Everyone has a fear when they travel. For some the fear can manifest itself at the beginning and end of the trip when they board the plane while others (like me) are reduced in revulsion at the sight of a cockroach crawling up out of a squat toilet.
I don’t like wasps much either. They are nasty and unnecessary. That is pretty much the limit of the things I’m bothered by that other people would be fine with but for Deirdre it would be quicker to list the things that don’t scare her.
One fear we don’t have but others do is being presented with a menu in a foreign language. I am not particularly great at learning new languages, remaining stubbornly (but not purposely) monolingual. Despite five years in Turkey and five months in the Spanish speaking world my skills in those languages remain poor but a significant percentage of the words I do know are food related, a consequence perhaps of being a poor cook and enjoying eating out.
When you don’t have a kitchen of your own eating out will happen a lot. On our year long round the world trip other than the times we stayed with friends we ate out every single day, sometimes twice a day. That is over 365 times we had to decipher a foreign menu. Or so you would think.
The truth is even away from the tourist trail we were rarely presented with a menu in a language other than our own. With English being such a common language even restaurants in places I haven’t expected have been able to produce an English menu, no matter how badly translated. Often these translations provide amusement while waiting for the order to arrive.
Where an English language menu hasn’t been available an English speaker has been rustled up from somewhere or the menu has been pictorial, possibly a consequence of low literacy rates in some countries. The only time that really sticks in my mind where none of the above were available was in Kunming. Knowing how adventurous the Chinese can be with their food I made a chicken noise rather than risk pointing randomly at the menu.
Of course none of this miming and squawking would be necessary if I had a gastronomic dictionary.
Published by Thomas Harmsworth’s these small A6 sized translation guides are designed to fit in a handbag or large pocket. Available in four languages (French-English, Spanish-English, Portuguese-English and Italian-English) these little guides are remarkably comprehensive, containing over 4500 translations each.
Each book translates food related words from Spanish (I have a copy of the Spanish dictionary) to English but not the other way around. Those going into a restaurant with a specific dish in mind will have a much harder time than those willing to peruse what is on offer.
Expats may also find the book useful. One area that can tax my limited Turkish is supermarket shopping. Unlike restaurants supermarket and market produce is almost never labelled in English and it is not always obvious what a product is from the packaging. While I can’t be helped, the large English speaking expat populations in Spain, Portugal, Italy and France may find this book helpful purchasing ingredients for cooking at home.
Though the book is small and light, when every ounce counts I probably wouldn’t carry one on an extensive backpacking trip through, say, Central America. However, for a two week holiday in Spain I would throw it in my bag in the hope of adding to my already food laden vocabulary.
Gastronomic Dictionary – £3.99 incl p&p
Disclaimer: we received a courtesy review copy of this book