Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mangled Menus.

June 17 ...

The S.S. Pretoria, in spite of its name, was a German vessel of the Hamburg-America Line. As the company name suggests, the ship plied the waves between those two countries, beginning in 1898. Over its travelling life the ship carried many German migrants to new lives in America. Migrants usually travelled third class (steerage), and the ship had room for over two thousand of them. First and second classes added up to less than four hundred.

On this day in 1911, some of the passengers sat down to the following bill of fare – written in two languages, not including the inevitable tortured French, and English, and Franglais phrases.

Hauptmahlzeit (Dinner)
Suppe Magenta (Soup Magenta)
Gedämpfer Glattfisch (Braised Flounders in Parsley)
Boeuf à la Mode, deutsche Art (Boeuf à la Mode à l’Allemande)
Aprikosen-Kompott (Stewed Apricots)
Kabinett-Pudding (Cabinet Pudding)
Weinschaum-Sauce (Chaudeau Sauce)
Käse Frucht Kafee (Cheese Fruit Coffee)

One of the constantly amusing things about looking at old menus is the apparently random translation rules. The only thing that is consistent is the lack of consistency. The names of individual dishes often seem to be random derivations and amalgamations of several languages - of the country where the meal is held, of where the dish originates (or is believed to originate), of French (because that was the standard menu language).

Surely Suppe Magenta did not need translating to Soup Magenta ? (why not Magenta Soup?).

Boeuf à la Mode, deutsche Art (on the ‘German’ side of the menu) translated into Boeuf à la Mode à l’Allemande for the ‘English’ side of the menu is almost a non-translation. Why not Beef, Fashionable German Style? Or Fashionable Beef, German style?

Aprikosen-Kompott sounds far more elegant than Stewed Apricots, which sounds very boarding school. Why not Apricot Compôte, which is closer in concept and would be understood in English, and is also elegant?

The Weinschaum-Sauce is wonderful. Apparently it is the German name for the (Italian) Zabaglione, which on the English side of the menu becomes Chaudeau Sauce, which is French-ish and means a sweet pudding sauce - so why is it not Sweet Pudding Sauce? (or is that custard?)

Surely Suppe Magenta is cherry soup? Or is it beet soup? Any German foodies out there that can shed some light?

Cherry Soup (Berlin).

Trim and stone 1 pint of red cherries, add I pint of water, juice and grated rind of a lemon, cinnamon, sugar to taste, and 3 tablespoonfuls of wine or cordial, claret is the best. Cook until done and serve, hot or very cold, with a plate of buttered toast. It will take about half an hour to cook, mashing the fruit well. These fruit and wine soups are favorite hot weather fare in Austria and Germany.

[With a Saucepan over the Sea; Adelaide Keen, Boston, 1902]

Tomorrow’s Story.

Waterloo Food.

Quotation for the Day.

I eat at this German-Chinese restaurant and the food is delicious. The only problem is that an hour later you're hungry for power. Dick Cavett.

1 comment:

Lidian said...

What a splendid menu - clearly NOT for the people in steerage though. I have a Hamburg-Amerika guidebook to Europe, given out to the Magenta Soup diners and their ilk, circa 1913. It is great fun.