The languages of cooking

It’s spring so my garden plot is overflowing with leafy greens. The nettles are making it dangerous for anyone in shorts, the favas are bursting to the sky, and it’s been difficult to keep up with the arugula. And that’s just half of it.

Given the bounty I’ve been searching high and low for recipes but I’ve been hitting a wall: There are relatively few recipes for these sorts of spring greens on the English language Internet. It’s not a huge surprise, years ago Steve Upstill and I created RecipePower exactly for this reason, there’s tons of junk and – even better! – lots of duplicated junk that obscures all the high quality recipes out there. Sure, if you use really precise search terms you might be successful in discovering  creative and well crafted recipes. It’s just that the pool of recipes for an ingredient like nettles and many other ingredients is incredibly shallow.

I’m fortunate enough to speak Italian pretty fluently so I always search for recipes either directly through Google in Italian or head to one of the big Italian language recipe sites like Giallo Zafferano for guidance. And, boy, when it comes to do they have the type of inspiration and variety of recipes that I’ve been looking for. Just for nettles, ortica or ortiche in Italian, they have a really robust list of ideas that would be difficult or impossible to find on the English language Internet.

It’s a great example of what’s out there but culture is so embedded in language that even with all those translation tools, you have to think to look and use the language to get there. And that’s just one example, I just started poking around the French, German, and Spanish recipe sites which are islands unto themselves. I only wish I knew Greek and Serbo-Croatian so that I could start researching what’s available in those languages as well.


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