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Strawberry cheesecake

Wait, it’s music, isn’t it? Well, either way, a passion for language and food are very much interconnected in my book. As linguists, some of the very first words we learn when getting to grips with a new language are food-related: how to order a coffee, basic meals in restaurants, two beers please… And rightly so, as socialising and eating/drinking present one of the finest opportunities for social interaction and the ability to combine the skills you’ve learned with actually communicating with other people. Which is what it’s all about, surely?

Some of my best memories of holidays and placements abroad centre on precisely those sorts of occasions: when you’ve had a glass of wine or two, your tongue seems to loosen and the language flows much more smoothly than when you’re worrying about making the odd mistake! And what better place to share cultural awareness and really learn about other nationalities than when sitting around a delicious meal and sharing delicious food? I have fond recollections of the first “singles” holiday in Crete I went on a few years ago when a group of mixed nationalities – a few Brits, a German lady, two Spaniards, a French chap and our Greek host – sat around a table next to the most beautiful beach, sharing a divine fish lunch, caught but a stone’s throw away, and enjoying a fascinating political debate – perfect! The conversation was in English, admittedly (come on, I was the only translator there and my Greek is VERY basic!), but it was brilliant to enjoy local delicacies, proudly cooked by the restaurant chefs, and just talk – no ‘phones, no modern life getting in the way.

Fish lunch

Food translation is, of course, an art all of its own. Each country has its own traditions and delicacies and simply translating the words is not an option – as the many mistranslated menus you will have seen on holidays over the years bear testimony! The ITI has its own Food & Drink Network and many translators specialise in this very area. I was lucky enough to attend a workshop they organised in Inverness some years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the varied talks on topics as diverse as translating a recipe book or translating for the whisky industry. And of course, as it was a workshop and we were a mix of nationalities, we were set the task of translating some very unusual menus – a fascinating exercise! And one which proves that a short menu, just several hundred words long, can involve a huge amount of (albeit very enjoyable!) research and take much longer than a similar amount of words in a different area.

Many of you will know that I’m passionate about food, growing my own fruit and vegetables on my allotment and cooking /eating the resulting produce. I have my own foodie/gardening blog, Rhubarb & Raspberries, and I was one of the early members of the Facebook Gardening Translators’ Group and of course, the conversation often turns to food. So when a member asked a question about marmalade recipes recently, it occurred to me that it would be lovely to have a group for Foodie Translators. No answers were forthcoming on the group, yet I knew that a number of translator colleagues had proudly posted pictures of their home-made marmalade elsewhere. I tentatively posed the question in another Facebook group: would there be any interest in setting up a dedicated group for translators/interpreters with a passion for food? 48 comments and a resounding chorus of approval later, I decided to take the plunge and Foodie Translators was born, not quite two weeks ago.

Roast tomatoes_cropped

In an amazing response, we reached the 100-member mark in less than 24 hours and have since had a steady intake most days, with the current total standing at just over 250 members. I have been absolutely overwhelmed by people’s enthusiasm for the subject and it’s become a delightful, riveting and almost too distracting group to be a part of. Be warned, discipline is definitely required to restrict your dose of food voyeurism to non-working moments…. We’ve had some fabulous photographs, wonderful recipes, pleas for help and tips, lists of ingredients we love to hate, discussions on the etymology of food terms and food-related stories. Being a cook is not a prerequisite – just a passion for food is enough, and a willingness to share that passion. If you’d like to join us, just click on the link (Foodie Translators) and ask to join – your request will need to be approved, but then you can enjoy the fun. It goes without saying that mutual respect is a cornerstone of the group – we know that many translators are vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, etc, but please be aware that other members may post pictures of meat/fish/things you may not like! Just move on.

Perhaps most amazingly of all, one of our members, Becky Mynett, had the brilliant idea of using this fount of knowledge to create a Translators’ Family Cookbook as a fundraiser for Translators without Borders (TWB), and specifically in response to the refugee crisis. As luck would have it, another member, Sue Fortescue, a fellow admin on the Group, is a Volunteer Manager for TWB and seized on the idea with gusto. In no time at all she had found a volunteer to provide desktop publishing free of charge, but the rest is over to us. The current plan is to publish the cookbook as a downloadable pdf on the TWB website. If anyone would like to take part in this project, by providing recipes or volunteering as a member of a small editorial committee, please e-mail Sue at sue@translatorswithoutborders.org. Sue intends the first recipe to be the veggie soup prepared by Ifty and his team of volunteers on the Greek island of Chios. They serve thousands of refugees every night, from the wood-fired soup kitchen shown below. TWB is assisting the refugees by providing translations for notices, directions etc and for the News that Moves service: https://newsthatmoves.org.

TWB wood-fired kitchen

The idea is to have one recipe per page, with a photo of the dish, a photo of the contributor and a short quote from the contributor. But suggestions are welcome! If you can help in any way, please do contact Sue. I’m tremendously proud to be a tiny part of this initiative and very well done to Becky for coming up with the initial idea and to Sue for running with it so capably. I very much look forward to the finished result – and to trying out the recipes in the meantime!

TWB soup