Translating recipes
Thread poster: Christina Baier

Christina Baier  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 22:28
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Dec 2, 2015

Hi all!

When translating recipes (for private or professional use), what do you do when some of the ingredients don’t exist in the target country? (Or when they exist but chemically not really are the same thing, like Vollmilch in Germany = 3,5% fat, whole milk in the US = 3,25% fat, in Sweden = 3% fat? )


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:28
German to English
Provide a disclaimer Dec 2, 2015

"Not all the ingredients contained in this recipe may be available locally. Local equivalents may not have the same properties as those in the original recipe."

Or something like that.


 

Agneta Pallinder  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:28
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Transcreate! Dec 2, 2015

I would have thought this calls for a bit of transcreation (silly word!).

You want the translated recipe to produce something that is as close to the original as possible. If the less rich Swedish milk produces a result that is not as satisfying as the German Vollmilch, perhaps you might suggest adding a dash of cream.

Different types of sugar is another problem area.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 22:28
German to Serbian
+ ...
Yes, agree, transcreate. Dec 2, 2015

You can say that the recipe requires milk with x% fat.

Or in U.S. English they use the "cup" measure, well it's equivalent is 240 ml, however, if you say just "cup" in my language it may stand for a range of quantities. Therefore target users should probably be advised to use "240 ml" of whatever rather than one cup.


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Sugar Dec 2, 2015

I think a fat difference of 0.25 % is insignificant outside a chemical laboratory, even for German cooking. It may well be within the normal tolerance for German milk. Even German cows are not genetically identical, although I know about the famous, German precision, VW excepted.

Even for common ingredients such as cinnamon and vanilla, there are many different types, but I've never seen a recipe specifying the exact type needed. Unless you run a three-star gourmet restaurant, you can't go in such detail.

As Agneta says, sugar can be a showstopper. For some of my Danish Christmas cookie recipes, I need a type of sugar that is unavailable in Germany.

It is something I would take up with the client, as publishing recipes with ingredients that are unavailable, and for which no suitable alternative exists locally, would be quite useless – unless it is an exotic cookbook for people who enjoy trawling the world for odd ingredients.


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:28
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Discuss this with your customer Dec 2, 2015

For the milk I do not really see the problem neither.

But there really can be ingredients which do not exist in the country of the target language. You'll have to discuss with your customer then in order to know what to do.

In quite a lot of cases I'd leave the original product, explain what it is (in cookery books there are sometimes even lists of products with explanations) and then propose a local, similar product which you can take instead. This should only be done with the customer, ideally the cook, the author of the recipy... though. That's why I always prefer to do these kind of projects for direct customers and not for agencies.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
To some extent, cooks get used to doing conversions Dec 2, 2015

The internet has millions of recipes, so when you Google for something in English the recipe might originate from the US, with its own measuring system and strange (to me) terms for ingredients; from the UK, in which case quantities are likely to be be in two or even three measuring systems; or from places such as New Zealand or Singapore.

Certainly a little transcreation is called for. But unless you know exactly where the recipe originated, where the reader is situated, and what s/he is used to, too much approximation can be a bad thing, IMHO. Factual researchable terms might be more useful, such as the case of the fat content in milk. Let the readers decide what they want to do about converting it.

Personally, my favourite recipes are the ones that say things like "If you can't find A, use B but add a little more C". But certainly the client should be given the opportunity to determine how it's handled.


 

VicYas  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:28
Russian to English
+ ...
Depends on the type of the cookbook Dec 2, 2015

I've been mostly dealing with the cookbooks that are really promoting local attractions, so their detailed recipes contain a lot of local ingredients, inviting the reader for a visit rather than for a culinary experiment. So, I never added any alternatives (though I certainly recalculated all measures). In any case I consider that only the client can decide if the translator should add anything to the text.

[Edited at 2015-12-02 19:28 GMT]


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Depends on the target group Dec 2, 2015

In a book for professionals, it may be much simplier, as they have ways of obtaining ingredients that are unavailable for consumers.

In any case, as others have said, such decisions should be taken by the author or publisher, not the translator.


 

Howard Sugar  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:28
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Translating recipes Dec 2, 2015

I have translated hundreds of recipes from Italian and French into English. I have found that many of the ingredients taken for granted by the authors may not exist outside of their country. (for example fresh buffalo mozzaerla or a can of boiled grains used to make the Pastiera in Naples, huile de noix (walnut oil) in France, pecans or canned pumpkin in the USA, polmagrant juice in Middle Eastern cooking).

Normally there are substitutes that have similar culinary qualities (for example shitake mushrooms might substitute porcini mushroosm, walnuts might substitue pecans,) or you can learn how to make certain usually prepared foods from stratch, (how to boil the grains of wheat, how to cook the pumpkin yourself).

As was pointed out Americans continue to use the traditional system of inches, ounces, and cups and use the cooking temperatures measured in Fahrenheit, (English ovens use Mark 1,2,3 ect) and the English and American pints are different! So I often have to convert from the metric system to the Anglo-Saxon one.

Moreover American recipes are usually much, much more precise than their foreign counterparts.

An Italian recipe might finish with "put the cake in a hot oven and bake until finished." The American with start the recipe with "Preheat the oven to 380°) At the end of the instructions the American recipes will say something like "Bake the cake at 380° F for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature down to 280° F for thirty minutes, being sure to turn the cake around. After 45 minutes check to doneness, the edges should be slightly brown. "


 

Christina Baier  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 22:28
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your ideas and thoughts! Dec 3, 2015

I usually write the original ingredient with a note (if you don't have X, you might use Y as a substitute).
-> People do not expect a perfect result when using Y.
-> People from the target country spending their holiday in the source country are able
to use the original ingredients (or to buy them for use at home).


When translating recipes from Swedish to German, I have to convert all the measurements: The quantity of the ingredients is mostly given in volume (“take 2 deciliter of flour, 1 liter of strawberries…”), Germans want to know the weight.


 

viking modena  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:28
Swedish to Italian
+ ...
Agree with you all! Dec 3, 2015

Many recipes from Swedish into Italian or the other way...

Swedes love to measure powder ingredients in volume, Italians need mostly weight.
But it's not only a matter of conversion. Swedish wheat flour is not the same as Italian. When I make Swedish cinnamon rolls in Italy, I need to increase the flour volume with almost 20-30%. Italian eggs are normally bigger and more yellow than Swedish ones.

Anyway, we try to localize recipes as much as we can. No idea to suggest Italians to go and buy "sour milk" when you don't find it in a normal supermarket or it sounds awkward.

A big Italian multinational company tried some 15 years ago to introduce "sour cream" (panna acida), but it ended with a fiasco, maybe because the adjective "acido" sounds itself "date expired, throw it". In my opinion, it could have been better to use "cream yoghurt" (yoghurt di panna) or "fermented cream" (panna fermentata).
The funny thing is that you can now buy these products in Italy as well, but in shops specialized in food from Eastern Europe or overseas. And they have their name in the original language. So ... sour milk is "lapte batut" or "laben".

[Edited at 2015-12-03 09:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-12-03 09:15 GMT]


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:28
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Discuss it with the client before starting Dec 3, 2015

I've recently been offered a big French cookery book for translation - not confirmed yet. I think these questions of quantity conversion, unavailable ingredients, etc. need to be discussed and agreed with the client (or editor) before starting the job and perhaps a glossary of preferred terms provided - ideally! I know that the names of the world's numerous species of fish and seafood can be problematical, but I live in a "fishy" place, so perhaps I could get advice from people at the Newlyn fish market.

 

leeshin
China
make an assumption Dec 17, 2015

this is just the cooking process not the rocket science, so instead of reaching too mush you can try out with different values for sample and whichever tastes better you can opt for it

 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:28
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
localisation... Dec 17, 2015

Interesting topic this!

I have long been the "long-suffering unofficial proofreader" for recipe books.
Basically I get sent the recipes and as I translate I realise that the author forgot to mention an ingredient in the list, or put one in then doesn't specify at which point you incorporate it, and I mostly send the translation in with an amended source document as well. It pays well and it's for a friend and I get to taste some great recipes otherwise I wouldn't bother.

Leeshin, it's not "just" a cooking process: proportions are very important in cake and bread making, your pastry can turn out moist or flaky depending on the fat to flour ratio, or how you incorporate the former into the latter, your bread can rise like heaven or sag sadly depending on the freshness of your yeast, your cake might have a golden hue that sings "eat me NOW" or look dull and drear depending on how yellow the yolks are.

OP, you might want to try some of the recipes to see how they pan out. One thing to watch for when translating British recipes, for example, is the self-raising flour. They don't have it in France, and when my aunt tried to bake us some scones it was an unmitigated disaster because it didn't occur to her that my flour might not have baking soda in it already.

In soups and stews and the like it is much less important since the cook can taste as she goes and adjust as necessary.

For the varying fat content in milk, I would say that probably the result would taste slightly different, and probably too, the result in the target language country will better suit the people living there since that's what they are used to.

If large quantities of milk are used you might suggest the addition of an amount of cream equivalent to what's missing.

You can maybe make a list of problem ingredients and give suggestions for replacements, which can be specified in a "translator's note" just after the foreword. Bill your time for this obviously.

It's a good idea to ask for the photos too, so that you know what the end result is supposed to look like.


 


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