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Aug 8, 2010 09:46 AM

Reading Tapas menus

Heading for Spain in a few weeks, and only have a limited ability to speak Spanish. Heaven help Basque and Catalan.Can someone help me with some key words and phrases to help me decipher the menus over there. I want to make up a "reference sheet" to carry with me. At 65 my memory is not that reliable. I feel it is important to at least try and communicate in the local language, when I travel. Maybe there is a website that I could use to help me to decipher basic food terms.

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  1. That's a lot of ground to cover in a message board post. Maybe the best thing would be to get a pocket Spanish/English dictionary and a Spanish phrase book. Lonely Planet makes very good phrase books.

    Googling "Spanish food glossary" brings up a few useful links.

    Otherwise, if you have specific questions about certain dishes, I'm sure the people on this board would be happy to help.

    1. am thinking about heading that way ourselves, and was just saying: reading those tapas menus in catalan sure is difficult, also being over 60 and having enough trouble holding on to my english. looks like there is an iPhone catalan / english phrase book

      1 Reply
      1. re: gore_mutt

        I don't know were you're planning to go in Catalonia, but if you're only going to Barcelona or other tourist destinations like Sitges, you'll have a very hard time finding a restaurant that doesn't have a menu in Spanish. And many places will have menus in English. Although it's a good idea to learn a few greetings and phrases in Catalan, they don't expect people from outside of Spain to be able to speak the language. They are quite happy to serve foreigners in Castilian or English.

        One place we loved in Barcelona called Bar Salvador was a working man's lunch place that was pretty hardcore Catalan i.e. no Spanish menus and all the staff and patrons speaking only Catalan. But the waiters there were more than happy to answer our questions and not at all averse to serving us in Castilian.

      2. The Cadogan guides have very nice menu glossaries . For tapas and pinxtos you can probably point. Also there are several online glossaries you can download; I found them by googling. But if you are going to Basque country the Cadogan guide is fabulous and worth having anyway.

        1 Reply
        1. re: magiesmom

          Yes--I agree wholeheartedly on the Cadogan guides (and I'm a travel writer!)--they are the best English-language guides of Spain by far. What you find on menus really varies by region, as does the terminology--especially for fish. You won't find a lot of the terms in a regular Spanish-English dictionary.

        2. You'll often find that, in fact, there is no menu. Most of the places I visit in Andalucia, food is simply there on the bar (of course, such places are often only serving cold food).

          1. Searching the board, I found this document butterfly posted here a few years ago. Looks pretty thorough.


            3 Replies
            1. re: SnackHappy

              what a great reference for food in Catalan! thanks for the link! will be using it.

              1. re: SnackHappy

                I have one that was kindly sent to me by a board member a couple of years ago, but it is a much shorter two pager than the one at the link and is better for menu decoding in both directions. It is very well thumbed. If anyone would like a copy, please drop me ane email at my username at hotmail dot com and I will forward

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  Please send me a copy at scbeachnuts@yahoo.com