younger I did significant amount of backpacking, in rugged terrain (mostly Sierra Nevada mountains, the ones in California, not Spain) with heavy pack and that effort felt like workout load between the medium and high intensity I’m doing now, without the bugs (of course I’m also 40 years older, so who knows).

So as a result of higher pace (I did only 6 miles in about 3 weeks while nursing my angry toe) I’ve now made 139 miles (from St Jean) and so my GPS track shows me just past the town Grañón (which is west of the bigger town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada).

So I’ll stick with the medium intensity and see if I can catch up the gap I created (from my previous regression trendline) and hope the toe pain does not return but I’ll skip the high intensity. I suspect the Camino intensity would be a bit less than my medium intensity workouts.

Doing training in a basement is helpful for tuning the body but is really boring. So in a few weeks the weather will allow hitting the trails some. Fortunately we have two reasonable outdoor trails within an hour’s drive: the Wabash in Iowa and the MoPac in Nebraska. These are trails built on top of abandoned railroads. The railroads were built long ago and thus were coal-burning locomotives so to protect crops from burning embers the railroad right-of-way was fairly wide. Today, with the trains long gone, the right-of-way is mostly woods and thus the trails are fairly well shaded. Which is good because it gets hot here in direct sun. The downside, however, is the humidity is higher along the trail than elsewhere. Two years ago when I was actually training for the Camino I began to push up my distance on those trails, with my maximum (and really only a half day) at 16 miles so I was getting close to the required distance.

But I know day-after-day is a lot different than a single day. I used to average about 20 miles a day on my bicycle and could easily do 40-50/day on weekends and then an occasional Century. But, when I did a (escorted) bike tour of Germany and Austria with about 50 miles every day it steadily wore me down to be going every day. So I suspect the Camino is like that, being able to do the daily distance, for just one day, is nowhere near the same as day-after-day. Plus I returned to my home and standard meals thus not facing the occasional dubious albergue and/or dubious restaurante.

So in doing my “virtual” Camino trek I use the images collected by Google on Streetview. Much of the route my GPS track shows has been covered by the Google cars. In fact, often looking at the street view I see the trekkers. So I’ve seen the route, steadily since leaving the Pyrenees go from green and wooded to brown, flat, dry and plain. Even going further west in La Rioja has lost most of the vineyards. So the Camino is dusty and flat. At one point it was just a dirt path alongside a divided highway.

In short the “boring” trails (say compared to mountain trails on either USA coast) here are still better. At least they have shade and a good walking surface. During summer they are a green tunnel, a lot like the Appalachian Trail (the Pacific Crest is much more exposed, like the segment of the Camino I’m now on). And the walking itself looks iffy. The two trails here are covered with crushed limestone which makes for fairly smooth (easy on the feet) walking. In contrast all the rural roads nearby are crushed stone and look just like the ones in Spain in this section of the Camino. Once I took a shortcut and went a couple of miles on the rural roads and that gravel is rough on the feet (also takes more muscle effort due to some slipping on unstable surface).

So frankly, yuck! The Camino between Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Grañón doesn’t look fun at all. Now there is the concept that peregrinos must suffer and on this stretch of the route they will (or at least their feet, plus sunburn (wearing sunscreen when it’s very hot and you’re sweating is seriously not fun)). But this is a silly kind of suffering. It’s like when I did a lot of biking – working hard to go up a mountain had the reward of accomplished the top but I hated biking into headwinds, just an invisible force holding me back. So I see the route in this stretch that way – not really a challenge but just a slog with little point except, hopefully, to reach better outdoors further west. If I wanted a walk like I’m seeing I actually could do it here. Another rails-to-trails project, the Cowboy trail does go as far as the required Camino distance to get the compostela and it too is completely exposed and is parallel to a major highway. I’ve never chosen to do any of that trail, even on a bike, much less the slower pace of walking – too hot, too dry, too boring (and here with lots of insect pests).

But, fortunately, on a virtual trek, I get to avoid that and merely face the boredom of stationary exercise.



Delayed, but still moving

Various issues have interfered with my virtual trek along the Camino. The main issue is some sufficiently unpleasant pains in a toe to discourage my walking on machines or even the streets (it’s beginning to be spring so some walking outside is feasible). I’m disappointed by my lack of progress, just 5.81 miles in just less than a month.

So I have now made it to Santo Domingo de la Calzada which is big enough to have a lot of places to stay and restaurants, even a couple with websites and online menus. It’s surprising (and not so often mentioned in peregrino lore) that most of the country getting here is really boring dry farm county.

OTOH, since it’s been pleasant outside, for a few days, I have about 7 miles of real walking. But this is all nothing. To do the Camino one must be able to cover some significant mileage, each day, and day after day. All that is part of the point of even doing the Camino, the effort, the exertion, the pain.

My situation is a bit different. If I were actually on the Camino “going for it” is part of the point, push through any pain. But I’m in the midwest USA, doing miles on a treadmill in a basement. Rather than pushing through the pain it’s appropriate to “give it a rest”. But it seems like a rest isn’t cutting it.

I’m nearly 72YO. I’m in good shape but meanwhile have sustained a few minor injuries in my life. I don’t like wearing shoes (my southern US background) so, of course, every now and then I’ve banged a toe or part of a foot into some stationary unmoveable object. Those bashes to my body add up. I can’t recall if my current pain, minor but inconvenient, results from such an event, but it does add up.

I figure that I’m lucky. I have both good health and decent fitness (age adjusted). I could do the Camino, maybe a bit slower than others, but I’d get there. The maximum walk I’ve ever taken is about 60 miles on a backpacking trip in Canada. But backpacking is a bit tougher than the Camino.

Once I had the situation where I was working for a small Silicon Valley startup that fell short of funds, so I had a couple of unpaid weeks off (that or lose my job all together). So late in the season I hoped on my bike and rode down the west coast of California (with a ride to get me to starting point, you always ride south along the Pacific coast). I made it all the way, and enjoyed the stops every night. California reserved a spot for all bicyclists, so all of us were forced into the same spot every night. I had a gas lantern and that became the focal point of all the other cyclists. So I get the whole “brief” companionship that occurs on the Camino.

Anyway my visit is still virtual. Who knows if I can actually do it for real. And so my short distances don’t really matter. Weeks to cover a daily distance I can ignore, in virtual. But I wonder what would happen for real.

A la Riojana

My virtual trek has now taken me just past Nájera in La Rioja and there is one restaurant there, Los Parrales, that offers the following menu (plus individual items with a la Riojana as a modifier): [Note: translations are from Google Translate of webpages]

Menú Típico Riojano Typical Riojano Menu
Los sabores más tradicionales de La Rioja The most traditional flavors of La Rioja
Descubre la gastronomía riojana de la mano de nuestro menú típico riojano. Discover the Riojan gastronomy hand in hand with our typical Riojan menu.

If you’ve ever gotten wine from Spain you’ve heard of Rioja. This is the best-known and probably premier wine growing area. Like Napa (which is a region, county and town) La Rioja is a political entity, an autonomous community of Spain, consisting of a single province. The capital is Logroño which was my previous stop on the Camino. The wine region of Rioja is not exactly the same area as the political entity but roughly aligns with it. And Riojana is the demonym of people and things from this region. A la Riojana is a designation, used with food, to indicate the preparation is the one typical used in Rioja. This is similar to Italian practice, e.g. a la Bolognese (a meat-based sauce originating from Bologna).

But what is it?

For me to answer, neither being there in person nor an expert in either Spanish language or cuisine of Spain is a bit of a stretch, so I suggest you find other sources (I’ll be providing some), especially from anyone who is describing their personal experience with a la Riojana.

This article, while in Spanish, has a better description than I can provide. Teresa Barrenechea lumps La Rioja together with Navarra and Aragón, emphasizing the connection to La Ribera del Ebro (the second major river of the entire Iberian Peninsula; ribera is its riverbank, the obvious fertile area for growing crops). While wine is the hallmark of Rioja it is not used, directly, in the cuisine. Instead the cuisine is dominated by vegetables which grow well in the same conditions as vineyards. The cuisine uses less of the fresh seafood of further north but a bit more lamb and beef. It is simple and hearty.

Perhaps the most classic dish is:

Patatas a la Riojana Potatoes Riojana’s style

This is a fairly simple stew (description and typical recipe) of potatoes and chorizo (riojana version) seasoned with ample paprika. It definitely seems to meet the simple and hardy description that is characteristic of much of a la Riojana. It’s amusing that one of the links (for receta) I provided actually uses patatasriojana as the domain name (I guess someone thinks it’s famous).

In terms of fish this also seems to be a classic (description and typical recipe):

Bacalao a la Riojana Cod to the Riojana

I ate numerous cod dishes in Portugal (from desalted salt cod, interesting to see huge piles of it in markets) and, well, it’s pretty blah. The tomato sauce and at least some hint of pepper might elevate this dish above blah levels, but it seems hard to get excited about it.

A more interesting meat dish (again that seems to be a Riojana classic, although not on the menu of this restaurant is las chuletas al sarmiento (chops with the vine shoot, description) which is roast lamb but using the trimmings for grape vines as the smoking wood. The restaurant did have a special menu focused on this dish:

Menú Típico Riojano Especial Lechazo Typical Rioja Special Lechazo (lit: suckling lamb) Menu
Lechazo de Cameros Recién (lit: newly or recently) Asado Newly Roasted Cameros
A elegir de los primeros platos y postres del Menú Típico Riojano Choose from the first dishes and desserts of the Riojano Typical Menu

Now lechazo is a preparation (English link, Spanish link) [and also an alternative term] of cordero lechal . cordero is a lamb (in general), and lechal (derived from leche (milk)) imply a very young and unweaned lamb. So this menu is a variation (at this restaurant and therefore for a certain price) of their Menú Típico Riojano where the lechazo is the required segundo plato.

But it took some looking to finally conclude (as best I can) that the de Cameros (tough to search since a car gets most hits) refers to a geographical area within Rioja, i.e. in and around the Sierra de Cameros in in the south center of La Rioja (in the region of La Rioja Media). Presumably the sheep from this area must be special enough that they’d be labeled on the menu. But this is another typical challenge of deciphering menus.

And then there was this item on the menu:

Revuelto Riojano Scrambled Riojano

I’ve actually mentioned revuelto is a previous post but the images and recipes I find for this seem to be showing off the vegetables that also characterize Riojana. Here is a recipe focused on a version emphasizing peppers. And another recipe that seems to have a bit of everything in a big pile which seems to be merging revuelto and pisto (I love this spanishdict.com translation of pisto, hotchpotch, or more conventionally ratatouille).

So that’s our brief tour of La Rioja. Too bad it’s only words since sights and smells and tastes, in real life, would be some much better.

Note: This post took me so long to get it published I’ve passed Nájera and blown into the next town, Azofra. It has a couple of restaurants labeled on the Google map but none (thus far) that appear to have websites to extract their menus. But as a recommendation, Dear Reader, it’s handy to look at these places on Google maps because they collect many photos of food for each restaurant that is a POI. Here is a good interactive map with a GPS trace of the Camino de Santiago.



Finished the GallinaBlanca Diccionario

I’ll explain what “finished” means in a minute but first I am almost at another milestone in my journey, so 1/2 mile outside Nájera, about 20 miles from Logroño and about 60 miles to reach Burgos, on my virtual  camino trek. That is since I’m stuck here in the cold midwest USA I do miles on my treadmill in the basement (training for the Camino, I wish!!!) and translate those boring miles onto a GPS track of the Camino de Santiago and then, most of the time, do a little “walking” courtesy of Google StreetView (the Camino is hardly a wilderness trail if a Google car is driving on it).

So what does it mean that I say I finished the GB dictionary. Well it means the tedious part is over. Their dictionary is provided via Javascript popups and one page for each letter of the alphabet and thus: a) there is no way to easily grab all the terms out of the HTML, and, b) Google Translate doesn’t operate on the popups. So I have to manually click each term, use mouse to get the text of its definition in Spanish, paste that in my MSWord document and in the spanishdict.com webpage, get the translation (which it turns out seem to actually be provided my Microsoft; I tried the translation built into MSWord itself and it was pretty ragged), mouse that translation and then paste in the side-by-side table. Then I take the term and attempt to get a simple literal translation (more pasting, possibly into three different webpages).

Needless to say this is big-time tedious (and slow) and that’s what I’ve finished. It may be tedious but going slowly through the list means I take the time to study each result. Often even from the English translation of the definition of the term I really don’t know what the English word would be, which makes that lookup sometimes a surprise. Since this is a specialized vocabulary for cooking many of the terms are more obscure and thus missing in dictionary lookups so it’s off to doing searching and guessing and trial-and-error until I get a reasonable answer. Lots of work but a good learning experience.

So now I have that “done” (probably a few mistakes I’ll have to clean up). So I have pages of stuff like this:

HERVIR (literally boil) Cocer en líquido a una temperatura de 100º. Cook in liquid at a temperature of 100 º.
HORNEAR (literally bake) Cocer en el horno mediante calor seco. Cook in the oven with dry heat.
HUMEAR (literally smoke or steam, and one sense is exactly this definition? ahumar is the culinary verb) Se dice cuando el aceite desprende humo, indicando que está caliente, a punto. It is said when the oil emits smoke, indicating that it is hot, ready.
INCORPORAR (literally incorporate, add, include and mix in) Agregar, unir algo a otra cosa para que haga un todo con ella. Add, join something else to do a whole thing with it.
INSTILAR (literally instill) Echar poco a poco, gota a gota, un líquido en otra cosa. Slowly pouring, drop by drop, a liquid into something else.
LAMINAR (literally laminate) Cortar en láminas muy finas. Cut into very thin slices.

So what am I going to do with this now?

I deliberately picked a chunk of the dictionary that is all verbs because that’s my first attempt to create something derived from this list. There are a lot of verbs in this dictionary because it accompanies recetas (recipes) and these verbs (in some conjugated form) probably occur in the collection of all those recetas. So GallinaBlanca is nicely helping cooks read recetas that might contain a verb they don’t know. There are some fairly obscure verbs in the list.

Now what has this got to do with reading menus which is the focus of my project. Rarely are the menus (at least the list of items you can order) going to have complete sentences explaining the food (perhaps a brief, just a phrase, description). So verbs don’t much matter.

Or do they? A word you will frequently see on menus (even in name of restaurants) is asado.  This is grilled or roasted (as an adjective perhaps modifying some noun) or even just a noun in its own right, grill or roast. But this word has its root in a verb, that is asar (in the infinitive form, i.e. the typical word to lookup in a dictionary (Note: Online dictionaries are often smart enough to handle conjugated forms but typical non-interactive dictionaries (paper or smartphone) require you to see this is a conjugation of a verb and deduce the infinitive form to do the lookup – not easy if you’re unfamiliar with Spanish).  asado is the past participle of asar and as Spanish verbs are far more regular (some exceptions) than English this is almost an algorithmic rule to form past participle from infinitive very (like to baked and baked as a regular case in English). So in a quick extract from my list here are a couple more examples: hervir (to boil) hervido (boiled), estofar (to stew) estofado (stewed), picar (to mince or chop)  picado (minced).

So knowing some cooking verbs could come in handy. Memorizing them all is probably a waste of time but as I intend to collect everything I’ll need this in my smart app that is going to translate menus (having all the conjugations is then easy as well).

But I don’t like to depend on a single source for literal translation (each verb to its most direct English equivalent). Plus some verbs have a ton of different meanings and they are not always labeled as being the culinary sense in every dictionary. And some verbs don’t have much connection, given GallinaBlanca’s definition to the standard (at least online) dictionary definitions. For instance, this tough one to figure out:

ALBARDAR (literally: to saddle, put a  packsaddle on)  Envolver piezas de carne con lonchas finas de tocino, para evitar que se sequen al cocinarlas. Wrap pieces of meat with thin slices of bacon to avoid drying when cooking.

I suppose one might deduce that wrapping meat with bacon is “saddling” it, but really the clue comes from this:

Saddle is a butchery term that refers to the meat that is at the animal’s back and hips. Think of it in terms of the meat that would be in more or less the same place as a saddle on a horse.

I’ve done a fair amount of cooking (and reading cookbooks) and ‘saddle’ as a cut of meat never registered. Or what about this one:

CINCELAR (literally chisel, carve, engrave) Hacer incisiones en una pieza (se utiliza sobre todo para pescados) para facilitar su proceso de cocción, generalmente en los asados. Make incisions in one piece (mainly used for fish) to facilitate their cooking process, usually in roasts.

I’ve done exactly this cooking fish (and more so bread) but I don’t think I’d use any of those literal English verb equivalents to describe the process.

So there is a lot of learn from these verbs. And as I said I don’t like single sources so I sometimes use a page here in this blog (test data) to paste some Spanish in, view that page, and then fire up Google Translate (maybe there is some simpler way but this works without too much hassle).

Now what I’ve read about Google Translate context matters. So a pure list of verbs, especially in infinitive form eliminates any possibility of a contextual AI-ish translation and thus is just a simple literal translation. For verbs with many meanings there is nothing to clue Google about which one to use.

So it was interesting to see how Google did on this translation. I found a total of 132 verbs in GallinaBlanca dictionary. Of these the following 44 had no Google translation:


Now Google can be forgiven (except it claims it’s AI does better than rule-based literal translation) for the verbs in RED since none of my dictionaries know what these are. For instance I actually think acidelar is just a typo since the definition GB gives it “Put lemon juice or vinegar in the water to cook poached eggs or vegetables, so that they do not blackened. ” is fairly similar for the known acidular whose definition is “Sprinkle with an acidic liquid fruit, vegetables or vegetables so that they retain their whiteness or colour.” But the definitions are not exactly the same and for me to declare acidelar to be a mistake is premature; after all it could be some alternate spelling or perhaps a regional difference from the standard dictionary Spainish, or, worse, it might be the spelling used in Spain versus what is used elsewhere. I simply do not have enough data to decide.

So what about something like

MOREAR (not in any dictionary) Dar vuelta sobre el fuego bajo y con un poco de aceite en un sartén o cacerola a los alimentos, para que tomen color antes de añadirle salsa o caldo. Turn over the low heat and with a little oil in a frying pan or pan to the food, so that they take color before adding sauce or broth.

This comes up blank in all dictionaries and most web searches I’ve tried. So the question is do I believe this is even a word (or perhaps it’s from some other language used in Spain). It certainly sounds like sauté (cooking technique) but that is saltear GB defines as “Stir the food in butter or hot oil when frying in an uncovered skillet.”

Now for the words not in RED I did find literal translations of them including ASAR which I find surprising that Google doesn’t know (this, as you recall, is the verb I used as example above to explain why I’m investigating verb, i.e. it is the infinitive root for asado, a very common word on menus). And I’m also surprised it didn’t know GUISAR (cook, stew; cook up) since I can recall from memory seeing that and especially its past participle guisado (refers, as a noun, to  casserole, stew, or, most generically, dish) and as an adjective as stewed. And I’ve seen rebozado (covered in batter or breadcrumbs) on numerous menus and it’s the past participle of REBOZAR (to coat in batter or breadcrumbs) that Google didn’t know. Now, OTOH, TRUFAR (try to guess before reading the translation) is probably sufficiently obscure Google may not have seen this but given the price of the item for this word you’d want to know what it means if you saw it on a mean (it means, to stuff with truffles).

Now as the other verbs which Google did have some translation I’m going through a somewhat tedious process of digging out (again, but this time in a single consistent process) the literal translations so I can compare Google to other sources. And sources are going to matter. Not only is it hard to say with absolute certainty what an appropriate translation is going to be (I believe even fluent Spanish speaking authorities might debate some verbs) I need to do this comparison of various sources in a systematic way, not believing one source over another until I can potentially “confirm” a translation via some processing of a large corpus of translated food related material, IOW, exactly what I’m building up now.

For the verbs Google did translate here are a few of the issues I’ve found thus far (not done with this analysis):

  1.  Often Google chooses the present participle as the translation instead of the infinitive, e.g. ADOBAR, Google says marinating instead of to marinate, not a big deal overall but this might get into a corpus and create a statistical flaw later in the analysis.
  2. For AVIAR Google picked the most literal, namely an adjective ‘avian’ rather than to prepare as the root verb (multiple meanings, this one matches the GB definition, “Prepare birds for cooking. It consists of all pre-elaborations that must be made to a piece: cleaning, flamed, wicking, flanged, etc.”  Note: That GB has defined this in more specific way than spanishdict.com did and given the Latin root for both the verb and the adjective the GB definition is definitely superior (plus being more useful to understand in the context of cooking).
  3. Picking one of several literal translations, but not in the culinary sense (which I do, looking at spanishdict.com because I know culinary is the context), e.g. BRIDAR which Google translates as ‘bridle’ (literally OK), but to tie or truss is much more useful in cooking sense.
  4. Or something like DESPLUMAR, which Google picks the present participle Fleecing, which is a plausible translation. But the GB definition is “Remove the feathers from the bird.” which comes closer to an alternate definition, ‘to pluck’. Amazingly using fleecing is a colloquial usage somewhat like English where someone is taken advantage of and thus “fleeced”.

I’m sure there will be more as I finish grinding through but this post, already TMI, hopefully gives a sense of how I’m post-processing the pure mechanical part of my study to pound the raw data into a more usable form to then create my corpus (all preliminary to creating my AI-ish smart menu translator).




Adventure in menu and receta

As I’ve mentioned I’m doing a “virtual” trek of the Camino by converting the miles I do on a treadmill in my basement to locations along the Camino (I found a detailed GPS track). It would be way more fun to be walking the real Camino but this is better than nothing, especially as the Google cars cover most of the route (or nearby) and so I can use StreetView to “see” my surroundings. Plus for restaurants in the towns usually there are many photos and sometimes websites with menus.

My progress in this virtual walk is much slower than I’d have to do (and could do) on a real walk but it’s fairly steady. So a few days ago I passed through Logroño and found as many online menus as I could (saved the URLs for later). Meanwhile the recipe dictionary I’ve been studying has taken most of my time. But my trek continues and I’m at the edge of Navarrete so I thought I should at least dig through one of the menus from Logroño.

So I’ve been looking at Tondeluna’s website. The carta actually has English translations BUT, unfortunately that document is in the form of a PDF that is locked and so I can’t extract any text from it to create my corpus entries. I’m not going to try to type it into my corpus because I’ll make too many mistakes and create bad data. But, the group menu, also a PDF, does permit me to extract its text but it has no translations so I have to do all the tedious manual mouse work to finally get side-by-side Spanish and English.

Right away I encountered this:

COCINA CLÁSICA PARA PICAR  AL CENTRO Y SEGUNDOS INDIVIDUALES Classic kitchen for center-chopping and individual seconds

Now “center-chopping” is one of those translations that immediately catches my attention (as wrong, even often silly) so I tried to figure it out. Starting with picar whose first couple of translations (sting, bite, peck at) don’t make a lot of sense I realized I’ve seen this before and the more useful translation (way down in spanishdict’s list) is the colloquial meaning (nibble on or snack). But what has centro got to do with it? Seeing that in addition to the obvious cognate of center ‘middle’ is another translation, and, I realized this must have something to do with putting (what is the starters and appetizers of this menu) in the middle of the table for all the diners to snack on. Then segundos individuales implies that those plates are then served to each individual.

In trying to figure this out my various searches (about how meals get served in restaurants) didn’t directly answer my question but one article had a somewhat different description of ración than what I’d previously found.  [btw: That article has lots of interesting information about restaurant meals] They claimed that unlike how it sounds ración is too large for one person and so it is typically shared and, of course obviously, it would probably be placed in the middle of the table to be shared. OK, fine, but I still can’t quite decide how to interpret these entries (and haven’t found anything online to explain)

LAS CROQUETAS que mi madre Marisa, nos enseñó a hacer (al centro 2 unidades por persona) The croquettes that my mother Marisa, taught us to do (to the center 2 units per person)
LA ENSALADILLA RUSA de Tondeluna con mahonesa aireada (1×3 al centro) The Russian salad of Tondeluna with aerated mayonnaise (1×3 to the center)

It’s this bit, (al centro 2 unidades por persona), that makes some sense. The ración will include two croquetas per person on a big serving platter in al centro (this is just for pricing, so person could eat one and another eats three, or whatever). But what about (1×3 al centro)? Given this is salad, not a discrete item like a croqueta what are they saying about how much is included in the ración? Is is one “serving” for every three people or three servings per person or what? The other ENTRANTES FRÍOS on Menu1 (25€, the cheapest of the five different group menus) is

TARTAR ALIÑADO DE SALMÓN aliñado con lima y alga wakame (1×3 al centro) Seasoned tartare of salmon with lime and wakame seaweed (1×3 to the center)

and that is no more illuminating on this point. Scanning further in the more expensive menus reveals:

CARPACCIO DE GAMBA sobre tartar de tomate, dátiles, cebollino y ajo blanco (1×4 al centro) Prawn CARPACCIO on tomato tartare, dates, chives and white garlic (1×4 to the center)

so clearly this 1xN is some kind of notation indicating quantity that is put on the serving platter in the middle of the table, but I don’t get it. It doesn’t much matter to me since I wouldn’t be in the restaurant with a group so I’d just be ordering off the carta (which I can read online, some good items, but can’t (easily) add to my corpus).

Moving on this work led off in a different direction. One item on the group menu

SAN JACOBO DE LENGUA  y queso de Cameros y salsa de champiñones (1/2 individual) SAN JACOBO de LENGUA y queso de cameros and mushroom sauce (1/2 individual)

It’s surprising to me that queso didn’t get the obvious literal translation so chasing down queso de cameros was my first quest which had a simple reference (a goat cheese originating in the Sierra de los Cameros in La Rioja) which makes sense given this is a restaurant in La Rioja. It wasn’t hard to get the literal of lengua (tongue) but otherwise this dish remained mostly a mystery. But as I’ve found before it’s likely the San Jacobo qualifier would lead to a fairly specific dish in a search and it did. There are photos and multiple links to recipes so I chose to look at this recipe.

Long story short I went through all the actual cooking instructions (not sure why but called Elaboración on this webpage) doing my side-by-side (Google translation) and then analyzing the entries. This one caught my attention:

Emplata a tu gusto los san jacobos con la ensalada y sirve . Emplata to your taste the san jacobos with the salad and serves.

Google couldn’t figure out emplata nor could spanishdict but interestingly wiktionary had an entry that made total sense (in the context of this step of the recipe) – to plate. So I realized I’d found a “cooking” verb I hadn’t encountered before (I have a running list of these). So I decided to find all the verbs in all the steps of the recipe and ended up with several new ones for my list (in some cases it’s the meaning, in this context, that is new as the verb had appeared before in some other sense). So just from this one recipe I found all these:

añadir to add
cocinar to cook
condimentar to season
cotar to cut
cubrir to cover
dejar to leave or let
desgranar to shell
emplatar to plate
enfriar to cool
escurrir to drain
freír to fry
introducer to insert
mezclar to mix
pasar to pass
pelar to peel
poner to put or add
repitir to repeat
servir to serve
subir to rise
trocear to cut up

Pretty nifty, eh, plus some practice reading Spanish. I know that repetition is key to learning a language so every time I go off on one of these digressions a bit more sinks it each time.

Half way through diccionario

I started this reboot of my project to complete the largest (and hopefully most accurate) glossary of cooking terms, specifically for Spain, with the assumption that finding as many restaurants menus as I could and “translating” them (which often means something different than merely Spanish to English as the terms may be names of towns or brand-names or whatever, as well as words with an English translation). I was chugging along fine with this and gradually learning some of the tricks to making this work. Then, as I mentioned on 18Dec2017, I took a detour into the website of a large grocery chain (useful since they have online ordering and thus pictures and so some hard-to-find terms appear there (searching for a word that was a type of squid got me to the grocery site)).

Shortly thereafter I found the website that has been most of this project for the last month (with some timeouts for holidays). The Spanish-headquartered and multinational GallinaBlanca has a website to promote their products but also a large collection of recetas (recipes). I thought recipes would be a good source to decode and then add to my corpus (association of Spanish terms/phrases to something useful in English, literal translation where possible, explanation otherwise). I didn’t expect that side-trip into the diccionario to take anywhere near this long but it has been a very fruitful exercise. Since then I’ve completed 491 of the terms.

[Note: I treat the GallinaBlanca dictionary as copyrighted and thus I cannot republish it (except in a few samples with attribution). They don’t indicate where they got this dictionary from (and I find some typos and other mistakes that hint they might have converted in from some other non-electronic source which I will presume they have necessary license to do). So my process here is not to rip off someone else’s dictionary, but to generate my own “raw” data (my corpus of Spanish food terms/phrases and some kind of equivalent in English) to feed my software (that will reconcile the various sources and condense multiple entries to a single final result). Anyone who creates any kind of dictionary is using information from other sources. As long as your own work is original and not solely based on a single source, even just a bit, one can consider one’s product to be original. Hence all the side work and digressions that almost every entry sends me into constitutes that original work, not just, even if it were just for me use (which then is not copyright violation) would be a legitimate use of this online material]

Let me describe what is an incredibly tedious process. After a painful process (that I don’t completely remember) I extracted all the words in the dictionary and converted these to a three column table in Microsoft Word. That took over a day but then I was ready to go to work. One problem I encountered is that this webpage is mostly powered by Javascript and the Google Translate therefore is not active for the definitions. IOW, you click a word and its definition, in Spanish, appears in a popup. I briefly looked at the HTML of the page with one of my old programmer tools to see if I could find a more convenient source (than one-a-time examining the words) but couldn’t find anything.

So I click a word (mouse), select the definition part of the popup (manual with mouse, no key shortcut), change windows (I’m not using my dual screen computer for this) and paste that definition in the second column (this is faster using mouse than Ctl-V since that would be two steps to paste-as-text), then I switch back to browser and another tab for spanishdict.com and paste that definition there, hit the translate button. Almost always there is some translation, even though often fairly useless. Then I have to select that translation, switch windows again and right mouse click paste the translation, side-by-side with the Spanish. Then I look at this a bit, trying to spot strangeness in the translation, but also attempting to decide what this term is (yesterday I pointed out how a dictionary definition of eneldo (dill) didn’t awake in me the definition was of ‘dill’.

Then some fun begins. I take the original word (or multi-word) and click-copy that and switch back to browser and paste into spanishdict tab and get the literal translation. I didn’t keep enough records to have statistics but I’d guess that about half the literal translations make sense (i.e. there is an equivalent word in English (or sometimes Italian since this dictionary incorporates a number of loanwords from other languages)). Often spanishdict.com has multiple meanings for the word including some labeled under culinary (helpful, since often the culinary sense of the word is quite different than other senses). Sometimes nothing in the literal translation seems to match the concept in the translation definition. Or, about one time in five, spanishdict finds nothing.

Now my ultimate point of this post is that all this tedious mechanical activity is actually useful for me to figure out ways to do this process better, plus actually learn something, but I’ll get to that in my summary.

It was the “fails”, i.e. no clear (or any) literal translation that led to my improved process. First I started looking for other dictionaries and found the Spanish language Oxford dictionary.  This is NOT a translation (to any other language) dictionary but like the GallinaBlanca dictionary a source of definitions, in Spanish, for the term. I don’t know if Oxford misses words that are in spanishdict (since I always try spanishdict first) but occasionally Oxford will have a definition for a word that spanishdict didn’t recognize. But, of course, I’m getting a definition in Spanish, not a translation. So I can use Google Translate on the Oxford pages. And, every now and then that gives me a clue, again, not a direct translation, just an idea what this stuff is. So, then, often I try the reverse lookup in spanishdict, i.e. the word in English that I’m now guessing based on Oxford and sometimes I find it. This surprises me that spanishdict might have the word I’m looking for as Spanish translation of the English word but not the other way around. And sometimes there is another kind of asymmetry.

spanishdict.com says gamba is shrimp or prawn. Well, go to any seafood store and you’ll see they sell shrimp and prawn as two different things (even though they are related biological creatures). So lookup ‘shrimp’ and you get camarón or quisquilla or gamba (in animal sense) and camarón or gamba (in the culinary definition), but importantly spanishdict.com also puts ‘(large)’ following gamba. Without getting to the detailed scientific nomenclature of crustaceans, but according to Wikipedia:

The terms shrimp and prawn are common names, not scientific names. They are vernacular or colloquial terms which lack the formal definition of scientific terms … The terms shrimp and prawn have no definite reference to any known taxonomic groups. Although the term shrimp is sometimes applied to smaller species, while prawn is more often used for larger forms, there is no clear distinction between both terms and their usage is often confused or even reverse in different countries or regions.

So spanishdict.com is really helping by saying that gamba really is a prawn which is sometimes confused as a shrimp. But then looking up ‘prawn’ spanishdict.com gives (under the culinary sense rather than animal sense):  el langostino  (large),  el camarón (small or medium) (Latin America),   la gamba (medium) (Spain) and  la quisquilla (small) (Spain). This clears it up, doesn’t it. So next time you see gamba on a menu in Spain you’ll know what to expect (and quite possibly not get). spanishdict.com is particularly helpful when it labels the part of the world where a particular term is being used but this is generally only available during a lookup of an English word, not the lookup of the Spanish word.

A point of this is to show how being patient with the tedious mechanical part of this exercise and then being thorough about doing some investigation can generate a far better understanding of Spain’s food terms than some quick and dirty extract (like I did in previous versions of this project) to get the first English translation I can find.

But the real fun occurs when I can’t find any definition in any of my three sources, including the completely authoritative one from Real Academia Española (in association with Associación de Academias de la Lengua Española). [Note: I would have never even found this source had I not been doing all the extra tedious work of trying to find something for every word instead of just grabbing what was convenient].

So, for instance, galet stumps the dictionaries. So what do I do with this. Back to plain of Google search starting with ‘what is galet’. Sometimes I get great results right away (including the Wikipedia articles which get special treatment in Google search and often are the correct answer even though the word is not mentioned, as I described in my previous post) and other times nothing that makes any sense. In those cases, using what GallinaBlanca supplied as the definition I start adding modifying terms to the Google search. GallinaBlanca defined galet as “Snail-shaped Pasta, widely used in Catalan soups and Escudellas”. Now this might be a clue galet is not even Castilian Spanish but that doesn’t explain it either. By adding ‘pasta’ to my query I eventually found this article which has an image of sopa de galet with those very snail shaped pasta (which looks like either conchiglie or maybe orecchiette as Italian names are far more description. Note also galet is not a cognate of any Italian name, but guess what espaguetti is).

Now the shape of the pasta in your soup may not matter to you very much (given probably any pasta is edible by most anyone) but in other cases refining these definitions can be critical.

Note also that the spanishdict.com’s translation of GallinaBlanca’s definition of galet left Escudellas untranslated. This then becomes another of my digressions for this word (a frequent thing I do which adds a lot to my knowledge and my corpus). So briefly the Google search leads to this article which says “Escudella means “bowl,” and in Catalonia it is the name of a big stew-soup, escudella i carn d’olla, usually made for Christmas. ” This demonstrates several things: 1) this may just be Catalan term but the authoritative RAE does include it in their dictionary (apparently as a loanword from Catalan, 2) this is a dish/preparation and doesn’t have any direct English translation (like what is gazpacho in English? duh, gazpacho. Maybe some foodies just know escudella too), and, 3) searches sometimes give vague clues BUT also as everything on the net one should not trust a single source to produce a conclusive result. To handle this as I compose my corpus (which is just all this manually collected data with English-Spanish “equivalence” (neither definition or translation, per se, at least for all terms)) I need to add some confidence level.

And so I’ll end with . This is not in any of the dictionaries (even RAE) but some Google searches eventually led to this webpage which said “Girgola (Oysters Mushroom)”. Now interestingly this is one of those cases where the Google search had already brought up this Wikipedia page which is the scientific name commonly known as oyster mushroom. Various other search results (other than girgola seems to be a common name (unrelated) for restaurants) hints that this same conclusion. However the direct (and obviously literal) translation of oyster mushroom is seta de ostra so is girgola an oyster mushroom or not – hard to reach a definitive conclusion.

So, what is all this description of my process all about. For me it shows that doing this incredibly tedious mechanical process plus lots of digressions in anything I find that doesn’t quite fit right generates far more information than just grabbing some glossary of the Net. Plus, given I can handle tedium fairly well (after all, being retired this is as good a time waster as basket making or some such hobby), all these wide ranging searches reveals a lot of information, both directly about the term I’m trying to understand and serendipitously about many of the interesting issues, about language and food, one would encounter trekking through northern Spain. Both the time this takes and the Net bandwidth is not something that would be available to a peregrino so my guide someday will save them countless hours. And provide me with something interesting to do for a year or so.