Finding verbs related to cooking

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

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

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

But first:

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

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

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

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

Read recipes in Spanish from Spain!

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

comida recetas en linea de espana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact from an excellent source I mention on my cooking verbs page, The somewhat crude Google translation yields this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

te gustarás esta entrada de blog, sí

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


Does learning Spanish help to read menus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Unplanned post of menu translation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duck breast or goose fillet widely used in French cuisine.

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

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

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

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

Arroz con leche casero Rice with homemade Milk Rice pudding

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

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

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

Chipirones a la plancha Grilled squid Grilled squids

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

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

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

Changurro al horno Baked Changurro Baked spider crab

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

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

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


Pantxineta Pantxineta Pantxineta

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

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

An amusing Google translation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Callos calluses Tripes

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

And just for fun

Coulant de chocolate Chocolate coulant Chocolate fondant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serious dining in San Sebastián

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

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

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

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

Hotel Akelarre

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

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

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

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


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


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

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




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



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

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




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


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

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

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


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



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


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

Kokotxa, pumpkin seeds emulsion, garlic and parsley bread.

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


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



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


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

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

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


Animales en el menú

Just in case you ever dine at some restaurant in a Spanish speaking country where some more unusual animals might appear on the menu I thought I’d give you a list.

I like making lists and this was a fairly easy one as there were numerous sources with only a few contradictions. Of course a constant challenge with picking up Spanish words from the Net is some of these might be regional. And while I like crunching through lists (and now I think this one here is the largest one you’ll find) it’s a lot more work (than I want to do now) to research these palabras and see if they’re really 100% accurate, at least according to authoritative sources.

Note: While I list the sources (first column) in this table, just to show how frequently a word appears in various lists, I don’t actually provide the sources, so this is fully derivative work and not credited to original sources. The words show in bold are my choices for one word for each letter, usually something that was original in Spanish and imported into English.

So enjoy and beware in your dining that if these appear on the menu you’ll actually want to order them.

1 5 abeja bee
1 áfido aphid
2 aguaviva jellyfish
1 3 4 5 águila eagle
4 aguilón large eagle
5 aguja del diablo dragonfly
1 alacrán scorpion
3 5 albatros albatross
1 4 alce elk
1 3 4 5 alce moose
4 alce de américa moose
1 5 almeja clam
1 alondra lark
1 alpaca alpaca
1 5 anchoa anchovy
1 5 anfibios amphibian
1 5 anguila eel
1 3 4 antílope antelope
1 2 5 araña spider
2 ardil squirrel
1 3 4 5 ardilla squirrel
3 4 ardilla listada chipmunk
3 ardilla voladora flying squirrel
1 5 arenque herring
1 3 4 armadillo armadillo
1 asno donkey
1 5 atún tuna
4 1 ave general class of birds (also a large bird)
1 3 4 5 avestruz ostrich
1 3 5 avispa wasp
3 babuino baboon
1 5 bacalao cod
1 3 bagre catfish
1 2 3 4 5 ballena whale
3 ballena jorobada humpback whale
1 barracuda barracuda
4 becerro calf
4 bicha snake
2 bichos bugs
1 3 4 bisonte bison
1 4 boa boa
4 borrego lamb
1 4 5 buey ox
1 4 3 5 búfalo buffalo
4 búfalo de agua water buffalo
1 2 4 5 búho owl
1 3 5 buitre vulture
4 burrito baby donkey
1 2 3 4 burro donkey
1 4 caballa mackerel
1 caballito de mar seahorse
1 2 3 4 5 caballo horse
3 caballo de mar seahorse
1 2 3 5 cabra goat
4 cabra montés mountain goat
4 cabrito baby goat
1 cacatúa cockatoo
2 3 4 cachorro puppy
4 caimán alligator
1 3 4 5 caimán alligator
1 3 5 calamar squid
3 calamar gigante giant squid
1 3 camaleón chameleon
1 5 camarón shrimp
1 3 4 5 camello camel
1 5 canario canary
1 2 5 cangrejo crab
1 2 3 4 5 canguro kangaroo
1 capibara capybara
1 2 3 caracol snail
5 caribú caribou
4 carnero ram
1 3 4 5 castor beaver
1 2 3 4 5 cebra zebra
1 2 3 4 5 cerdo pig
4 cerdo salvaje wild hog
3 cerdo vietnamita pot-bellied pig
1 chacal jackal
1 3 4 5 chimpancé chimpanzee
1 5 chinche bedbug
5 chita cheetah
4 chivo goat
4 chucho dog
1 3 5 ciempiés centipede
2 3 4 ciervo deer
1 cigarra cicada
1 4 5 cigüeña stork
1 3 5 cisne swan
3 coala koala
2 cobaya guinea pig
1 4 cobra cobra
4 cochino pig  (usually live)
4 cocodrilo alligator
1 2 3 4 5 cocodrilo crocodile
1 codorniz quail
1 3 5 colibrí hummingbird
1 3 comadreja weasel
1 cóndor condor
3 conejillo de indias guinea pig
1 cobaya guinea pig
1 2 3 4 5 conejo rabbit
4 cordero lamb
4 coto monkey
4 cotorra parrot
4 couger couger
1 4 coyote coyote
5 crustáceos crustacean
1 2 3 5 cucaracha cockroach
1 cuco cuckoo
1 5 cuervo crow/raven
4 5 culebra snake
1 danta tapir
1 2 3 4 5 delfín dolphin
1 demonio de tasmania Tasmanian devil
1 dingo dingo
3 dragon dragon
1 dragón de komodo Komodo dragon
1 dromedario dromedary
1 2 3 4 5 elefante elephant
3 elefante africano African elephant
3 elefante asiático Asian elephant
1 emú emu
1 3 erizo hedgehog
1 erizo de mar sea urchin
1 5 escarabajo beetle
1 3 5 escorpión scorpion
1 estornino starling
1 3 estrella de mar starfish
1 3 faisán pheasant
1 5 flamenco flamingo
1 2 3 4 5 foca seal
1 4 gacela gazelle
1 galápago freshwater tortoise
4 galbana sloth
1 2 3 4 gallina chicken (usually a hen)
4 gallito baby chicken
1 2 4 gallo rooster
1 gamba shrimp
1 2 4 5 ganso goose
1 garrapata tick
1 garza heron
4 gatito kitten
1 2 3 4 5 gato cat
3 gato montés bobcat
1 gato montés wildcat
1 gavilán buzzard
1 5 gaviota seagull/gull
1 gecko gecko
3 geco gecko
3 glotón wolverine
1 golondrina swallow
1 3 5 gorila gorilla
1 3 gorrión sparrow
1 5 grillo cricket
1 grulla crane
1 guacamayo macaw
1 guepardo cheetah
1 2 gusano worm
1 3 5 halcón falcon
5 halibut halibut
1 2 3 hámster hamster
1 3 4 5 hiena hyena
5 hipogloso halibut
1 2 3 4 5 hipopótamo hippopotamus
1 3 5 hormiga ant
3 hormigas rojas fire ants
5 huachinango red snapper
1 3 hurón ferret
1 4 iguana iguana
1 2 5 insectos insects
1 jabalí boar
1 4 jaguar jaguar
1 jerbo gerbil
1 jilguero goldfinch
2 jirafa giraffe
1 2 3 4 5 jirafa giraffe
1 kiwi kiwi
1 5 koala koala
1 3 5 lagartija lizard
4 lagarto alligator
5 lagarto lizard
5 lamprea lamprey
1 3 5 langosta lobster
5 langostino crayfish
4 lechón pig    (usually cooked)
1 4 lechuza owl
1 5 lenguado sole
1 2 3 4 5 león lion
1 león marino sea lion
1 3 4 5 leopardo leopard
3 leopardo cazador cheetah
1 3 5 libélula dragonfly
1 liebre hare
4 lince bobcat
1 3 5 lince lynx
1 4 llama llama
1 2 3 4 5 lobo wolf
2 lobo marino sea lion
1 lombriz earthworm
1 3 4 loro parrot
1 3 luciérnaga firefly
4 macaco monkey
5 makerela mackerel
5 mamboretás praying mantis
1 3 5 manatí manatee
1 5 mandril baboon/ mandrel
1 mangosta mongoose
1 3 mantarraya stingray
5 mantis praying mantis
1 mantis religiosa praying mantis
1 2 3 4 mapache raccoon
1 2 3 5 mariposa butterfly
3 mariposa monarca monarch butterfly
5 mariposa nocturna moth
1 5 mariquita lady beetle (lady bug)
1 marmota marmot/groundhog
5 marsopa porpoise
1 martín pescador kingfisher
2 mascotas pets
4 maza monkey
1 medusa jellyfish
2 medusa jellyfish
1 mejillón mussel
5 mero bass
4 mico monkey
1 3 5 milpiés millipede
1 mirlo blackbird
1 4 5 mofeta skunk
5 moluscos mollusk
4 mongosta mongoose
1 mono ape
1 2 3 4 5 mono monkey
3 mono araña spider monkey
1 2 3 4 5 morsa walrus
4 morueco ram
1 2 3 5 mosca fly/housefly
3 mosca de la fruta fruit fly
1 5 mosquito mosquito
1 3 mula mule
1 3 4 5 murciélago bat
1 musaraña shrew
1 narval narwhal
1 3 4 5 nutria otter
1 4 ñandú rhea
1 ñu wildebeest
3 ocelote ocelot
4 oposum opossum
3 orangután orangutan
1 5 orca orca / killer whale
4 orco killer whale
1 3 ornitorrinco platypus
1 2 3 oruga caterpillar
1 2 3 4 5 oso bear
1 3 oso hormiguero anteater
3 oso negro black bear
1 3 oso panda panda bear
1 5 oso perezoso sloth
1 3 oso polar polar bear
5 ostiones oysters
1 5 ostra oyster
5 otaria sealion
1 2 3 4 5 oveja sheep
2 3 4 5 pájaro bird
1 3 5 pájaro carpintero woodpecker
5 paloma dove
1 5 paloma pigeon
5 panda panda
1 panda rojo red panda
1 pangolín pangolin
1 panther panther
1 4 5 papagayo parrot
3 pastor alemán German shepherd
1 4 5 pato duck
1 4 5 pavo turkey
1 3 5 pavo real peacock
1 2 3 4 5 peces/pez fish
1 3 4 5 pelícano pelican
5 perca perch
1 perdiz partridge
3 4 perezoso sloth
1 2 4 perico parakeet
1 4 periquito parakeet
4 perrito puppy
1 2 3 4 5 perro dog
4 pescado fish  (caught, usually cooked)
1 5 petirrojo robin
1 pez espada swordfish
3 pez león lionfish
1 2 3 5 pingüino penguin
1 pinzón finch
1 5 piojo lice / louse
1 3 piraña piranha
1 4 pitón python
2 polil moth
1 3 polilla moth
2 pollito chick/chicken
1 4 5 pollo chicken
1 4 potro colt/foal
2 4 puerco pig
3 puerco espín porcupine
1 5 puercoespín porcupine
1 pulga flea
1 pulgón aphid
1 3 5 pulpo octopus
1 3 4 5 puma cougar
5 rana frog
1 3 5 rana frog
3 rana de árbol tree frog
5 rape monkfish
1 3 4 5 rata rat
1 2 3 4 5 ratón mouse
1 raya ray
1 reno reindeer
1 5 reptiles reptiles
5 rezaderas praying mantis
1 2 3 4 5 rinoceronte rhino
5 róbalo haddock
1 ruiseñor nightingale
1 3 5 salamandra salamander
1 5 salmón salmon
1 3 5 saltamontes grasshoper
1 sanguijuela leech
5 santa teresas praying mantis
1 4 5 sapo toad
1 5 sardina sardine
1 sepia cuttlefish
4 serpiente snake
1 2 3 serpiente snake
3 serpiente de cascabel rattlesnake
1 serpiente de coral rattlesnake
1 suricata meerkat
1 tapir tapir
5 tecolote owl
1 4 tejón badger
1 tejón australiano wombat
1 5 termita termite
1 4 ternero calf
1 2 3 4 5 tiburón shark
3 tiburón martillo hammerhead shark
1 2 3 4 5 tigre tiger
3 tigre siberiano siberian tiger
3 tijereta earwig
1 topo mole
1 2 4 5 toro bull
5 tortolita lady beetle (lady bug)
5 tortuga tortoise
2 3 4 5 tortuga turtle
3 tortuga baula leatherback turtle
1 tortuga de mar turtle
1 tortuga de tierra tortoise
3 tortuga marina sea turtle
1 tritón triton
1 5 trucha trout
1 5 tucán toucan
1 5 urraca magpie
1 2 3 4 5 vaca cow
1 4 5 venado deer
1 víbora adder
1 visón mink
1 wombat wombat
1 yegua mare
1 5 zancudo mosquito
3 4 zarigüeya opossum / possum
1 3 4 5 zorrillo skunk
2 3 4 5 zorro fox

verbos for cocinarasustar

I first introduced the topic of compiling a comprehensive list of verbs, specific or re-purposed for cooking in a post about a month ago. This is a long and tedious process of searching for verbs, either with English or Spanish definitions, throughout the Net and then compiling them into a consistent list with enough research to create a reasonably short definition and then placing these in  a page at this blog for hopefully the most comprehensive list anywhere on the Net.

With this post today I’ll update my Cooking Verbs through all the verbs starting with A (a small fraction of my in-progress list). I decided to split that list in two sections: a) common verbs with general meaning that can be applied to cooking, and, b) verbs that are specialized and used primarily for cooking.

In the first post about verbs I mentioned that some verbs with common meanings get “re-purposed” into a more specialized meaning just for cooking. So as I crunch through my in-progress I sometimes find verbs that are so specialized and have interesting meanings, so I’ll discuss one, asustar, here. At the final part of this post (please keep reading or skip down) you’ll find the surprising definition, but I want to give the complete background of this cooking verb.

asustar is interesting because a standard dictionary definition is: to scare, to frighten. So how does this get applied to cooking. A somewhat longer definition, from Oxford, in Spanish (with Google Translations) is:

1 Causar un susto o impresión momentánea de miedo. 1 Cause a scare or momentary impression of fear.
2 Producir escándalo o asombro muy grandes. 2 Produce very big scandal or astonishment.
3 Añadir agua u otro líquido frío a un alimento que está en ebullición para que deje de cocer momentáneamente. 3 Add water or other cold liquid to a boiling food to stop cooking momentarily.

The third definition from this dictionary is the typical one used for cooking, which I’d treat as something roughly equivalent to “blanching”, although in most cases “to blanch” (usually vegetables) is to boil thing briefly and then remove and put into ice water to stop the cooking (not as this definition implies, adding cold liquid to rapidly cool down the cooking liquid). But the idea is the same and the consequence, especially for green vegetables, is to preserve the bright green color the initial boiling produces, rather than letting the cooking go on and dull the color.

In one of the really good online sources I found there is a very good definition (all in Spanish) which I’ll paraphrase here (original Spanish from the website and Google translations (a bit beyond the Spanish I’ve learned):

Cuando hablamos de “asustar” dentro del mundo gastronómico esta palabra adquiere una nueva significación. En ningún momento se refiere al verbo de dar un susto a alguien sino que se trata de una palabra que procede del latín y que procede de “suscitare”, algo que significa “suscitar” o “excitar”.

En Mami Recetas queremos ayudarte a que aprendas a cocinar y domines la cocina al máximo y, por eso, a continuación te daremos el significado de asustar en la cocina. De esta forma, conocerás cuál es su significado cuando usamos el término culinario en el mundo gastronómico.

When we talk about “scare” into the gastronomic world, this word acquires a new meaning. At no time does it refer to the verb of giving someone a scare but it is a word that comes from Latin and that comes from “suscitare”, something that means “to stir up” or “to excite”.

In Mami Recipes we want to help you learn to cook and master the kitchen to the fullest and, therefore, we will give you the meaning of scaring in the kitchen. In this way, you will know what its meaning is when we use the culinary term in the gastronomic world.

This is a good preface to then the elaboration of the explanation at this site:

Cuando decimos que vamos a “asustar” dentro del mundo gastronómico estamos haciendo referencia a que vamos a añadir un líquido frío a otro que ya esté hirviendo. El objetivo de esta técnica consiste en romper la ebullición de forma inmediata y, así, conseguir una textura sorprendente. When we say that we are going to “scare” into the gastronomic world we are referring to the fact that we are going to add a cold liquid to another that is already boiling. The objective of this technique is to break the boil immediately and thus achieve a surprising texture.
Por tanto, “asustamos” al líquido que está caliente e hirviendo añadiéndole otro a una temperatura más fría. … y conseguimos hacer que las salsas sean más espesas y tengan una textura diferente. Therefore, we “scare” the liquid that is hot and boiling by adding another at a cooler temperature. … and we managed to make the sauces thicker and have a different texture.
Básicamente usamos esta técnica en la cocina cuando estamos cocinando platos como las legumbres. … por ejemplo, de las alubias que cuando están hirviendo la piel puede volverse muy dura y provocar que terminen rompiéndose. En cambio, si añadimos agua fría a la cocción conseguimos que se “asusten”, es decir, que se evite la dilatación y no se rompa la piel. Basically we use this technique in the kitchen when we are cooking dishes such as legumes. … for example, of beans that when they are boiling the skin can become very hard and cause them to break. On the other hand, if we add cold water to the cooking we get them to “scare”, that is, to avoid dilation and not break the skin.

So that is a fairly good description of a basic cooking technique, but it’s the final bit that I found most interesting:

Otro de los momentos en los que se suele usar esta técnica es cuando estamos cocinando el pulpo. Con esto, se consigue que la piel se conserve y que por tanto el sabor del pulpo quede más suave y fino. Another of the moments in which this technique is usually used is when we are cooking the octopus. With this, it is achieved that the skin is preserved and therefore the taste of the octopus is softer and finer.

I had first encountered this term in my extractions from the Gallina Blanca dictionary, which unfortunately (for you, Dear Reader) doesn’t seem to be available any more; fortunately I extracted the material before this disappeared. So here is the definition I found over a year ago that I found so interesting (originally in Spanish, here with the Google Translation):

ASUSTAR (un pulpo) “asustar al pulpo” es ponerlo en abundante agua hirviendo  sumergiendolo en ella tres o cuatro veces, sujetando con unos palos su cabeza hasta que se “encoja”. Según expertos esto hace queden más finos y los tentáculos no pierdan los llamados botones. “Frighten (or scare) the octopus” is to put it in abundant boiling water sumergiendolo (submerging it) three or four times, holding with a few sticks its head until it “shrinks”. According to experts this makes them thinner and the tentacles do not lose the so-called buttons.

I couldn’t figure sumergiendolo when I first saw this and Google was unable to translate it, but as I’ve mentioned one benefit of actually learning Spanish is I can now understand some words Google can’t translate. So I now can recognize that the lo is object pronoun (it) stuck on the end of the present participle (aka gerund) of the verb sumergir (to submerge).

So this is certainly an interesting verb and totally unique to cooking technique. In fact, though I forget where, I saw a TV episode about the favorite/classic dish in Galacia, i.e. pulpo (octopus). I saw the cook do exactly this procedure, dunking the octopus in a large pot of boiling water and quickly withdrawing it and repeating this multiple times before putting the octopus all the way in the pot. I suspect this is a critical process to improving the texture of the octopus, which is then served, cut into pieces, on a wooden plank doused in olive oil and salt.

This dish is so common in Galacia there is even a name for a restaurant that features this dish: Pulperia, which otherwise might not be obvious. Although in other places this might just mean a grocery store,  Searching Google for “Pulperia in santiago” will yield various restaurants but also many photos of this famous dish.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Many places along the Camino (and in cities) there are outdoor signs letting you know what meals you can get inside. One of the most common, especially along the Camino is desayuno (el, breakfast). And sometimes you might see cena (la, dinner) and rarely almuerzo (el, lunch). The main reason, IMHO, one rarely sees almuerzo is that you’re more likely to see something like hamburguesas (which despite the similarity to English is not necessarily (can be) a “hamburger” as generally this refers to any kind patty (not even meat) on a bun) or bocadillos (most similar to a “sub” in US, i.e. some sandwich on a roll, rarely with a lot of “toppings” as is common in US sub shops) or just sándwiches (which does, usually, seem to be with sliced bread instead of bun or roll) and the ubiquitous pizza (no translation needed).  While sit-down almuerzo does exist, at least along walking routes a stand-up hand foot is more common. And what you won’t see, in Spain, is tocos or even tapas (at least outside, this is inside bar food).

But the interesting thing (to me) is the tendency in Spanish to have nouns and verbs directly connected. So in English the Brits might say “we breakfast” but you won’t hear that much in USA so it’s either “we are having breakfast” or “we’re eating breakfast”, but in Spanish there is a verb for this, which is (given the noun I gave you above) the obvious desayunar. And its conjugated, first person singular indicative present is desayuno (the yo before it is option) which just happens to be the noun. So if you hear (or read) desayuno you’ll have to use other context to decide if it is the noun, BUT, here’s the reason, just the word, is almost certainly the noun. It doesn’t make sense to see a sign that says “I eat breakfast” and if they were inviting you in to eat your breakfast they’d have to say desayunas (if they’re a bit too friendly and so use the informal form, desayuna for usted) but since they’d be inviting the world the even more logical word would be desayunan (the plural polite you), or even the command desayunen. I’ve never see any of these so we can safely assume the only form you’ll see  (at least on a sign, in a story, written or verbal, you’ll see these other forms) is desayuno.

Likewise almuerzo (lunch) is related to the verb almorzar. Now note this verb is irregular but in the general class known as stem changing verbs. The -mor- doesn’t conjugate so well so it gets replaced with -muer-. So once again almuerzo can be the noun for lunch or the conjugated first person singular form of the verb.

Likewise, for dinner there is the verb cenar (to have dinner) but it too is an exception since the noun cena is NOT 1st person conjugation but instead the 3rd person. And even though I can’t find an authoritative source on this the cena form is probably chosen because frequently nouns ending in -a are feminine (as is la cena) and so the first person of cenar, ceno, would tend to imply masculine.

Gender has always been a strange concept to me (at least for nouns) even when I first encountered it in French in middle school and later in German in high school. Why in the world is dinner feminine and lunch and breakfast are masculine? Undoubtedly there is some reason, possibly even lost in time. But it sure is a pain to have to now remember three different things in Spanish, the conjugated form of a verb (if there is one corresponding to a noun), the noun itself and then its gender. For a traveler walking the Camino none of this probably matters since quickly one gets used to the noun forms. But the interesting question is whether you can get desayuno a las siete en la tarde (as now you can from McDonald’s)

Repurposing or inventing verbos for cocinar

One benefit of actually trying to learn Spanish is understanding how verbs work and how this understanding can make reading menus easier. Verbs are interesting in Spanish: first, there are a lot of them, often for a very specialized purpose, and, two, derivatives of verbs may appear in descriptions of food.

For instance, for many verbs the first person singular indicative mood present tense conjugation is also a noun, e.g. for trabajar (to work) [yo] trabajo means “I work”, but trabajo is also the noun for ‘job’ . Also the participles, especially present (aka gerund) can be used as an adjective (and then its ending matches gender and number), e.g. for ahumar (to smoke) ahumad{o|a}[s] (ahumado ahumada ahumados ahumadas) would mean ‘smoked’ and might appear in a menu item.

But other verbs, in the long list I’ve accumulated are not that likely to appear on menus but are frequently used in recetas (recipes) which sometimes appear somewhere on the website for restaurants. So even highly specialized verbs, e.g. desbarbar, which Google thinks is ‘deburr’ may be useful to know (in this case, its meaning changes to removing the fins from a fish).

So I’ve found at least 327 verbs that apply to cooking. Some have relatively common meanings, e.g. abrir (to open), agregar (to add), aplastar (to crush) and others have more specific meaning, relative to cooking, that are not found in dictionaries and thus can be quite difficult to translate.

So how did I get this list of 327 verbs? First I looked in various lists I found online of “common” verbs and extracted the ones that might apply to cooking, such as echar, which has many meanings, but in the context of cooking is ‘to pour’. Second, I searched for lists of verbs related to cooking and I found about 15 of these lists (with English translations). So I extracted everything from these lists, from the webpages, converted them to a common format, and sorted them and then began to: a) lookup definitions in the three dictionaries I use (, Oxford and DLE (aka RAE, the official authoritative dictionary); often some cooking verbs do not appear in these dictionaries; and, b) to consolidate the various translations, which sometimes contradict each other to create the most useful (relative to cooking) translation I can create. I expected, when I am done with this (a tedious and time-consuming process, that requires a bit of OCD to complete) that I might be able to create the most extensive list of cooking related verbs anywhere on the Internet.

I was working on this a long time ago, without really getting much more done than accumulating raw data, and thus, since starting that sub-project, have learned quite a bit more Spanish, not that much in terms of vocabulary, but a better understanding of sentence structure and especially verb conjugation (since so many verbs are regular). Plus my year of studying Spanish has made it possible that I can “read” (with some lookups in dictionaries) much better than I could before actually learning some of the language and also I’ve had a lot more practice using Google Translate and comparing its results with my own translations, but also where I’ve found parallel Spanish and English texts (many sites in Spain are multilingual and so I have human translations, by Spanish speakers, to compare to Google’s translation and my attempt at translation).

So when I returned to this project of trying to get good clean and consistent definitions of these 327 verbs I started doing some searches of multiple verbs at once, e.g. search for ‘abarquillar abatir  ablandar acanalar … receta‘ (or any list of at least four verbs) which I thought might get hits on glossaries written in Spanish (instead of what I’d previously found, glossaries of Spanish words with English translations). And, in fact, I found some excellent sources, that often provide very comprehensive explanations of these cooking terms even though I have to muddle through reading the explanation in Spanish (with help from dictionaries and Google translate).

So with all that as a preface and explanation of the process whereby I’ll eventually add a page to this blog with all the verbs I’ve found with English translations (in terms of cooking and food) I’ll provide a couple of interesting examples of this process from the ones I’ve now finished (abarquillar abatir ablandar abrillantar abrir acabar acanalar acaramelar acecinar aceitar aceptar achicharrar acidular acitronar aderezar adobar agarrarse agregar ahumar)

So let’s start with abarquillar . has some meanings: to curl up; roll up; to wrinkle; to warp. Now frankly that doesn’t help much, especially without some context. So in trying to go beyond dictionaries and find this verb in the context of cooking I stumbled onto a wonderful site (several actually, but this was the best).

I’ll extract a bit of its explanation (in Spanish, plus my slightly edited Google Translate)

Muchas veces los términos culinarios son muy descriptivos por sí mismos, de manera que aunque no conozcamos su definición exacta podemos tener una idea aproximada de a qué se están refiriendo. Es el caso del término abarquillar, que obviamente nos recuerda a una determinada forma. La definición tradicional de la RAE es: Encorvar un cuerpo ancho y delgado (una plancha metálica, una lámina, un papel, etc.) como si fuera un barquillo. Many times the culinary terms are very descriptive in themselves, so even if we don’t know their exact definition we can have a rough idea of what they are referring to. This is the case of the term abarquillar, which obviously reminds us of a certain form. The traditional definition of the DLE is: to develop a wide and thin body (a metal plate, a sheet, a paper, etc.) as if it were a wafer
Abarquillar en cocina Abarquillar in kitchen
En cuanto a término culinario su definición es un poco más precisa. Abarquillar se refiere a tomar forma convexa, de barquillo. Ocurre con la carne frita o asada. La forma de evitar que esto suceda es sacar el tejido nervioso que la rodea la carne y luego golpearla con una maza. As for the culinary term, its definition is a bit more precise. Abarquillar refers to taking convex, wafer shape. It occurs with fried or roasted meat. The way to prevent this from happening is to remove the nervous tissue that surrounds the meat and then hit it with a club.

Got it? Well, it turns out the picture at that website is a bit more useful – it shows bacon. Now if you’ve ever cooked bacon in a skillet you know it starts as a flat piece and as it cooks it “crinkles” and the ends curl up. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Likewise if you’ve ever fried a thin cutlet, with some fat on the edge you know it can curl up into a “convex wafer”. So that’s what this verb means, in cooking context, how meat curls up while cooking. So this website, which really has some excellent instruction on cooking skills explains how to prevent this (for bacon, the only real answer is baking it, not frying it; or if frying constantly flattening the bacon).

Now I doubt this verb would appear, in any form, on a menu but it certainly could be found in recetas. So it’s definitely something to have in a comprehensive list of cooking verbs.

So let’s move on to abatir (to bring down, as closest meaning Oxford provides) and use the same process, which led me to putting this definition in my glossary, ‘to blast chill’. For this same cooking site here’s some of its explanation:

¿En qué consiste abatir en la cocina? What is to bring down in the kitchen?
Aunque la palabra abatir no aparezca en el diccionario de la RAE como un término gastronómico, lo cierto es que sí que se suele aplicar en el universo de la cocina. En este caso, cuando usamos “abatir” estamos haciendo referencia a una manera de procesar los ingredientes que una herramienta que se conoce como abatidor de temperatura. Although the word abatir does not appear in the DLE dictionary as a gastronomic term, the truth is that it is usually applied in the kitchen universe. In this case, when we use “abate” we are referring to a way to process the ingredients that a tool is known as a temperature abductor.

IOW, this cooking instruction site is explaining the sophisticated (and rather expensive) device, often found on cooking TV shows, known as a blast chiller. This device can reduce (hence “bring down”) the temperature of something hot to a very low temperature very quickly. So this verb’s conventional meaning is quite different in the cooking context; and perhaps it might appear on a sophisticated menu.

And then there is abrillantar whose dictionary definition is “to polish, to enhance”, but in the cooking sense it really means “to glaze”, as in brush a glaze on a ham before (or during) cooking. So the gerund, abrillantando, has actually appeared in some menus. And there is acanalar whose dictionary definition is “to dig channels in, to corrugate”. Now what could that possibly mean for food. Well it applies a lot to preparing crusts for pastries, so this too might appear on menus.

And then a verb that is hard to decide, which came first, the verb or the food item itself, and that is acecinar.  This has dictionary meanings, “to salt, to cure” or “to get very thin”, some help but not enough. But then we connect it to Cecina de León, a prized item you will see on a lot of menus. The closest English equivalent is the noun jerky (and the verb I’ll invent for English, to jerkify). Jerky in the USA can resemble Cecina but it’s not the same thing, even though jerky is “thin” and “cured”.

And so finally we have agarrarse (the pronomial form) whose dictionary definition is “to hold on”, but in the most relevant context means “to stick”. So again from Mami Recetas website:

Cuando cocinamos y elaboramos una receta, es posible que a veces esta se “agarre”. Este término suele ser muy conocido entre los amantes de la cocina y de la gastronomía pero, también, puede ser que no termines de comprender a qué hace referencia. When we cook and prepare a recipe, it is possible that sometimes it is “caught”. This term is usually well known among lovers of cuisine and gastronomy but, also, you may not understand what it refers to.
En este artículo de Mami Recetas vamos a descubrirte qué significa agarrarse en la cocina para que, así, comprendas mejor toda la terminología del sector gastronómico. In this article of Mami Recipes we will discover what it means to hold on to the kitchen so that, thus, you better understand all the terminology of the gastronomic sector.
¿Qué es Agarrarse en la cocina? What is holding on in the kitchen?
En muchas recetas podrás encontrarte con consejos y recomendaciones que te indican que es mejor evitar que la comida “se agarre” o que la receta termine “agarrándose”. Pero ¿qué significa esto exactamente? Básicamente es un sinónimo del término “pegarse”, por tanto, cuando indicamos que se debe ir con cuidado para que una receta no se agarre, en realidad, estamos indicando que se debe evitar que se “pegue”. In many recipes you can find tips and recommendations that tell you that it is better to avoid that the food “grabs” or that the recipe ends “clinging.” But what does this mean exactly? Basically it is a synonym for the term “stick”, therefore, when we indicate that you should be careful so that a recipe does not get caught, in reality, we are indicating that you should avoid “sticking”.

It’s often difficult to reduce these lengthy explanations to a single line translation, but as an example here’s what I’ve accomplished thus far:

abarquillar to wrap, to curl up, to roll up, to crinkle, to wrinkle
abatir to blast chill (lit: to bring down)
ablandar to tenderize, to soften (butter)
abrillantar to glaze, to polish, to enhance
acanalar to dig channels in, to corrugate, to groove, to furrow, to flute
acaramelar to caramelize, to coat with caramel
acecinar to preserve meat with salt, smoke and drying
aceitar to oil, to pour oil onto, to lubricate
achicharrar to scorch, to burn, to burn to a crisp
acidular to acidulate, to make sour
acitronar to fry until crisp/transparent
aderezar to season, to dress, to garnish, to adorn, to liven up, to spice
adobar to marinate, to pickle, to dress
agarrarse to stick (lit: to hold on)
ahumar to smoke, to fill with smoke

So I have a long way to go as this is a time-consuming process but I hope to have a comprehensive set of verbs soon to post here. And then, knowing a few ways verbs get converted into other terms, this list may help with looking at menus.