French vs English culinary terminology - resources and interest?

5,453
407
Joined Sep 5, 2008
I often have a hard time translating culinary terms from French to English or English to French.

Are there any resources out there to translate specifically culinary terms? I know there are several online translators but they can only go so far...

If there is no such resource, do you think there would be an interest for a website that would help translate culinary terms from English to French and vice versa?
 
806
64
Joined Apr 5, 2007
Part of the problem is that many french culinary terms do not have a direct (or at least one word) translation.  I think you're better off using the french terms as "lingo."  Its way more precise to say to somebody "cook these vegetables etuver" than it would be to describe the whole process.  Fact is, french is the language of cuisine.  Just like Italian is for music, german for psychology, greek and latin for philosophy and english for computer science.  

--Al
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Trouble with that, Allan, is that it presumes a classic education, which is less and less the case in the culinary world. Most professionals, nowadays, don't understand half those terms. And home cooks, by and large, haven't a clue.

Lingo and jargon is all well and good, providing it's useful as a communications tool. But if it just confuses, then it needs replacing.

F'rinstance, I'm not embarrased at all to admit I have no idea what etuver means.

I'm reminded, too, of when I asked, here, what a "blanc" was, and got a half dozen different answers---all from people who supposedly understood "the language of cuisine."
 
8,550
207
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Fries,

Sometimes (often?) merely understanding the term is a huge aide to mastering the technique.  Eet eez zee great point you make, mon ami.     

The Larousse Gastronomique is pretty good.  Some of the cooking school text books have good glossaries.

As far as I know, the interwebs is pretty catch as catch can.  A comprehenisve web site would be helpful and would (I imagine) get a steady and large stream of hits over the long term.  It would be very nice to have a resource that went beyond French. 

Buena Suerte,

BDL
 
Last edited:
4,386
92
Joined Aug 4, 2000
I'm fluent in French.

For example, "Mis en place"

Translation: put into place, place setting.

Interpretation: setup of both equipment and foodstuffs for preparation.
 
Last edited:
8,550
207
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Originally Posted by kokopuffs  
I'm fluent in French.
For example, "Mis en place"

Translation: put into place, place setting.

Interpretation: setup of both equipment and foodstuffs for preparation.
Zut alors!

BDL
 
3,208
159
Joined Aug 25, 2009
Kokopuffs,

I am not getting technical here but I believe its "Mise en Place".

FF,

I wished there was such a book. I hate having to translate all the time. I have been watching French TV (cooking)  for years now ( for the culinary terms) and it has not really helped much. They do not teach you this in French school, as much I enjoyed it. I buy French Cooking magazines and at least I have been able to pick up on many terms. The Library has been kind enough to bring in from other French librairies ,cookbooks where I have been able to study, but even at that its only for two weeks and only to return them .

There have been times when I wanted to post recipes but sometimes not even the translation makes sense when trying to write it in  English. I know some of you reading this might have wanted to pull your hair out because of my bad translating.....I am sorry for that, I will try to do better.

Chef BDL,

Your French is pretty good from what I remember....and Spanish and.....
 
5,453
407
Joined Sep 5, 2008
Merci tout le monde!

For me, the reason I'd find this resource useful is because I'm always juggling between French recipe books and English ones, and I wish I could quickly understand the ingredients and techniques. Also when going to the restaurant and reading the menu, knowing which fish is which, and understanding what cut of an animal we're talking about (how do you say tri-tip in French? Brisket? Pork Butt? Baby back ribs? etc...).

KYH, Etuver = Sweat, with a lid on. See that's exactly the type of thing I'd have on such a resource.

Other examples: tourage, cardinalisation, habiller, vanner, prâlin, foisonner, corner, maizena, detendre, travers, calotte, luter, etc...

I agree it would be nice if it could go beyond French... Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Russian... but you have to start somewhere!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Other examples: tourage, cardinalisation, habiller, vanner, prâlin, foisonner, corner, maizena, detendre, travers, calotte, luter, etc...

Would you believe I don't know what a single one of them means?

KYH, Etuver = Sweat, with a lid on. See that's exactly the type of thing I'd have on such a resource.

I appreciate the problem for those of you jumping back and forth from French to English. But if it's a, say, American cookbook, and it said "etuver," I'd be lost----and think the author was a snob, because he/she, in those circumstances, should have said, "sweat the vegetables, covered."

No matter how good you are with language there is always somebody who can outdo you. I used to play Scrabble with a former boss and had to make a rule that no classic Latin be allowed. He readily accepted that, because when he played with his brother in law they did use classic Latin---but Jack had to insist there be no classic Greek. 

You reckon a little thing like translating French would have bothered either of them? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/cool.gif
 
3,208
159
Joined Aug 25, 2009
Chef BDL,

Hockey ? Grrrrrrrrr....I must bite .....the bait you dangled before my eyes. 

 French Verb : Habiller - to dress

As far as the Habs go....(Wiki--a reference source you do not enjoy) Speaks of my favorite team:

"French nicknames for the team include Les Canadiens (or Le Canadien), Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge, La Sainte-Flanelle,[sup][2][/sup]Le Tricolore, Les Glorieux (or Nos Glorieux), Les Habitants, Le CH and Le Grand Club. In English, the team's main nickname is the Habs, an abbreviation of "Les Habitants". (Note: Even in English, the French spelling, Canadiens, is always used.)"

Zut Alors ! (good one by the way )
 
5,453
407
Joined Sep 5, 2008
Originally Posted by petalsandcoco  

French Verb : Habiller - to dress
Right! That's what you'd get from any old French-English dictionary, but that wouldn't help much in culinary use. A culinary resource would explain it by saying something like:

French Verb: Habiller: to empty, prepare and clean poultry or fish prior to cooking.
 
3,208
159
Joined Aug 25, 2009
FF,

You are right, my focus at the moment was not the term "Habiller" but it was :

"is the Montreal Hockey team"......in any event the game is over and my expectatations were short lived.

KYH:  All valid points.
 
139
24
Joined May 17, 2010
the jeremiah tower"s cookbook "jeremiah tower COOKS!" he discusses creating our own language or translation to the typical french terminoligy. most of what he talks about are terms that any professional would know, but the home cook wouldn't understand. it's all about america having started to define it's own cuisine. yes, obviously taken from other cuisines from all over the world and the food that was here when colombus arrived, but meshing them into something that is our own.

i couldn't agree more with what he says. of course, french is what is beat into all of heads and for good reason. but there is no reason why we need to use these terms to define our food. in my experience (i cook and my lady is a server), it only confuses the guest and makes them ask unnecessary questions. "what is beurre blanc?" why can't we just say white wine butter sauce, for example.

my biggest problem with is that most of the european terms for cooking have no relevance other than someone's name or catchy phrase.

other examples:

sauce robert:white wine/dijon veal stock reduction

mirepoix {named after some dude} -aromatic vegetable foundation

saltimbocca-to jump in the mouth

and forget about pasta shapes...

although, i will say that having a food named after you would be pretty sweet.
 
806
64
Joined Apr 5, 2007
KH,

Maybe its a side affect of living in a bilingual country (though I am uni-lingual anglo) I don't bristle at the thought of using terminology from another language.  I also wouldn't accuse somebody using classic culinary terms as being a snob (well, unless they were...flaunting "expertise" is noxious).  Sometimes the french terms are just so precise that translation into another language gives short shrift to the concept.  Like the beurre blanc example above.  That term doesn't just describe the sauce, it describes the entire technique behind it.  An english translation wouldn't be "white wine and butter sauce"  it would be more like "a sauce of reduced white wine emulsified with butter." That is a mouthful.

Now, my background is french food and I had kitchen french beaten into me.  But I would assume that other great food cuisines have cooking concepts that are very specific and reduced to a word or two.  I'd be willing to bet there is a term for the mexican flavour building technique of "super-roasting" or nearly burning aromatics and using that as a base in a sauce or braise.  I'd like to know it so I wouldn't have to fumble around (like the sentence above) to describe the concept.

--Al
 
4,386
92
Joined Aug 4, 2000
Merde! C'est "mise" et non pas "mis".  I'm certainly fluent but my spelling doth indeed sucketh.
 
3,208
159
Joined Aug 25, 2009
Koko,

my spelling doth indeed sucketh as well.

Merde is what you call a dish when it does not turn out like you expected !!!!!!!!!  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif/img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif

A very popular Kitchen word by the way.
 
806
64
Joined Apr 5, 2007
On the reverse side of  things:

There were several "food words", not so much cooking terms but food discriptors that many of the french staff at school had a strange way of translating into english.  For instance the feedback we would get from our Chefs class.  I would get something like "your sauce is interesting" and assume that this was a back-handed compliment or that they thought it was strange or off in some way. Turns out, no, they used the word far more on the nose that any english speaker I know would.  "Tastey" was the opposite.  It took me months to realize that didn't mean my food was tasting good.  It actually meant that it was over seasoned.

Petals, I think the direct translation of merde is "yummo."

--Al
 
3,208
159
Joined Aug 25, 2009
Al,

You know that was  so funny !!!!!!!!!  Then "Yummo " it is.  Strange how it all works, "Kitchen lingo" ...

I get nervous when I hear someone say "Really" ? After I have just descibed what they put in their mouth and swallowed. One of the restaurants here, "Chez Levesque", have a whole new language in their kitchen. Some of their Chefs are from France and when I listen to them speak, there are phrases I never even knew existed. A wonderful team working there.....

/img/vbsmilies/smilies/surprised.gif/img/vbsmilies/smilies/licklips.gif
 
Last edited:

Latest posts

Top Bottom