Confusing terms – caramelo, tarta, bizcocho

I’ve finally finished grinding through 34 webpages for about 450 desserts at this very interesting Spanish receta website.  That study has certainly revealed a large number of terms related to desserts (dulces y postres) and I’ve isolated several that have multiple meanings and thus are difficult (without the picture and recipe) to recognize.

Let’s start with caramelo. Oxford translates this as ‘candy’ (for US,  or ‘sweet’ for UK) or ‘caramel’ (in the context azúcar fundida (molten sugar)). Checking the reverse translation for ‘candy’ yields golosinas (in confectionary context) and caramelo (in the individual piece context). golosinas appears nowhere in the 34 pages of dulces y postres and caramelo appears 7 times, sometimes as a candy, other times as caramel. has the same translations as Oxford except they say ‘caramel’ (in culinary sense, instead of molten sugar sense; IOW, they’re more general). If I were writing a receta (or menu item) I’d know which I mean but if I’m reading I’d have to guess.

The issue of tarta and bizcocho arise in a specific item I’ll discuss but tarta appears 60 times and bizcocho appears 49 times. Google Translate converts tarta to ‘cake’ (most of the time) but also to ‘pie’ and ‘tart’. There is quite a bit of difference between these and if I were ordering I’d like to know which the menu item is.  Google Translate converts bizcocho to ‘sponge cake’ (most of the time) or just ‘cake’ and a few times to ‘biscuits’ (meaning the UK name for cookies). Unlike tarta, bizcocho seems to have a fairly specific meaning (this English Wikipedia article covers it quite well including all the meanings based on geography and this Spanish Wikipedia article has multiple pages about it), especially in Spain, but the alternate translations it can have outside Spain is probably what confuses Google Translate.

The specific receta that triggered all this is:

Bizcocho genovés para tartas y brazos de gitano Genovese cake for cakes and gypsy arms

This allows us to explore several interesting topics.

First note the word-by-word correspondence where Google Translate has converted both bizcocho and tarta to ‘cake’ (we’ll get to brazos de gitano later).  But it’s actually the genovés (Genovese) that really tells us what this receta is.  And that is, otherwise known by its original name, genoise,

A genoise, Genoese cake or Genovese cake; rarely spelled “génoise” in English) is an Italian sponge cake named after the city of Genoa and associated with Italian and French cuisine.

So this is a basic sponge cake to use in making various other desserts under general notion of tarta. Now the recipe has this information in its preface:

hoy venimos con un básico, el bizcocho genovés, que no es más que la típica plancha de bizcocho que se usa principalmente para hacer tartas con relleno, brazos de gitano, y algún que otro postre que también os enseñaremos a hacer muy pronto. today we come with a basic, Genovese biscuit, which is nothing more than the typical plate of cake that is used mainly to make pies with stuffing, arms of gypsy, and the odd dessert that we will also teach you to do very soon.

Note that here Google Translate converts first instance of bizcocho as ‘biscuit’ (UK term for cookie) and the second as cake – how’s that for silly “context sensitivity”? Oxford translates bizcocho as ‘sponge’ or ‘sponge cake’ (as a pastel) and ‘sponge finger’ (as a galleta) which only slightly clears this up. Sometimes this would lead to viewing bizcocho as a ‘ladyfinger’, a cookie which is used in various desserts. Also it decided tarta refers to pies which we’ll see later is rarely the case.

Note also the use of plancha which has the corresponding word ‘plate’ in the Google Translation.  This is interesting since we normally encounter plancha (on menus) as a la plancha which more-or-less translates to cooked on “grill” (really an iron flattop in most restaurants).  plancha has the direct translation (from Oxford) as ‘iron’ or ‘griddle’, but also ‘plate’ or ‘sheet’.  Now ‘sheet’ is used in the context of metal or wood, but in this receta this is clearly a reference to ‘sheet cake’  (rather than ‘plate’) even though that’s not included in dictionaries.

So before moving on to tarta let’s address  brazos de gitano, which is literally ‘gypsy arm’.  This is discussed in the Wikipedia article on “Swiss roll” which says brazos de gitano is the equivalent term as used in Spain. In short this is just a rolled up sheet of sponge cake with some filling. The Spanish Wikipedia has a longer description.

So tarta translates to ‘cake’, ‘pie’ and ‘tart’ in the recetas at this site. Is this just an artifact of Google Translate or are these different items. Yes and No. Looking at the photos and instructions (for a sample, not all 60) tarta can be a pie or cake or tart (the distinction between pie and tart is less than with cake, if you happen to be a baker).

Oxford translates tarta only as ‘cake’ but has these two definitions:

1 Pastel redondo, dulce o salado, hecho con una masa en un molde de paredes bajas, que se cuece al horno y se rellena o cubre con diversos ingredientes que suelen mezclarse con huevos, leche o crema. Round cake, sweet or salty, made with a dough in a low-walled mold, baked and stuffed or covered with various ingredients that are often mixed with eggs, milk or cream.
2 Pastel dulce, generalmente grande, redondo y adornado, hecho con masa de bizcocho y relleno o cubierto de crema, nata, chocolate u otros ingredientes; en ocasiones se sirve helado o acompañado de otros del mismo tipo en varios pisos. Sweet cake, usually large, round and garnished, made with cake dough and filling or covered with cream, cream, chocolate or other ingredients; Sometimes ice cream is served or accompanied by others of the same type in several floors.

There are all kinds of interesting translation issues here (esp. pisos as ‘floors’, really ‘layer’ in context of a tarta), but I’ll leave these to you, Dear Reader, to study.

Meanwhile in contrast translates tarta as ‘cake’, ‘tart’ and ‘pie chart’ (in graphics context). But let’s look at the reverse.

In Oxford, cake is pastel (generally) and tarta (Spain); pie is pastel (generally) and empanada (savory); tart is tarta (we’ll ignore the slang fulana, you can check that). In cake is pastel (generally) and tarta (Spain) and bizcocho (in Puerto Rico, just to confuse things even more); pie is tarta, pastel and empanada; tart is tarta and pastel.

IOW, these translation dictionaries weren’t any help is disambiguating tarta as it might occur on the menu.  However, chances are, whether it’s cake, pie or tart it will probably be tasty enough to risk ordering.




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).

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).


Adventures in translation

I continue to march (slowly) along the Camino on my virtual trek. For many days I have not encountered any restaurants that have online menus and thus have no new side-by-side examples of food vocabulary in Spain to add to my corpus. Meanwhile I’ve been grinding through a lengthy dictionary which does provide its own set of challenges for translation.

So I skipped ahead a few miles along the Camino to Viana (still in Navarra) and found a restaurant with online menu. Unlike many others it also has prices which clearly put it into the pricey category (choosing several courses is going to set each diner back about $100 even before wine). So one might assume this is a bit more sophisticated food than the mom-and-pop local restaurants I’ve investigated before.

The restaurant is Restaurante Borgia and it has a well designed website. Here are a few of the fun items I encountered. Please recall I don’t speak Spanish, haven’t been to Spain and while I’m a reasonably skilled foodie I don’t actually know much about Spainish cuisine. And recall that I get translations of menus at these websites via Google Translate with some additional lookups at

Under appetizers we find:

Croquetas de cigala y salmón ahumado Scampi and smoked salmon croquettes

and under fish main courses we find:

Ensalada templada de cigala, con verdura asadas aromatizadas a la vinagreta de romero Warm salad of crayfish, with roasted vegetables flavored with rosemary vinaigrette

The word in question is cigala, translated as ‘scampi’ (a preparation, not really an ingredient even though some people would use scampi as a term for shrimp which thus makes shrimp scampi really shrimp shrimp which is kinda nonsense) and translated as ‘crayfish’ in the second item. So which is it? From other research I already know there is confusing terminology in multiple sources about exactly what words, generally referring to shrimp, mean very specifically. had important clues:  a) under culinary sense, it translates as langoustine, and, b) under animal sense, it translates to Dublin Bay prawn or Norway lobster. This led to more searching and I believe resolution via this article in Wikipedia:

Nephrops norvegicus, known variously as the Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn, langoustine [my emphasis] (compare langostino) or scampi [my emphasis], is a slim, orange-pink lobster which grows up to 25 cm (10 in) long, and is “the most important commercial crustacean in Europe”

There is no mention of crayfish which means Google’s context-sensitive all-AI translation had something weird in its corpus of matching terms. So I’m declaring cigala to be a small lobster, which is kinda what a langostino (the Italian term and critter).

Dear Reader, what do you think? Is my analysis correct?

Now this is not a translation issue but an amusing bit about how a foreign (to me) cuisine might use some unusual ingredients:

Tempura de borraja, crema de sésamo y langostino con papada ibérica Borage tea, sesame cream and shrimp with Iberian dewlap (a fold of loose skin hanging from the neck or throat of an animal, especially that present in many cattle.)

Matching up words papada does seem to literally translate to ‘dewlap’ (several sources) but since I didn’t know what dewlap was, especially in culinary sense , I thought there was a mistake, but it was just my ignorance (the answer is added pink annotation). Not sure I’d want to try this. BTW, usually when you see Iberian it really does mean the famous pig and unless they make jamón from different parts than I thought dewlap probably just means using some other part of the pig. But, the mystery word in this case is tempura and the real question is whether it’s even Spanish at all (can’t find any translation that matches) or whether it is just the loanword and thus actually just a tempura-style preparation. But I doubt it’s ‘tea’ so I have no idea where Google got that idea.

This one left me stumped:

Bacalao con ceniza de algas Cod with seaweed ash (can’t find)

seaweed ash (ceniza) somehow doesn’t seem very tasty (nor anything I’ve heard used) but I’m wondering if part of the literal translation gives a clue:  ash is the main translation but it also seems to refers to ashes from body after cremation. The closest search hit I got was that sometimes seaweed is burned to extract minerals, esp. iodine, but I doubt that’s edible. So I wonder if this might be agar which is what remains after some form of processing of seaweed. So no success with this – guess I need to go to Viana with a fluent speaker to find out from the chef what this is.

Google just botched this one:

Lenguado al horno en salsa de lima [Sole] baked in lime sauce

lenguado has fairly consistent translation as ‘sole’ and all the other words in Spanish parse to their associated English translation so Google just flat-out dropped a critical word in its translation. This might be a precautionary note to thinking translation in a smartphone would be all that great.

This one was amusing (I don’t like eating either the Google translation or the more likely correct translation (in pink))

Mollejas (sweetbreads) de ternera braseadas con salsa salsifí Veal gizzards braised with Salsify sauce

You can have my portion of mollejas.

Another miss required more culinary research

Silla de cordero sobre salsa de ginebra Lamb chair (probably saddle; The saddle is from the loin area in the lumbar region and is made up of the loin either side of the animal. ) on gin sauce

Now silla translated as ‘chair’ is a valid literal translation but I’ve never heard of any lamb cut or preparation as chair. Deeper in the list of alternatives at spanishdict I found ‘saddle’ (although it was referring to the literal saddle for a horse, not a culinary term). On the off chance this might be a butchering term I looked it up and found the definition in italics in the English translation.

I’m going to leave the explanation of this next one for another day.

Leche frita  con salsa de frutas Fried milk with fruit sauce

‘fried milk’ is a reasonably accurate direct literal translation of leche frita BUT this is one of the major parts of my project. leche frita is a fairly classic item in Spain with numerous online recipes for making it.  So it’s not a question of translation but actually knowing what this concoction actually is.

And last but not least there is this postre:

Compota de paraguayo  y cerezas Compote of Paraguayan and cherries

paraguayo baffled Google so it just assumed it can’t be translated but spanishdict was a little more helpful and had ‘Saturn peach’ or ‘donut peach’ under its fruit sense of this word (the first option was Paraguayan). That sounded amusing but sure enough, once again, Wikipedia came through with this article:

They are known by many other names, including ‘doughnut peach’, paraguayo [my emphasis] peach, pan tao peach, saucer peach, flat peach, belly-up peach, UFO peach, chinese flat peach, hat peach, anjeer peach, custard peach, pumpkin peach, squashed peach, bagel peach or pita peach.

Cute type of peach (check out the picture at the Wikipedia link), never heard of it before.

So not only is this menu an adventure in translation it’s an adventure in learning a bit more culinary knowledge.

Who to believe?

I mostly had to do holiday stuff for last 10 days or so and so didn’t have much time for my project but I’m slowly getting back into it. When I last left you, Dear Reader, I was describing how I was mining an online dictionary (not translation, but actual dictionary) from a site in Spain. In previous versions of this project I ran into problems with just grabbing “spanish” from somewhere in the Net since these could be regional terms (most often for Latin America) and they may not exist, or worse, have a different meaning in Spain. As I’ve plowed through more of the dictionary I’m not answering that question as: a) I’ve found terms that clearly would not be used in Spain, and, b) terms that are used in Spain and not elsewhere (like types of cheeses or cured meats).

So am I extracting information that is useful for Spain or not? I suppose, as long as there are not contradictions it doesn’t matter. If I build a vocabulary list, either as “book” or as an app for my phone having terms that would never occur in Spain just waste time but don’t cause confusion. In fact, in some cases I at least get clues about something in Spain from some information about that term in usage in some other country.

But what about contradictions.

While I’ve been mostly churning through online electronic materials I did collect a number of cookbooks, specially for Spain. While sitting through boring holiday events I began to glance through these. One in particular, The Cuisine of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking by Teresa Bartenechea is very interesting and seems to me to be very credible. But any cookbook is still seen through the eyes of that author and may not agree with other sources.

So I was just looking at the word coca (get your mind out of the gutter, this is a cooking term not a street drug):

COCA (literally sponge cake) Torta, por lo general dulce, a base de masa de leche, harina, huevos y azúcar, a la que según fecha y lugar se le incorporan diversos ingredientes. Cake, usually sweet, based on mass of milk, flour, eggs and sugar, to which according to date and place various ingredients are incorporated.

In the translation dictionary lookup ( sponge cake is the applicable translation. The definition (from GallinaBlanca) in Spanish and then’s translation seems consistent with this. But a reverse lookup for sponge cake is bizcocho so I thought perhaps coca is some shortened version of this. So I looked it up in Teresa’s cookbook.

She has something entirely different (p.140) – Crusty Flatbread (Balearic Islands and Catalonia (also known coques)). Since I just made focaccia for one of our parties I recognize the recipe and preparation technique. Furthermore on following pages there are several other recipes with coca as part of the title that look very much like pizza (or at least kicked-up flatbreads). None of these are sweet and none even vaguely resemble sponge cake.

So what’s the answer? Well, I still don’t know and I’m not quite sure how to find out (‘coca’ is not a very good search term since it gets mostly irrelevant results). I suppose, given the way menus in Spain are typically organized I could disambiguate if coca appears under postres (as the GallinaBlanca definition) or elsewhere (as Teresa’s definition). Or get more cookbooks.

But remember an old joke. A man with one watch knows what time it is, a man with two watches is never sure. I.E. more data, especially from the Net, may make matters worse.


Time for some galletas

While I’m still a mile east of a small village, Villatuerta, on the Camino I was looking ahead on the Google maps and spotted a different type of food establishment that looked potentially interesting to pick up some translations. Pastas Dolores Guembe (a bakery) has a website and thus some explanation of their products and thus the chance to get some different translation equivalences (at least from Google).

As usual I’m trying to muddle through a few of the more confusing (to an outsider) bits of terminology used at this site. First we start with the use of the term, pastas (as a heading, as in Pastas normales o blancas and Pastas integrales). An Italian or literal America might be expecting one thing but buried a bit (4th meaning) at we do find ‘cookies’ (also ‘paste’ and ‘pastries’). Now a reverse lookup has ‘cookies’ as galletas, which would seem to make more sense but perhaps some of these products are closer to pastries and thus they don’t want to limit themselves to implying they only provide cookies.

So that’s the first fun part but then what about integrales (vs normales)? Fortunately the site provides ample clues to figure this one out. Here are two different cookies, one from each category, with their list of ingredients:

Galleta rellena de chocolate

Ingredientes: harina, margarina, azúcar y chocolate

Cookie filled with chocolate

Ingredients: flour, margarine, sugar and chocolate


Rosco de chocolate

Ingredientes: harina integral, margarina vegetal, fructosa, chocolate y huevos

Chocolate Rosco

Ingredients: whole wheat flour, vegetable margarine, fructose, chocolate and eggs

The key thing to note is the modifier to harina of integral. harina has straightforward and reasonably unambiguous translation just to ‘flour’ (think about masa harina in the U.S. for Mexican food lovers) and all the various translation sources (including Google’s literal, although one they mysteriously said ‘wholemeal flour’) indicate that integral is implying whole-wheat flour (instead of the implied blanco of the first type of cookies).

But another interesting clue is the modifier vegetal for the margarina vegetal. Other than the obvious literal translation of vegetable the addition of this modifier suggests something else (since margarine is already not an animal fat, like butter or lard). The best I could find was a single web article, in Spanish, of a vegan cook explaining how to create margarina vegetal with full compliance to vegan diet. The page at this company’s website has language that suggests all the foodie terminology so I think it might be safe, even with such limited data, to believe vegetal, in this case, means vegetarian or vegan.

But another interesting and confusing term (from this item)

Almendra fructosa

Ingredientes: harina integral, margarina vegetal, fructosa y almendra

Fructose almond

Ingredients: whole wheat flour, vegetable margarine, fructose and almond

is fructosa. Now this translates literal to fructose and that is somehow what it is, BUT, the whole fructose (vs glucose) naming of sugar runs into all sorts of interesting food fights. In the U.S. high fructose corn syrup is viewed as a villain by many (especially as the main sweetener in soft drinks).  But this is a strange argument of biochemical terminology. Ordinary table sugar (in U.S.) is known as sucrose, which is a disaccharide, a molecule composed of the two monosaccharides glucose and fructose (in equal parts).  But sugars derived from fruits might, like high-fructose corn syrup, contain more fructose. So for a health-conscious business, like this one appears to be, why the emphasis on this. In fact, here are the various terms they mention (extracted from all their products) for sweeteners:

azúcar sugar
azucar de caña cane sugar
azúcar integral whole sugar (presumably something like turbinado)
fructosa fructose

so which type of sweetener being used is a big deal to this establishment.

So after doing my best to come up with the closest translation just this one establishment with its lists of ingredientes per product produces about 40 terms to add to my glossary with most of them relatively unambiguous. And since they also have pictures on their webpage I wish I could actually visit this establishment and give a few of these a try.