Monday, September 19, 2011

Lost In Translation

This summer the LOML (Love of My Life) and I visited my mother who lives in a large metropolitan city that has a huge Asian market. We had a lot of fun wandering up and down the aisles looking at the variety of foods not available in our small town. I try to stay wheat free but I love pasta so I am always looking for alternative wheat-free pasta. Bingo! I found the rice noodle equivalent to ramen (wheat noodle) soups and scored some rice macaroni which according to the only English on the front of the package contained “99% rice starch high quality”. The reverse side had the FDA required Nutrition Facts only in English (I guess that Asians do not care about nutrition facts). I almost missed the English translation for the cooking instructions because of the very small print directly below the Asian cooking instructions (not sure if the Asian instructions are in Chinese, Japanese, or Thai. My guess is Thai) which made for interesting reading due to the literalness of the translation:

“Using 1 litre of water for every 100g of rice macaroni” (it appears to be a 400g bag)
“Put rice macaroni into boiling water, to stir them occasionally for well done"
“Cooking about 10 minutes, then to put the rice macaroni to the basket for drain off.”
“Add some tea-spoonful of vegetable oil to make macaroni non-sticky”
“To put spices, tomatoes, chili sauce, shrimp, beef stew ready for serve.”

One of my mother-in-law’s first gifts to me was a Puerto Rican cookbook in (Puerto Rican) Spanish. One of the herbs present in a number of dishes was translated in my dictionary as “Maiden Hair Fern” – I truly doubted that one. And for almost 40 years I have been searching for the translation of several ingredients of some of my favorite foods from Puerto Rico and Brazil. Language wise – it doesn’t help that there is English English, American English, Puerto Rican Spanish, Spanish Spanish, Mexican Spanish, and on and on. In English English - corgettes are American English zucchini, and American eggplant is English aubergine. The remedy might be to have a “food translation dictionary” for cooks!

The trip to the Asian market was amazing. I am looking forward to searching for some recipes calling for some of the unusual ingredients we saw (as long as I can find the translation…).

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