Cercle de Réflexion - 4 August 2012

Post date: 24-Jul-2012 07:44:52

My mother struggled to understand the concept of a think tank. Phrases like “influencing government policy” were lost on her and I finally settled on "they put me in a tank, poke me with a chopstick, and say, "think!"", which made her laugh.

Similarly, when I went to France, I struggled to explain to my friends just what exactly my new job was. Someone fluent in English didn’t know the translation, and neither did my dictionary. My descriptions of "an institute that creates new ideas" left people baffled and unable to give me the correct word. Finally, I met a politician. I pounced on him and demanded the translation. He explained carefully that a literal translation - bassin des pensées - sounded odd (like it doesn’t in English?), so the French used the phrase "cercle de réflexion". Delighted with my new phrase, I regaled my friends with my new job. They remained non-plussed. No one had ever heard of it and someone said to me "so what do you do? All stand in a circle and think?"

This got me thinking about oddly named foods. I have to admit that China has dominance in this area but hey, the UK gives strong competition with the glorious Toad in the Hole and Spotted Dick, and France's version of bread and butter pudding is named "lost bread". Offal is a prime suspect with all kinds of euphemisms, quite rightly, from Fromage de Tete (head cheese) and Prairie Oysters to Faggots and Sweetbreads. However I learnt my lesson a long time ago about serving offal at the supper club.

So here are my selection; some sound odd, some unappealing, and others just sound funny in English, but all delicious.

Imam Bayildi – literally translates into “the priest has fainted” apparently due to the ineffable taste of this Ottoman aubergine dish and not because he got food poisoning.

Koreiskaya Morkov – Korean Carrots – it doesn’t sound odd until you know that the Koreans never heard of this dish. It was invented in Russia and is totally ubiquitous, much to the astonishment of the Koreans.

Placinta – this Moldovan dish is actually made with cheese and raisins but sounds rather bad. I’m assured, however, that’s it’s really pronounced Pla-Chin-ta

Ribollita – this classic Tuscan soup means “Reboiled”. Appealing, huh.

Fatayer – as in how fatayer? Middle Eastern pastries, in this case filled with spinach.


Otak Otak – this barbequed fish and egg dish from Malaysia translates into Brain Brain.

Acqua Pazza – translates to “Crazy Water”. It’s a seabass dish from Lazio in Italy, cooked with fresh tomatoes and yes, crazy water.

Squash Who named it that? I'll put it in a delicious salad with mograbiah, feta and pomegranate seeds

Moo Shu – yes this just sounds funny. A Northern Chinese pork and egg recipe, no cow in sight.


Tiramisu – translates to Pull Me Up

Spotted Dick – well you have to, don’t you?

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