Ruskie Pierogi by Mrs Stako. Photo by Stako.
(Click on image to see original on Wikipedia and details of licensing.)
One of the most notorious translation minefields is Polish food.
What should one write when encountering Pierogi, Kołduny or Uszka? Can they really be translated as dumplings? Of course not, they have virtually nothing in common. The basic raw materials are different; dumpling is made of suet, the hard white fat on the kidneys of cattle and sheep. The Norfolk Dumpling is excellent for supplying energy, warmth and the feeling that one has a full stomach, if one needs protection from the east wind while ploughing the flat fields of Norfolk with a pair of horses in November. The somewhat less well known Yorkshire Dumpling keeps shepherds warm on the Yorkshire Fells in winter. If thrown across the kitchen a dumpling can cause not only injury but also grievous bodily harm!
A Norfolk Dumpling
Anyone having even the briefest acquaintance with the Dumpling would never associate it with such delicacies as Pierogi, Kołduny and Uszka. These dishes have no equivalent, not even ravioli. If a restaurant owner without hesitation describes French dishes with French names, applies the same logic to Italian dishes, it is patently obvious that the only way to designate Pierogi is – ‚Pierogi’.
One only does a disservice to the reader if one provides a translation, which neither informs nor explains. There are other examples, Flaczki and Żurek, providing translations for these two magnificent soups would only mislead the would be diner.
The propensity to translate Polish menu items is the fault of the restaurateurs of Poland, they do not flinch from calling delicacies from China, Japan and Thailand by their own names. There is no hesitation when it comes to Paella, Spaghetti Bolognese, and Sushi to name the first that spring to mind. The fact that everything imported from kebabs upwards is readily recognised by its native name seems to have been missed by restaurant owners in Poland. Another good reason for not ‚translating’ Polish dishes is that that Polish cooking, whilst excellent in itself, differs substantially from that of Britain, France and Italy.
Is it because restaurant owners value foreign clientèle more highly than their local customers or does it stems from some Polish inferiority complex that suggests the nation’s food is in some way inferior to any other. Regardless of the reason, it is of course totally wrong. This is because anything should be presented and promoted with its own name. Any British customer, being shown pierogi that are described as ‚dumplings’ is almost certain to conclude that the chef or the owner or both have no idea what they are talking about!
The final delicacy or calamity is the so-called Fusion Cuisine. This regrettable innovation, quite apart from being neither one thing nor another should really be labelled Confusion Cuisine. This is entirely apt because even when a translator in desperation applies to the client for clarification of the content and manufacture of whatever dishes, no intelligible explanation is forthcoming.
Come on chaps, it is time to make a stand, let Bigos be ‚Bigos’ not ‚Hunters Stew’!
- Ana’s Kitchen – Polish cooking – Pierogi with meat
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