Bumbling my way through menus

Being an eager student of languages, I sought to dazzle recent visitors by personally translating an upscale Dutch menu before their very eyes.

Here is the restaurant’s menu:

Original menu _ expatlingo.com

And here is the menu as I described it to them after passing it through the coarse filter of my understanding:

Cold starters  

Almost certainly a fish / cauliflower / something to do with pumpkin

Terrine of chicken liver / has to do with a farm / balsamic / pear

Cheese / this must be Italian for rice / beets / Kalamata olives

Warm starters 

Something red / likely lentils / oysters / oh yes, that French sauce

Part of a cow / potato thing / red cabbage

Conceivably celeriac / toadstools /  a funny sort of carrot

Main course

Fish / I haven’t a clue / veal sauce with something indecipherable

Beats me / something from veal / sprouts / carrots / red wine sauce

Yellow cabbage-y thing / I guess buckwheat / Is that a French word? / onion


Chocolate cake / some variety of berry / cream

Lemon or maybe lime / creamy rice / French cookie thing


5 cheeses / pear-apple syrup / fancy bread

My visitors were very gracious and would probably have attempted to order based on this spare and vastly imperfect translation.

Luckily, the restaurant’s key man took pity on them and beautifully described each menu item in detailed English.

Unluckily, I insisted on translating the extensive menu at a local pancake restaurant to them the next day: “pancake with cheese and some other stuff, pancake with salmon and a few other things, pancake with something green …”  and so on through thirty or so menu items.

16 responses to “Bumbling my way through menus

    • I’m pretty good with common food names. I don’t enjoy hauling my two children to the grocery store, so I do my shopping online for home delivery. The grocery website is entirely in Dutch and this has been a big incentive to memorize Dutch food words! (No google translate, doesn’t work on the site. Bastards.)

  1. Ha i’ve been here over 4 years and our translation efforts were astonishingly similar! Hope your Dutch improves quicker than mine did … Though you’re hardly going to be looking for these in Albert Heijn any time soon 🙂

    • I think it might be very hard to study Dutch with much persistence in Amsterdam as it’s such an international place! In Utrecht a little bit of Dutch helps smooth over social gaps. That said, it’s still not necessary at all.

      So I suppose I’m studying it as a hobby of sorts. Easier on my neighbor’s ears than me taking up the viola.

  2. Hahaha! I guess i would have to say that at least I could figure the prices out? Hahaha. We always try to order thai food in thai, and that sometimes has been disasterous. 🙂

    • Ordering with limited language skills is relatively safe here as you’ll always end up with some combination of potatoes, meat/fish/vegetarian main and a vegetable. There seem to be few surprises.

    • Pity it’s not a slightly more globally useful language (but don’t tell them I said that)! Oh, I also noticed just today that there is a KFC in Utrecht. You’ve cravings are save here.

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