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How to translate recipes and cookbooks

How many ounces are there in 100 grams? This is a minor issue that most of us will have encountered when following an international recipe.

The food and drink sector is an extremely specialised technical sector but it is rarely perceived as one. You might think you can improvise quantities, substitute ingredients, or use different sized tins and trays, but cooking and baking often requires extraordinary precision.

Ounces, grams, cups, “season to taste”, and other conundrums

Measuring ingredients is pretty important when it comes to making pastry. The correct conversion of measurement units is key to any successful food or drink translation, especially when it comes to confectionery recipes.

It is well known that even a slight variation in the quantity of yeast or sugar can seriously affect results, and this is especially true for baked goods and other creations that require a specific chemical reaction to occur between ingredients.

So, how do you translate ounces into grams? It’s pretty easy actually, all you need to do is multiply the number of ounces by 28.3495.

And how many grams are there in a cup? Unfortunately, in this case, it depends on the ingredient.

  • one cup of water is equal to 240 grams
  • one cup of flour or oil is equal to 220 grams
  • one cup of cocoa is only 120 grams

And what about “season to taste”? In this instance, no translation or measurement is able to come to the rescue of amateur cooks. “Season to taste” usually just means “add a pinch of salt” (and some experience and good luck to boot!).

Translating recipes: tackling unusual ingredients

Of course, the difficulties that come with food sector translations are not only limited to the measurement units used by cooks from all different eras and nations. On the contrary, some international recipes use very niche ingredients that are local to a specific country or food culture.

However, translation is never a one-way problem. Just imagine how long it might take a Thai translator to find a good translation for a recipe containing Calabrian ‘nduja sausage.

The one thing we can be sure of is that literal translations don’t help in the slightest. “Little ears at tomato with basil” is a literal translation of orecchiette in salsa di pomodoro con basilico (or orecchiette pasta in a tomato and basil sauce), which doesn’t sound particularly appetising, and certainly won’t evoke nostalgic childhood memories in an English cook, who is probably quite unlikely to want to make an Italian dish containing little ears!

Redazione Eurotrad

April 23, 2021

Redazione Eurotrad

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