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Jan 25, 2007 01:25 PM

Recs for a French menu translation guidebook?

I'm heading to France in March and am thinking of buying a menu translator, since my French is pretty basic. Eating & Drinking in Paris gets good reviews on Amazon--has anyone used this or any other books they've liked? Thanks in advance!

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  1. I've had Marling's menu master for a number of years and it's usually provided the insight I needed.

    1. I used this one recently and found it good -- though sometimes it took a while to deconstruct a long menu item

      It never failed to crack me up how I could spend 15 minutes figuring out the menu. Then 30 minute later hear someone ask for an English menu . . . and get one. Couldn't bring myself to ask for one myself though

      2 Replies
      1. re: orangewasabi

        Thank you for this recommendation! Even though I can read French, this will be so valuable, as there are so many culinary terms... Just ordered it.

        1. re: orangewasabi

          That's my favorite. Would not travel in France without it.

        2. yes cannot remember the exact name but if you go to wh smiths and ask they have it for sure. it is like a small blue daytimer size. otherwise if you really want a cookbook book larousse gastronomie also at wh smiths metro concorde sorti tuilleries right across the rue de rivoli in front of you. ( someone borrowed mine.....)

          1. I highly recommend the Marling Menu Master.

            Tiny, with a plastic cover so it doesn't get wet and damaged as easily, fits in a vest pocket, very succinct translations.

   and at better bookstores

            7 Replies
            1. re: signothetimes53

              I really like the Marling Menu Master, too. It's amazingly comprehensive for such a tiny book! And it makes great reading on the plane.


              1. re: AnneInMpls

                Does it include the following?


                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The Marling Menu Master has a 60% success rate:

                  abats - yes
                  gibelotte (de lapereau) - yes
                  mendiants - yes
                  ramier - no
                  zewelewai - no

                  The main disadvantage with Marling is that it's organized by category (hors d'oeuvres, potages, oeufs, poissons, entrees, legumes, desserts), so you need to have a basic idea of what the dish is in order to find it.

                  "Ramier" might be guessable in context on a menu - it might be listed under "gibier," perhaps with pigeonneau and other volailles.

                  But for me, "zewelewai" was a problem, because I don't know the word and had no idea which section to look in. (And it wasn't in any of them.) I can't even find it in my trusty Harper Collins Robert! It seems Alsacian to me, and sounds similar to the word for onion, but even wikipedia didn't have it. (I'm dying of curiosity - what is it?)

                  In this case, I would ask the waiter for an explanation. And there's no shame in using the English menu, if you ask for it politely in French! :-)


                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Thanks! And now I know the right way to spell "Alsatian," too!


                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I don't understand why one couldn't just ask the waiter: "Qu'est-ce que c'est "zewelewai'? Or point to it on the menu and look puzzled.

                        The French words for onion (oignon - pronounced pretty much like "on yon") and tart ("tarte" - pronounced "tart") should be understandable to even non-French speakers.

                      2. re: AnneInMpls

                        "And there's no shame in using the English menu, if you ask for it politely in French! :-)"

                        Depending on where you are visiting in France, there is likely not to be an English menu. In Paris, in a restaurant used by a lot of tourists, probably. In the Channel coastal towns, where restaurants are very used to English speaking day-trippers/weekenders, then almost certainly.

                        In smaller towns and even in Paris off the beaten track, you are probably going to need to speak some French however basic. I can usually get by with what I learned at school and a reasonable knowledge of restaurant French. It means I might not understand every item or technique on the menu but I get fed (usually very well)

                2. The A-Z of French Food (Scribo Edition - is the best dining aid around. Its 144 pages of alphabetical listings translate and comment not only ingredients but preparations, garnishes, cheeses and wines, with history, lore and cultural insights into the French language and psyche. A little gem!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: victor sowa

                    You are correct. The Scribo is better. I have both. Started with Marlings but the problem is that it's organized by category (hors d'ouvre, veggies, etc.). What if you don't know what category it is or the restaurant is offering a hors d'ouvre of something that's normally a main course? It can get very frustrating. The Scribo guide is organized alphabetically. All you need is the French word(s) off the menu and viola! C'est tres bien.