walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

geekitude: menus and other languages

When we were at Toadstool the other day, R. stumbled across a book called _Eating Out in Five Languages_ which is basically five N-English/English-N food dictionaries, primarily oriented to menus. A very slim set of pages about eating out/standard meal times/explaining that you are diabetic or vegetarian, etc. It was $3, remaindered. He showed it to me and I snapped it right up. It is _so_ UK -- there's an entry for toad in the hole (at least in the french section); no bangers and mash, tho.

R. took a look around Amazon trying to find a better one and failed, so I took a stab at it. You know where this kind of story goes, right?

Here are the major options (other than the one we bought):

Marling Menu-Master -- thin, light, pocket-able, menu-focused. One per country for France, Italy, Spain, Germany (so the exact same coverage as the all-in-one we bought). Good reviews; has been around for a while.

The sushi specific Red Dictionary, which adds Portuguese to the standard list. Explains sushi, then gives you the equivalents in the various languages.

The Hungry Traveler: more general purpose. Overview of a country's cuisine, which wines to go with various dishes, regional specialties, etc. Bizarrely, France, Germany, Mexico, Italy. From 1997 or thereabouts by Andrews McMeel (Dilbert publishers, IIRC) and some appear to be OOP.

The Menu Guide for Travelers: France, Russia, Italy, Greece, Brazil & Portugal, China, Spain. Published by an Italian conglomerate. Hard to tell what all is in these books.

Eating and Drinking In ... by Open Road Travel Guides. These includes restaurant guides and are organized around a city/country.

Berlitz does fold up laminated menu decoders AND they do a European Menu Reader with 15 languages in a little over 300 pages. That looks tempting.

Lonely Planet has a World Food Series, again, explains cuisine, regional specialties, wines to go with, etc. along with a menu decoder.

Eat Smart in (Poland, Morocco, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and possibly more) by Gingko Press, distributed by the University of Wisconsin. Obviously, more about the adventure travel. Explains cuisine, describes how to shop at the markets, menu decoder, etc.

Langenscheidt has a food dictionary series, not great.

What is quite amazing is how difficult it is to find all this out. People who write articles about how to research a country before you go typically know about two of the above list, but don't mention more. I haven't actually laid hands on many of these (altho I'm thinking about it, I'm probably not going to buy any of them now).

Travel guides in general are difficult things to assess; you usually buy them _before_ you go somewhere, and if you only go there once, you don't get to correct problems. The most useless reviews out there are also the most common: this is a great book! I'm planning on going to X and this is awesome! The best reviews -- I brought this with me and never had trouble ordering even tho I don't know a word of the language -- are few and far between. In general, people are unlikely to buy a food dictionary unless they've already bought foreign language dictionaries and realized their shortcomings. That cannot be a large market in the US.

I spent some time searching on the UK Amazon website on the idea that maybe those people use this stuff more (I think they do), but of course it's a much smaller audience to begin with.

Update on previous food-language post: I got my sister-in-law to correct the Spanish on my allergy card that I put together for D-land. Grammar and word choice problems, but I think I understand the problems which means I learned a little bit more Spanish, too, which is nice.
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