HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >

Recs for a French menu translation guidebook?

mmmmangos Jan 25, 2007 01:25 PM

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!

  1. Mawrter May 4, 2008 01:42 PM

    Well, obviously this is too late for the OP< but it's such a good question. And I have such a good answer! :-))


    The above link is to the Amazon page for "Food Lover's Guide to Paris" by Patricia Wells ( a noted cookbook writer). I can't recommend it highly enough, although some of the info is by now dated (restaurants that have closed, quality that's not the same, hilariously out-of-style people in the pics etc.). There is a fabulous glossary in the back of the book that *made* my trip to France. I lugged it around in my son's diaper bag -- all over Burgundy, Chartres, etc. Because even though the main part of the book is all abotu Paris, the glossary is useful anywhere.

    I speak a decent amount of French, so this may not be what you need if you can't say *basic* things like water, spinach or potato. But for culinary terms for a person already conversant in French, this is your book.

    I just checked PW's website and it looks like her "Food Lover's Guide to France" might have an even bigger glossary: http://www.patriciawells.com/books/food_lovers_guide_France.htm I would hop on that is I were heading to France now.

    AND!!! (Patricia Wells, wherever you are, je vous embrasse!) Check this out - her French/Anglais glossary online! In free .pdf form! http://www.patriciawells.com/glossary...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mawrter
      oakjoan May 6, 2008 04:29 PM

      Mawrter: I totally agree about Patricia Wells' glossary of French food and cooking terms. I downloaded and printed it a couple of years ago and have used it several times. And it's FREE!

      1. re: oakjoan
        Diane in Bexley May 7, 2008 09:40 AM

        Another rec for the Patricia Well's glossary. It was thorough, comprehensive and best part - FREE!

    2. Trixie Too May 2, 2008 11:18 AM

      We just returned from Paris 3 weeks ago, and lived and died by "Eating and Drinking in Paris menu translator" 3rd edition by Herbach and Dillon. (Open Road Travel). This was recommended on David Lebovitz's blog. Every term mentioned in this thread is in there. Small and portable. It went everywhere with us. Organized alphabetically. Also includes small section on best places to eat organized by District.

      1. v
        victor sowa Feb 28, 2007 10:35 AM

        The A-Z of French Food (Scribo Edition - www.scribo.fr) 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
          globalgourmet May 2, 2008 01:27 AM

          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.

        2. signothetimes53 Jan 28, 2007 07:27 AM

          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.

          http://www.amazon.com/Marling-Menu-Ma... and at better bookstores

          7 Replies
          1. re: signothetimes53
            AnneInMpls Jan 29, 2007 07:40 AM

            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
              Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2007 07:49 AM

              Does it include the following?


              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                AnneInMpls Jan 29, 2007 08:49 AM

                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: AnneInMpls
                  Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2007 09:21 AM

                  It's an Alsatian onion tart.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    AnneInMpls Jan 29, 2007 10:04 AM

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


                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      oakjoan May 6, 2008 04:26 PM

                      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
                      Harters May 8, 2008 09:05 AM

                      "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. b
                boeman Jan 27, 2007 06:45 PM

                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. orangewasabi Jan 25, 2007 01:57 PM

                  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
                    akp Jan 25, 2007 03:10 PM

                    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
                      Robert Lauriston Jan 28, 2007 10:42 AM

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

                    2. purplescout Jan 25, 2007 01:35 PM

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

                      Show Hidden Posts